Anatomy of a Snapshot Part II: Eliminating Distractions in your Background

22 Apr

Thanks to everyone who left  love on my blogs last week!  I love photography and am excited to share what I know with others.  There were several questions asked and I hope by the time this series is done, those questions will be answered.

I hope you all looked through your photo files last week in search of chopped limbs and are practicing incorporating all body parts into your current shots.

This week we’re focusing on backgrounds.  In your photos, your subject should always be the focus.  But sometimes we’re not aware of clutter or objects in the background that cause distractions until we’ve got the print in our hands and it’s too late.

In our original Snapshot, can you spot at least 4 distractions?
When I look at this snapshot, my stream of conscience goes a little something like this:
“Those are my boys… 
Hmmm…  I’ve been looking for those shoes…  
That bag matches his shirt… 
I should really change out that painting and put something seasonal on that table…  
It looks like Will is exactly one step shorter than his brother…”
See how the boys are no longer the focus of my photo?  Too many distractions.
Here are three ways to eliminate distractions in your photos:
1.  Declutter the background!
It doesn’t take much to make sure your background is clear of clutter.  When I go into a client’s home to shoot, I always end up rearranging things around the room.  I’ll clear tables of tchotchkes, roll up distracting rugs, move chairs, open or close blinds and move plants.  Anything that will show up in the background that might distract the viewer from the subject of the photo.  Your house does not have to be spotless to be an ideal location for a portrait.  That’s why I assure moms, when I come to shoot their newborns, that they do not need to scrub their house for our shoot.  It takes no time at all to create a clutterless space by moving a few things out of the way.  Here are a few examples of clutterless backgrounds.
2.  Fill your frame with your subject!
Don’t be afraid of getting close to your subject and eliminating as much background as you can. I think that’s one of the most common mistakes made when shooting people.  Unless the background adds context to your image, you don’t need it.
Even though this snapshot has too many mistakes to become a portrait, look what happens when I get closer and fill my frame with my subjects. The boys become the focus of the picture again.
Here are some more examples of filling your frame with your subject.
3.  Open up your aperture!
(We’ll discuss aperture in detail in week 6)

The aperture of a lens is the diameter of the lens opening and is usually controlled by an iris. The larger the diameter of the aperture, the more light reaches the film / image sensor.

Aperture is expressed as F-stop. The smaller the F-stop number (or f/value), the larger the lens opening (aperture).

Aperture is what allows you to hone in on your subject and leave the rest of the photo out of focus.  If you have distractions in your background that you have no way of removing, opening up your aperture is a great way of eliminating them by blurring them.  For example, if you were taking a picture of someone sitting in the bleachers at a football game with lots of other people around and behind them, shooting with an open aperture would allow your subject to be in focus while the people behind them would be blurry.

If you know how to change the aperture (f-stop) of your camera, set it to a LOW number (f/1.4-f/4).  Remember, the smaller the F-stop number (or f/value), the larger the lens opening (aperture.)

Here are some examples of how your images look when you open up your aperture.

So, this week as you’re out shooting, pay attention to what’s behind, in front of, and around your subject.  And try out some of these ways of eliminating distractions in your photos.

  • Declutter your background
  • Fill your frame with your subject
  • Open up your aperture
You’ll be one step closer to turning your snapshots into portraits!
Next week:  Composition!

 Thanks Wenderful! 
I can’t wait for next week!
For more photography ideas and inspiration,
make sure to check out her blogs:
Wenderful and 
Happy Earth Day!
Some Projects Celebrating Earth Day will be coming up later on!

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