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How to Get Foregrounds Right in Photography

foregrounds in photography

After my last overseas trip I received emails from two fellow travelers from the tour group I shared two weeks with as I toured around Turkey. Both emails contained some of the ‘best’ photos that my two fellow travelers. Many of the photos that each of them took were in the same locations (mainly landscape photography) and I was fascinated to compare them because despite being taken in the same location – many of them were remarkably different in terms of quality.

One of my fellow travelers consistently had taken better shots and one of the reasons for this was that he’d obviously given some thought to the foregrounds in his shots and used them to really add depth to the shots he’d taken. His shots made you feel like you were standing right in the scene itself. The foregrounds added context, perspective and interest.

On the other hand – my other friend had quite obviously given the foreground in his images little, if any, thought at all. The resulting images were one dimensional and lacked a way into the shots.

I’ve looked previously at factors to think about in the background of images and now I’d like to raise a few to consider with foregrounds:

foregrounds in photography

1. Check your Foreground Before Hitting the Shutter Release

Ok – so this was the same point that I made in the background article but it applies here too (I promise the rest of the points in this post will be more unique). Before you hit the shutter always run your eye around the viewfinder (all of it).

Check your foreground for distracting elements but also move your camera around a little to see what you’re missing from your foreground that could ADD something to your shot. You see good foregrounds don’t just happen. Sometimes you have to search them out and make them happen.

2. Get Down Low

One of the strategies that many landscape photographers use when trying to accentuate their foreground is to lower the height that they take their image from. Crouch down and/or lower your tripod and you’ll find the perspective of your shots can be changed quite remarkably.

3. Raise your Horizon

Similarly when you change the positioning of the horizon you change the influence that a foreground has on the image. Most people naturally place horizons in the middle of a frame but as we’ve discussed previously they tend to do better along one of the horizontal ‘thirds lines’. If you place it on the bottom third line you tend to emphasize the sky in your shot – however when you put the horizon on the top third line you accentuate the foreground. Either can work of course – depending upon what’s going on in the sky or foreground but if you have an interesting foreground you’ll generally want a higher horizon.

foregrounds in photography

4. Use Leading Lines

Another very effective strategy with foregrounds is to look for ‘leading lines’ that will draw the viewer’s eyes into your image. They’re usually vertical lines (sometimes with a diagonal direction) of some kind.

Leading lines could be actual lines but they might also be objects, patterns or shapes that create flow from the bottom edge of the imaged up into the main part of the frame.

5. Aperture

Depending upon the type of image and the effect that you’re after – you’ll probably want to use a reasonably small aperture (a larger number) in order to have a large depth of field. This will keep as much of the image in focus as possible (from your foreground and into the background).

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Darren Rowse
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+.

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