improve your composition in photography – be specific about your background
The impact in this photo of Jessica relies equally on her looks and pose, the lighting, and the background. The background was very specifically chosen by how *I* position myself in relation to my subject. The background was out of focus neon lights in Times Square. I composed the photo very tightly with a 70-200mm lens, set to 200mm. With this, I can select exactly what I want to include in the image.
For comparison, here is the wider shot, so you can get an idea of the melange we had as a background …
By eliminating clutter, and eliminating everything that does not add to the photo, I simplified the composition. This is something I stress whenever I am invited to speak to or work with groups of newer photographers. I find that inexperienced photographers tend to point their camera at something, instead of framing their subject. You absolutely need to look at the edges of your frame to see what you include. This will also help you not chop off the top of people’s heads (or feet). Unless of course, that is your deliberate intention.
For me, the two most important guidelines in photographic composition are:
- be specific about your background
Don’t just place your subject just anywhere. Either move your subject, or, better yet, change your own position. Crouch. Stretch. Lay down on the ground. Step to the side. Move around. Find your background in relation to your subject.
- look at the edges of your frame
Don’t just aim your camera. Frame.
Be specific about what you include. Be specific about what you exclude.
camera settings & photo gear (or equivalents) used during this photo session
- 1/160 @ f3.2 @ 800 ISO; TTL flash at -0.3 EV
- Nikon D3
- Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II / Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
- Nikon SB-910 Speedlight / Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
- Lastolite EZYBOX 24×24″ softbox
- Manfrotto 680B monopod with a stud to attach the softbox to the monopod.
- review: Lastolite Ezybox (model: Jess B.)
- positioning the softbox and flash
- off-camera flash: distance between softbox and subject