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Habit 5 For Amazing Photographs.

Updated on September 2, 2014
Monarch butterfly photo by Bron Praslicka
Monarch butterfly photo by Bron Praslicka

A Successful Background Should Enhance Not Distract.

As the great nature photographer Ansel Adams once said, "You don't take a photograph, you make it". Really great photos are rarely accidental, they generally come about by careful planning.

As I tried to stress in my earlier articles in this series, taking great photographs has less to do with your camera and more to do with certain habits or techniques that allow you to create a more appealing and attractive photo. So whether you have the latest and greatest digital SLR model from Canon or Nikon or you have your smartphone or a point-and-shoot these techniques will help you compose better photos.

It might be a stretch to say that a great background is always necessary to enhance your photo, but I have no trouble stating that you should never have a background that distracts from your subject.

Selecting the proper background for your photo has a lot to do with Effective Photographers Habit 2 - Change Your Perspective. I've never taken the time to calculate the numbers but I would guess that close to 70 percent of my photos are taken from either kneeling down or laying down. Of course that probably has a lot to do with the fact that the majority of my photos are of wildflowers and butterflies. My point is that I find I get a much better photo if I am at the level of my subject rather than simply standing over it.

Queen butterfly photo by Bron Praslicka
Queen butterfly photo by Bron Praslicka

Creating An Attractive Background.

As I just mentioned one of my favorite techniques for creating an attractive background is to kneel down so that I can get at the same level as the flower, butterfly, or whatever my subject is so that my background is something off in the distance rather than the ground.

The other secret to making this particular technique work is to use a zoom lens. I have a 55-200mm lens I like to use for my wildflower and butterfly photos. It isn't so much that I need the zoom feature because I can't get close to my subject, but rather because I like the DoF effect the lens gives me. Using a zoom lens, if you get within 5 or 6 feet of your subject, then zoom the lens in all the way to 200mm it will blur out anything in the background - creating simply a blur of colors and lights. There are other ways to create this effect but using the zoom lens is the quickest and easiest method I've found.

The Magic of Bokeh.

In photography, bokeh ( BOH-kay - also sometimes pronounced as BOH-kə), from the Japanese word boke which means "blur" or "haze", is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens.

Put another way, bokeh is what photographers call the little sparkles of light or the larger blurs of light and color that appear in the background of some photos. The effect can be created the same way I mentioned above regarding blurring a background. If your background has bright points of light - say from the reflection off of a window, off of water, or even off of shinny leaves - then when blurred they appear as bokeh.

This is one of my favorite background effects - first because I believe it adds a great background to any photo, and second because with a little practice it becomes very easy to correct.

Monarch on Mexican Milkweed photo by Bron Praslicka
Monarch on Mexican Milkweed photo by Bron Praslicka

Changing Your Perspective - Changing Your Background.

On an October day in 2009 I stopped by a butterfly garden at my son's school. The timing couldn't have been better since there were a large number of Monarch butterflies as well as Queens visiting the garden that fall afternoon. I stayed in the garden taking photographs for almost an hour which resulted in over 500 photos.

Although all of the photos in this article are from that same afternoon you will notice that the background of each of the photos are quite different. The variations are created by simply changing my position when taking the various shots and selecting different background objects for each photo.

Monarch on Mexican Milkweed photo by Bron Praslicka
Monarch on Mexican Milkweed photo by Bron Praslicka

Besides reminding you to always take your camera with you wherever you go, we have discussed changing your perspective, taking time to make some basic edits to enhance your photos, remembering to take LOTS of photos, and taking time to think about the background of your photo. None of these techniques are technical in nature and are very easy to do. Try a few or all of the techniques the next time you are taking photos and I think you will be surprised with your results.

Until next time, get out there and take more photos.

Most of all - Enjoy.

Bron


The link below will take you to Habit 6 in the series of 7 Habits of Highly Effective Photographers - or the link below that will take you to my introductory article on the 7 Habits so that you can review all of the 7 habits or techniques you can use to enhance your photos.

© 2014 Bron Praslicka

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    • craftybegonia profile image

      craftybegonia 2 years ago from Southwestern, United States

      Thank you, that's good to know. We point-and-shoot users are usually left to scour the internet looking for good ways to get the most our of our cameras.

    • BronPraslicka profile image
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      Bron Praslicka 2 years ago from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas

      Thank you for the kind comment. I do know how you feel. This particular series is a subset of a high school class I was asked to develop and teach a few years ago. Because I knew that most of the high school kids would not be able to purchase a digital SLR I tried to put together some tips and techniques that didn't require features only found on SLR level cameras. One of the main techniques talked about in this article - the use of a lens that can zoom to approximately 200mm - may require an SLR, but I think you will find that most of the other habits or techniques I talk about in the other articles in this series should work just as well with a point-and-shoot. At least I hope that's true...

    • craftybegonia profile image

      craftybegonia 2 years ago from Southwestern, United States

      Great tips! I wish I could see articles like this but aimed at point-and-shoot digital cameras. So many people don't have the "big guns" when it comes to cameras and are always left out because articles aim mostly at digital slr cameras.

    • BronPraslicka profile image
      Author

      Bron Praslicka 2 years ago from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas

      Thank you for the kind comments - it would appear we have similar passions so I look forward to checking out your hubs and website.

    • photographyadvice profile image

      photographyadvice 2 years ago from UK

      Superb photos and great advice

    • BronPraslicka profile image
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      Bron Praslicka 2 years ago from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas

      Thanks Sally. As you can probably tell butterflies are one of my favorite subjects to photograph. This year has been a really poor year for butterflies in our area. I've discovered they sort of go in cycles - so I'll just have to wait another year or two for another great butterfly year.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 years ago from Norfolk

      Lovely butterflies and a nice set of butterflies here. Thanks for sharing.