Don’t forget the background

A picture needs good content, well composed and lit, the main content should contain the eye so that the viewers gaze is confined to the frame and not inclined to wander off. The most common distraction I see is something bright in the distance; the sky in many cases.

Think about your background, try to find a viewpoint which will give the minimum number of distraction. Sometimes just a slight movement of the photographer left or right will suffice, sometimes you need to crouch or stand as tall as you can. On other occasions the use of a slightly longer focal length of lens will help to isolate the subject. Another thing to remember is to use an aperture small enough to get all your subject in focus but wide enough that it does not bring unwanted elements into compete with the subject.

Both these pictures depend upon choosing a relatively uniform background to isolate the subject assisted by the correct aperture so that the subject is sharp but not the surround. When I shot the spider’s web I was at the minimum focusing distance of my 90mm Summarit, about 1 meter and with the chosen viewpoint to keep woodland almost free of sky behind whilst retaining some backlighting to bring the web alive and make it sparkle I needed and aperture of f16 to keep most of the web sharp. This meant using an iso of 640 in order to obtain a shutter speed of 1/125; slow enough to cope with any camera shake.

Spiders web in woods near Lubbenham, South Leicestershire
Spiders web in woods near Lubbenham, South Leicestershire

For the pussy willow I also decided to use the 90mm Summarit in order to constrain the angle of view and so allow the sky to be kept out of frame. I estimated that I would need an aperture of f6.7 to get enough depth of field to keep the twig sharp, it was fortunately relatively all in one plane. To allow for any camera shake and the twig’s movement in a slight breeze I opted for a shutter speed of 1/250 and this dictated the chosen iso of 640. The final frame here is a 2/3 crop from the original.

The darling buds in March.
The darling buds in March.

Why did I not crop in camera? Because I could not keep the twig on one plane to maintain sharpness through the length of it while keeping the sky out of the frame; sometimes you have to compromise and then it is about making the best choice.


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