Watch for distracting backgrounds

May 18, 2016 | Creativity

If it’s not important, eliminate it

Brains can be confusing for photographers. Too often they fool us into thinking we know what we’re seeing. Trouble is, the camera sees everything, including those oddball shapes and colors in the background of your photo.

Propriocentric is the ability for your brain to know where all parts of your body are at any moment. That makes it easier to begin movements with our hands and feet without looking at them to gain visual reference to their location and the intended path.

However, sometimes we get fooled or our body thinks it’s not important that we know everything.

The best example is when we injure a toe and within a few days forget that it is injured. We discover it is still sensitive and painful when we stub it on a chair leg or stumble stepping onto a curb.

Our body, ever so careful to protect us, has turned off the pain so we can completely dedicate ourself to all the other senses so we don’t injure another toe, fall and break an arm, or turn left into oncoming traffic.

Imagine for a moment the danger if our concentration was on the pain and injury in our foot instead of keeping us aware of the other dangers in the world.

That’s similar to what happens when we are making photographs. Our brain tricks us into seeing what’s important in the frame. We become excited about the colors, shapes, composition, or movement of our subjects and ignore the distracting elements in the background.

It takes practice to learn to study backgrounds and find a way to make them something that contributes to the photo.If not, eliminate they distractions by changing your position, lenses, or depth of field.

Learn to use the background as part of your storytelling toolkit. Learn to see what the camera sees. It sees everything and is unforgiving if you you aren’t aware of backgrounds.

The photo at right came after following the workers for three blocks until the background include repeating elements and a darker object to increase contrast between the flag and background.