Don’t shoot around the background, work it into the picture!
Photographer Kristen Duke with Kristen Duke Photographer shows how to
use the foreground to frame your shot.
Often times, when taking portraits, we try to get the objects that are in front
of us “out of the way” in order to get an unobstructed shot. I like to think
about that foreground in a different way. Next time you grab your camera for
a shot, try using the objects, or the “stuff” between you and your subject, to
frame your shot in a creative way. This simple shift can make an image go
from great to WOW.
Below is a beautiful baby in a field full of gorgeous yellow flowers. In this
shoot, I took all kinds of pictures from different angles, but this one is my
favorite. She was admiring the flowers near her, and I crouched down a few
feet away. Instead of pulling aside the flowers between us, I used them to
frame her, and add visual interest to the image by setting my focal point on
her face, and with a low aperture, blurring the flowers in between her and
me, giving the image more visual interest.
The next set of images was taken when I was photographing a family on their
boat, aiming to get some fun shots of the kids being pulled on the tube. I got
lots of cool shots, but one of my favorites was not planned. It happened
when the boat turned and the ladder got in my way. I was annoyed at the
time, but then I saw that it was actually framing them quite nicely. With my
focus on them, and having the bars in my frame, but blurred, made this shot
more interesting than the one before…don’t you think?
I try to find interesting things in my shoots to include. I love this shot of a
couple cuddling. I was on a stairwell above the tree, and moved enough to
get the flowers nicely framed around them. It’s almost like you are being
sneaky–hiding behind something so as to give the appearance that they
don’t know you are there, or that the viewer of the image is made to think
that the subject didn’t realize you were watching. Think of objects that might
otherwise get in your way and use them to be creative.
Another favorite image, is of this couple on a tennis court. I was on the other
side of the fence, and with my focus set on their faces, the chain link fence
blurred. It adds an interesting dimension and frames the shot nicely. Take
the creative challenge to use the foreground around you to frame your
How to use the foreground to frame your shots:
1. Have some distance between your subject and yourself with camera.
2. Go near trees or other structural spots.
3. Get behind the trees or structure, and have them partially in the shot,
but not covering your subject.
4. It’s helpful to have your camera settings on full manual to blur out
the foreground but, if not, the foreground just won’t be blurred
5. Set your focus on the subject with a lower aperture, and your
foreground will be more out of focus