Photo Tip Tuesday: Foreground, Middleground, and Background

I remember learning how to draw perspective and being told to never forget foreground, middleground, and background when drawing waaaay back in Elementary school art class--however, I do often forget these when taking pictures or doodling. To anyone who needs a refresher on the terms: foreground are things closest to the viewer while background are things farthest and thus middle ground are things in-between. When you include all three your pictures have a greater sense of depth. For example, when you shoot yourself against a white wall your pictures are flatter, but when you take pictures in a field with the horizon in the distance behind you your pictures have more depth.

Subject as Foreground: Usually as style bloggers the subject (the blogger) is in focus front and center and the background is secondary, when possible it's blurred--there's no middleground. Much of my blur comes from my lenses; I use prime lenses alternating between an 85mm and 50mm lens. Another thing that affects background blur is your aperture or f stop. A lower aperture (e.g. smaller numbers like f/1.8) means a more blurred background than a higher aperture (f/22). The pictures above are taken with the same lens and camera, but the picture on the left has a low f stop and the picture on the right has a high f stop. A good camera and lens only do so much--you also have to pay attention to your settings to get the most out of your equipment and you might be surprised by what even a basic camera is capable of.
Using Foreground Creatively: Although it isn't always a first thought for fashion bloggers, there are really interesting ways to use foreground to create more dynamic images. In spring and summer I love to shoot through flowers while keeping the subject (me), now in the middleground, in focus. The blur from the plants creates more depth and makes for really striking images. You can also shoot through books at a library, autumn leaves, or whatever happens to be handy. Another benefit of this technique is that it doesn't require a fancy camera or lens--the first picture from this set is taken with my original basic digital camera--the flowers are more in focus because my f-stop isn't that low and it's still one of my favorite images.

Backgrounds: When thinking about your background you should remember to stand a good distance from whatever you want in the background. Blurred or not you capture more of a tree when you're standing 10 feet from it than when you're up against it. For example the images above, both are taken at a castle while I was in Northern Ireland last fall--you can see the size and shape of the castle when I'm far away from it in the field, as soon as I got up close to the castle all I could capture were bits of the walls. This same practice applies when you're shooting an interesting shaped tree, random sculpture, lake, or what-have-you. Having objects in the distance also creates a sense of depth for your images. Another way to lead the eye is by standing on a path that trails off in the distance or (my favorite) train tracks with bold lines that again, show depth. The train tracks serve as very literal perspective lines that lead the eye to the horizon:
Summary: Separate your subject from the background by using a low f stop, use foreground creatively by shooting through plants/books/something, and stand a good distance in front of whatever you want to feature in the background.
Previous photo tip posts here. I will be covering other subjects in other weeks and trying to keep each post as practical as possible. 


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