Background Basics

Author: Amy Horn

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When I get exciting about capturing a photograph, I sometimes forget the basics about the background and that is to eliminate the distractions. A busy background will make the viewer lose interest. In these examples I will explain how I eliminated the busy background to capture stronger images.

The first examples are from Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats September 2013. This was one of the first runs of the morning and Lobello Racing was “backing up” their record. The day before this belly tank hit a top speed for their class and rules state they 08_13 Bonneville-7259have to hit that same speed the next morning to “own” the record in the books. These images were shot at the start line with beautiful morning light, but there are many distractions with people and cars in the background. So, I opted to walk around to the rear of the belly tank to see the view. I could not capture the driver’s face, but I created an image that looked like I was alone on the salt with Lobello Racing and an official. Now viewers will feel what it is like to sit be on the start line.

The second set of images were taken outside of Sunset Crater during a late summer 08_13 Flag wildflowers-7626wildflower surge. When I approached these mini cosmos flowers I loved the full field and soft colors. So, I started with my wide angle lens and grabbed a shot. Capturing a photo at my height with such a delicate subject did not work. There was not a clear subject and the image was very busy. So, I switched to a telephoto lens and got low to the ground. Using my 105mm macro lens, I composed the shot with a tripod and used back light. By singling out a few flowers I was able to accentuate the soft colors and still show the “field” of flowers in the blurred background. So, when you are out shooting what you love, always evaluate what is it you like about the subject and simply your background so that you subject is clear.

08_13 Flag wildflowers-7644Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view or