A few inches can make all the difference!

In this blog I will deal with the subject of composition of a photograph, or to be more precise, how the main subject of your photograph is placed in relation to its surrounding or background setting.

As the title of this blog suggests, a few inches can make all the difference regarding where you place the main subject of your photo, and that can boil down to where you stand or place the camera for the shot!

If you are photographing wildlife or nature for instance, rather than just concentrating on the main subject, giving some thought to the background setting can really make or break the final shot, and that can come down to just literally standing or positioning the camera a few inches either side or higher or lower in relation to the main subject.

You might for an example want to photograph a beautiful flower or some interesting plant growth structure. Give some thought to the colour and texture of the plant or flower you want to photograph and then think about the background surrounding the main subject. Will the background colour enhance your main subject or will it compete, crowd out or even distract from the main subject?

As you frame up to take the shot, it can be helpful to just move the camera around the main subject, moving back and forth, higher or lower or stepping to the left or right just a few inches that can make all the difference to the final look of the shot. If there is some particular texture of the flower or plant that you want to highlight, considering the background first will help in the final composition.

In the photo example below, I wanted to take a shot of the interesting form, structure and texture of the red crimson plant growing tall in my local park. I could have framed the shot using any of the suitable coloured trees or shrubs as a backdrop contrast to the main subject to help it stand out.

As I took the time and moved the camera around the main subject and whilst crouching down looking for an unusual angle, the castle building in the background came into view, and I thought it made an ideal backdrop for the main subject. I find that using the tilting adjustable view screen on the rear of the camera to frame up on some shots can really help during composition, and can give you a better 'feel' to the finish you are looking for.

Tankerton towers castle manor house home mansion fort british english home homes stately gardens

Although the castle building was not the original main subject to photograph, it has added a little bit more interest I think to the overall finished shot, as compared to maybe just a plain backdrop of a tree or bush etc. The colour of the red brick and grey flint in the castle along with the detail in the arched windows and brickwork adds more interest to the background without competing or distracting from the main subject, and makes the finished shot a bit more visually pleasing to the eye!

Giving just as much thought to the background as well as to the main subject can also help when photographing insects, birds, butterflies, flowers etc. Some of the details in these things can be so minute and intricate that they can be lost if the wrong background is used or an incorrect over-exposed setting is used.

It is far better in my mind to be slightly under-exposed as post-processing in photoshop can correct any minor faults where exposure is a problem, rather than being over-exposed which results in fine details being bleached out and permanently lost which cannot be rectified later by post-processing.

Sunlight used in the correct way can really achieve the desired effects and the finished result you are looking for.

In the example below, I have taken advantage of the strong light of the sun to enhance the beautiful delicate papery tissue-like petals of the poppy plant, so that the fine details can be seen, and also the stamens in the centre of the poppies.

Strong sunlight filtering through the trees where these poppies were growing allowed me to get the desired look and finish without the harshness of direct strong lighting from the sun spoiling the shot! My focus target was on the foreground poppy using a very shallow depth of field to achieve that dreamy look I was after.

Beautiful poppies growing in a kent poppy field meadow

Correct and accurate exposure is vital to ensure no loss of detail in the areas of the main subject. I generally fire off several shots at different exposures/settings to make sure I capture those vital details. I always use the manual setting of the camera so that I have full control of all the necessary functions such as ISO, aperture, shutter speed etc.

So if you have the luxury and time on your side to carefully compose your wildlife and nature shots, then giving careful consideration to the background can go a long way to really enhancing the main subject and increase the overall selling potential of your stock photography.

Photo credits: Photodynamx.

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July 06, 2019


Appreciate all the positive comments on my blogs...keeping 'em coming!

June 20, 2019


Thanks, interesting thanks for sharing

June 17, 2019


An excellent point, and one that makes me think a little more before pressing the shutter.  

June 17, 2019


It's good to hear your comments on this particular subject and the importance of recognising how the background can impact on the final result of a shot!

June 17, 2019


I couldn't agree more; a few inches can make a massive difference. I leaned this many years ago before digital and good quality zooms with an old Canon EF and a 50mm f1.8 lens.

June 14, 2019


Good article. I love to hear about the creative thought process behind your photography. William

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