When taking pictures, we concentrate intently on our subjects -
but what about the background?
Upon later inspection of our photos,
we often find the background detracting from an otherwise great shot.
Taking control of the background can help turn a snapshot into a beautiful photo.
The first step to improving the backgrounds in our photos is to be conscious of the background's importance to our photos. We must know that the right backgrounds can make our shots stand out. This often means simply paying attention to what is behind out subjects during our photography sessions.
Unfortunately, the complete solution is not nearly as simple. The normal goal is to keep the subject as the center of interest in a picture (not to be confused with the center of a picture). Your eye should be drawn to the subject in the final image, and the background must not be distracting from the subject. Shots must be setup to take advantage of a clean or pleasing background.
Here are some suggestions ...
My first suggestion is to utilize your lens to throw the background out of focus. The depth of field (amount of in-focus distance) in your picture needs to be reduced enough so that the subject is sharp and the background is blurred. Notice how the Lily stands out against its background in the above picture. There are no distractions. A combination of factors allows your lens to accomplish this task.
First, open the aperture wide. All other factors being identical, a wider the aperture yields a shorter depth of field. How wide? Experience is the best teacher here. The above picture was taken at f/2.8. Experiment!
In conjunction with using a wide aperture setting comes using a lens that has a very wide aperture such as the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 Lens. It can create a blurred background much more easily than a slow lens (such as the Canon EF 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens). The fast lens has much more latitude on the wide end of the aperture than the slow lens.
Another way to get a more diffusely blurred background is to use a lens with a long focal length such as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS Lens used for the above Monster Buck picture. It will be much more difficult to blur a background with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 L Lens. All focal lengths yield the same depth of field when used at the same aperture setting and subject framing. But, the image compression a telephoto focal length provides magnifies the already blurred background. The result is a background that appears more diffusely blurred.
Using a higher focal length has the additional advantage of including less background in your picture. A higher focal length lens has a smaller angle of view. Pretty simple - less background in your picture leaves less room for distraction. This may be a reason to choose the Canon EF 180mm L USM Macro Lens over the Canon EF 100mm USM Macro Lens. Again, less background in the picture reduces the chance of distractions.
Continued ... Digital Photography Tips - The Background (Part 2)