Pay Attention to Foregrounds - Digital Photography School
Close
Close

Pay Attention to Foregrounds

Foregrounds-1Photo by acampm1

Here’s a little ‘question’ for you to ask next time you’re out and about with our digital cameras.

Next time you’re taking a landscape or urban landscape shot pause before you hit the shutter and ask yourself:

“What’s in the Foreground of this shot?”

I find that many photographers give backgrounds of shots real attention – but few take the time to consider foregrounds.

If they do consider them it’s usually more about making sure the foreground is empty and that there is nothing obstructing the main focal point.

While empty foregrounds can mean your main subject is unobstructed – it can also leave your image looking quite boring.

Alternatively – a foreground with some sort of secondary interest point can really lead viewers into a shot and help create a more dynamic scene.

The foreground point of interest need not be anything too amazing – it could simply be a rock, tree, pathway or fence post. Alternatively you might want to get down really low and shoot from that position to make the ground itself the interest point.

More tips on using the foreground of your shots to add impact here.

I’d love to see the results of your experiments with foregrounds in comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://blog.dcclark.net/ dcclark

    Here’s a specific example which always bothers me:

    Star trail photos need a foreground too! Star trails are awesome, but just a photo of the sky with stars moving is kind of boring (unless you’re into astrophotography and have a specific kind of object that you’re looking for). Having something in the foreground really adds interest, and you can use the stars in clever ways.

    One way I did this was to place our favorite local mine shaft in the foreground, with the north star behind the shaft — so that stars appeared to move around it: Quincy Stars isn’t a great photo technically (look at the cloud smears), but it does have a good foreground.

  • http://flickr.com/wijna mawi wijna

    When u put some foreground on your composition, it will “eat” more space of middle-ground and background. That’s a dillematic problem for me…

  • http://jasoncollinphotography.com Jason Collin Photography

    While photographing Thanksgiving’s sunset on a wetland shore I was wheeling around looking for a suitable foreground as the sunset had the background covered.

    I really like portrait orientation landscape shots that include a cool subject in the foreground too.

  • http://www.ilanbresler.com Ilan (@ilanbr)

    Not only scenery shots can make a use of foreground.
    Paying attention to such detail is important and ‘handy’ in every kind of photo

    For example – http://www.ilanbresler.com/2008/07/spring.html – in this portrait the blossom of the tree in the foreground adds that “fairy” tale notion I needed to make the photo into something more than just a portrait

  • FramtonM

    Quite right, too. The only piece of advice from a pro. photographer I remember is, “Check the foreground.” It has saved many a shot being ruined by things like bits of paper etc. that I didn’t see because I was concentrating on the scene I wanted.

  • Harry Hoffhines

    I used the iron fence as a device to frame the window in this picture of a window in a church in Paris. The shallow depth of field doesn’t allow it to pull your interest from the subject, but the color of the fence adds to what is a pretty colorless picture otherwise. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/buckeyenut81/3159157094/' title='Paroisse Saint Germain des Prés - Paris' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3244/3159157094_d901db8d73.jpg']

  • http://quotidian-photography.blogspot.com/ Jessica S.

    The footprints in the foreground here are absolutely necessary to draw the viewer further into the picture and to my subjects, the three people in the snow and the dog.

    Used well, a good foreground can give your photo a depth that photos with just midground and background lack.

    http://quotidian-photography.blogspot.com/2009/11/snow.html

  • http://weddings.yourlifephoto.co.uk Alex Suffolk Photographer

    @harry.

    you’ve got the right idea here, however that fence is straying into the object of our focus here (the window).
    A simple re composition to ensure that the fence FRAMED, the window, rather than strayed into it, would have made the image much much stronger.

    The colours work well together though..

  • Linduh

    Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S1000fd
    Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/680)
    Aperture: f/6.4
    Focal Length: 17.1 mm
    ISO Speed: 64
    Exposure Bias: 0 EV
    Flash: Off

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/paws4dcaws/4154321768/meta/

  • Linduh
  • http://www.enablingwords.com Robert Bennett

    My brother in the background. Our Canadian vacation in 2008.

    http://images2b.snapfish.com/232323232%7Ffp53456%3Evq%3D3278%3E73%3B%3E654%

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/tfiz T-Fiz

    And even using a blurred foreground can add to the story as well, such as in the photo below. It’s not until you realize that the object in the foreground is a male backside that the female model’s sly look into the camera makes the image “involve” the viewer:

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/tfiz T-Fiz
  • rod fermin

    a very good reminder for almost 80% of us photographers who normally give much attention to backgrounds and forgetting about the equally important foregrounds.

  • http://tingkap-vistaku.blogspot.com/ Sparda79

    I totally agree with this post. I myself always forget about the foreground because I give too much attention to the background.
    This post in my photo-blog is a good example.

    See the 2nd shot. I was too focus in getting the sunset, adding something to the foreground never crossed my mind. A friend suggested me to capture the sunset between the branches, thus the 3rd shot and IMO is far better.

    http://tingkap-vistaku.blogspot.com/2009/08/sunsets-fever.html

  • Harry Hoffhines

    @ Alex

    Couldn’t agree more, it was a spur of the moment shot. If I get back to Paris I’ll try it again :)

  • Harry Hoffhines

    @ Alex

    Couldn’t agree more, it was a spur of the moment shot. If I get back to Paris I’ll try it again :) Thanks for your critique.

  • bill watts

    Nice site thanks

  • Nick Taylor

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickt1/4991946563/' title='DSC09180' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4092/4991946563_e8841aa94f.jpg']

  • Nick Taylor

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickt1/4991946439/' title='DSC09170' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4148/4991946439_18b3fed6ba.jpg']

  • Morgan

    Here are a few from recent months…I am still learning how to utilize this technique so any feedback would be appreciated!

    [eimg url='https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208146561302914' title='ThailandSoFar#5563208146561302914']

    [eimg url='https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208034846239122' title='ThailandSoFar#5563208034846239122']

    https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/SiSatchanalai?authkey=Gv1sRgCLj4jabg78vWFw#5576923282435700450

  • Morgan

Some older comments

  • Morgan

    February 27, 2011 03:10 pm

    I am still learning how to properly use this technique so any feedback would be appreciated!

    https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/Bangkok#5568753514095644082
    https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208034846239122
    https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208146561302914
    https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208224240477218

  • Morgan

    February 27, 2011 03:05 pm

    Here are a few from recent months...I am still learning how to utilize this technique so any feedback would be appreciated!

    [eimg url='https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208146561302914' title='ThailandSoFar#5563208146561302914']

    [eimg url='https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/ThailandSoFar#5563208034846239122' title='ThailandSoFar#5563208034846239122']

    https://picasaweb.google.com/moogleit/SiSatchanalai?authkey=Gv1sRgCLj4jabg78vWFw#5576923282435700450

  • Nick Taylor

    September 19, 2010 03:41 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickt1/4991946439/' title='DSC09170' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4148/4991946439_18b3fed6ba.jpg']

  • Nick Taylor

    September 19, 2010 03:40 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickt1/4991946563/' title='DSC09180' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4092/4991946563_e8841aa94f.jpg']

  • bill watts

    January 11, 2010 12:44 am

    Nice site thanks

  • Harry Hoffhines

    December 14, 2009 05:30 pm

    @ Alex

    Couldn't agree more, it was a spur of the moment shot. If I get back to Paris I'll try it again :) Thanks for your critique.

  • Harry Hoffhines

    December 14, 2009 05:30 pm

    @ Alex

    Couldn't agree more, it was a spur of the moment shot. If I get back to Paris I'll try it again :)

  • Sparda79

    December 8, 2009 08:18 pm

    I totally agree with this post. I myself always forget about the foreground because I give too much attention to the background.
    This post in my photo-blog is a good example.

    See the 2nd shot. I was too focus in getting the sunset, adding something to the foreground never crossed my mind. A friend suggested me to capture the sunset between the branches, thus the 3rd shot and IMO is far better.

    http://tingkap-vistaku.blogspot.com/2009/08/sunsets-fever.html

  • rod fermin

    December 6, 2009 11:48 pm

    a very good reminder for almost 80% of us photographers who normally give much attention to backgrounds and forgetting about the equally important foregrounds.

  • T-Fiz

    December 4, 2009 06:09 am

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2511/3729762509_2e8a4b9785.jpg

  • T-Fiz

    December 4, 2009 06:08 am

    And even using a blurred foreground can add to the story as well, such as in the photo below. It's not until you realize that the object in the foreground is a male backside that the female model's sly look into the camera makes the image "involve" the viewer:

  • Robert Bennett

    December 4, 2009 04:54 am

    My brother in the background. Our Canadian vacation in 2008.

    http://images2b.snapfish.com/232323232%7Ffp53456%3Evq%3D3278%3E73%3B%3E654%

  • Linduh

    December 3, 2009 10:00 am

    Pike's Peak - Colorado Springs, Co

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2570/4154321768_86d5c217f5.jpg

  • Linduh

    December 3, 2009 09:53 am

    Camera: Fujifilm FinePix S1000fd
    Exposure: 0.001 sec (1/680)
    Aperture: f/6.4
    Focal Length: 17.1 mm
    ISO Speed: 64
    Exposure Bias: 0 EV
    Flash: Off

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/paws4dcaws/4154321768/meta/

  • Alex Suffolk Photographer

    December 1, 2009 09:53 pm

    @harry.

    you've got the right idea here, however that fence is straying into the object of our focus here (the window).
    A simple re composition to ensure that the fence FRAMED, the window, rather than strayed into it, would have made the image much much stronger.

    The colours work well together though..

  • Jessica S.

    December 1, 2009 09:54 am

    The footprints in the foreground here are absolutely necessary to draw the viewer further into the picture and to my subjects, the three people in the snow and the dog.

    Used well, a good foreground can give your photo a depth that photos with just midground and background lack.

    http://quotidian-photography.blogspot.com/2009/11/snow.html

  • Harry Hoffhines

    November 29, 2009 03:13 pm

    I used the iron fence as a device to frame the window in this picture of a window in a church in Paris. The shallow depth of field doesn't allow it to pull your interest from the subject, but the color of the fence adds to what is a pretty colorless picture otherwise. [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/buckeyenut81/3159157094/' title='Paroisse Saint Germain des Prés - Paris' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3244/3159157094_d901db8d73.jpg']

  • FramtonM

    November 28, 2009 10:32 pm

    Quite right, too. The only piece of advice from a pro. photographer I remember is, "Check the foreground." It has saved many a shot being ruined by things like bits of paper etc. that I didn't see because I was concentrating on the scene I wanted.

  • Ilan (@ilanbr)

    November 27, 2009 09:13 pm

    Not only scenery shots can make a use of foreground.
    Paying attention to such detail is important and 'handy' in every kind of photo

    For example - http://www.ilanbresler.com/2008/07/spring.html - in this portrait the blossom of the tree in the foreground adds that "fairy" tale notion I needed to make the photo into something more than just a portrait

  • Jason Collin Photography

    November 27, 2009 01:41 pm

    While photographing Thanksgiving's sunset on a wetland shore I was wheeling around looking for a suitable foreground as the sunset had the background covered.

    I really like portrait orientation landscape shots that include a cool subject in the foreground too.

  • mawi wijna

    November 27, 2009 11:44 am

    When u put some foreground on your composition, it will "eat" more space of middle-ground and background. That's a dillematic problem for me...

  • dcclark

    November 27, 2009 07:46 am

    Here's a specific example which always bothers me:

    Star trail photos need a foreground too! Star trails are awesome, but just a photo of the sky with stars moving is kind of boring (unless you're into astrophotography and have a specific kind of object that you're looking for). Having something in the foreground really adds interest, and you can use the stars in clever ways.

    One way I did this was to place our favorite local mine shaft in the foreground, with the north star behind the shaft -- so that stars appeared to move around it: Quincy Stars isn't a great photo technically (look at the cloud smears), but it does have a good foreground.

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed