For Photographers | The Background is Important, Too

When I first started taking pictures nearly nine years ago, I would just take the picture and hardly ever pay attention to what was happening in the background. Anyone else find themselves guilty of this or was this just me? I would focus on the couple or what was happening in the foreground and completely ignore the background. Often I would notice that there was junk in the background that ruined my picture or required a lot of Photoshop work that I didn’t have the skill in at the time.

Years later, I sometimes do this, but most of the time, I find myself noticing and paying attention to what’s going on behind the couple or group of people to fix it. It can be little things from a dark pillow in the background of the getting ready room to a giant tree sticking out the head of the couple to a blue trashcan in the background; but in this short and sweet post, I encourage you to take a quick second when you’re looking through your camera to notice and pay attention to what you have going on in the background and not just the foreground.

Here’s a few tips: 
1) Wait to get things like cars or people out of the background of your shot. Wait the extra 3-5 seconds it might take to get them out of your background rather than have to edit it in post later. Sometimes this gives you a chance to chat with your couple and interact to make them laugh or smile.

2) Move stuff out of the way. If you notice something that can be moved, then move it. I shot a wedding a few weeks ago and moved a giant trashcan out of the way. It took us a minute to move it vs the time it would have taken to edit it out later on.

3) Angle yourself differently, and possibly the couple, if you notice something in the background that is distracting. Or completely move the couple all together. Move them a few feet over and see if it’s better.

4) If you have set your couple up and notice the spot just isn’t working because of the background, it’s okay to tell them, “You know what? This spot just isn’t giving me what I thought it would. Let’s skip this spot.” Move on and go somewhere else. Don’t waste your time taking pictures that have a background that doesn’t work.

5) Go vertical vs horizontal if you need to to cut out some of the distracting background.

6) Don’t be afraid to take a minute or two to reshoot a set of pictures if something in the background ruins the picture. Sometimes you don’t notice these things until after you’ve taken the pictures. If you’re not on a time crunch with a reception entrance looming, take a few extra minutes to redo the shots and get it right. The only time I say to keep something with a distracting background is if the couple looks better [ie better smiles, laughter, or interaction] in the first set than they do in the second set.

 

Emily and Josh’s wedding below is a great example of reshooting due to a distracting background. Originally I had them standing directly in front of a tree and really wasn’t paying attention to the tree behind them. I looked at the pictures back of camera and didn’t love the shot like I thought I would. I realized it was because the tree was right behind them, so I had them slide over just a few feet to take the whole set again. It took an extra 2 minutes to redo the set and give them pictures I was happy with and that looked better.

emily-and-josh-wedding-2

You can even see the tree that was behind their head now on the right side of the picture. Such a difference!
emily-and-josh-wedding-2-2

Another example comes from this past weekend’s wedding. I was taking detail shots of Cindy’s flowers. The one on the left was my original shot. The one on the right was the second one I took after noticing the distracting black panel in the picture. 2016-09-07_0001

And finally, going back to my tip about vertical vs horizontal pictures- this dress shot from Emily’s wedding had tons of distracting elements, but I loved the spot, so I turned the picture vertical to get rid of the distracting parts. emily-and-josh-wedding

Here is the vertical without the distracting elements!emily-and-josh-wedding-2

I know this is something simple and that most of you probably think of when you’re shooting, but it’s a good reminder. Plus, when I was a newbie, I wish I had read a post like this that made me more aware of what was going on not only in the foreground, but also the background! Add your tips in the comments section!

 

5 thoughts on “For Photographers | The Background is Important, Too

  1. We all rememeber these days….when starting out…getting lost in a moment…when capturing the most beautiful details…yes to this! Thank you for the reminder!!!

  2. Mandi, this is such a great reminder! I especially like no. 4; that’s a great way to phrase it when you’ve already positioned the couple (or other subjects/models/etc.), but really aren’t loving the shot. I’m no professional photographer by any means, but I will definitely be paying more attention to my background when taking future photos!

  3. Mandi, this is such a great reminder! I especially like no. 4; that’s a great way to phrase it when you’ve already positioned the couple (or other subjects/models/etc.), but really aren’t loving the shot. I’m no professional photographer by any means, but I will definitely be paying more attention to my background when taking future photos!

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