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You will surely agree if I tell you that highlighting the subject is one of the keys to a successful photo. However, even with an interesting subject, the viewer’s gaze can quickly be diverted if you do not pay attention to… A background too visible, an approximate composition or the presence of an undesirable element are classic examples that can mitigate the strength of a photo.

In this article, We will talk about 3 tips to highlight your subject and get photos with a stronger impact. We will rely on different pictures as examples to see the differences.

1- Blur The Background:

blur background

Looking at this picture, you can see that the subject stands out right away in the frame. There is no need to look long or have a keen eye to understand that the point of interest of the photo is a frog balancing on a branch. This is the main benefit of having a fuzzy background: the subject stands out and it is highlighted.

If you want to get a blurry background  (or bokeh ) you have to work on the depth of field. Here, I met the conditions for the depth of field is low: the frog is clear but everything around is drowned in the blur. In this case, the area of ​​sharpness is very short, it is limited to 2 or 3 cm around the subject.

To achieve this result, an aperture of (f / 5.6) was used, approaching the subject about 50cm and long focal of 105mm. The combination of these settings allowed me to get a shallow depth of field and detach the subject from the background.

By using a small aperture (f / 16, for example), photographing from a distant position and choosing a short focal length (eg 24mm), the depth of field would have been greater. We would then have guessed the details in the background and my image would have had immediately less impact.

Finally, so that the background is unclear and uniform we must also monitor another important detail: the background should not be too close behind the subject. In this example, it is the foliage of plants located several tens of meters that constitutes the background. With a close background, the rendering would have been very different. The leaves and branches would have been much more visible and the result would have been immediately less aesthetic.

2- Blur The Foreground:

highlighted frog object

This photo was also taken with a shallow depth of field. You can see by looking at the shooting parameters that by using a large aperture (f / 5.6) and a very long focal length (500 mm). The conditions were there for the sharpness area to be short and focused around the subject.

But if you look at the picture, you must have noticed something … This time it is the foreground that is blurred and no longer the background. To achieve this result. Make sure there is some foliage between your camera and the subject. As the depth of the field is weak, this foliage appears blurred.

The main difficulty was to integrate foliage into the frame, without hiding the subject. It requires a little practice but, with a minimum of perseverance, we find quite quickly the right angle of view!

The foreground blur makes it possible to emphasize the subject because no element comes to divert the attention of the spectator. It also has two other advantages: it brings softness and it guides the look of a natural way to the subject. When the viewer enters the image, his gaze goes spontaneously towards the subject.

3- Flash Lighting:

black background photography

When we think of flash, we often imagine that it is only used at night or when the brightness is low. In short, when conditions require additional light to illuminate the subject. this picture is not really the case, the light was the insufficient quantity to ensure proper exposure of the subject.

You wonder then why using the flash to take this picture … Well simply because the background was really not great! It was composed of disordered foliage and it was above all too bright compared to the frog. Even by changing the point of view or reducing the depth of field, the subject struggle to come out.

So it’s time to use a different approach, by illuminating my subject only with the light of the flash. and there is no need to resort to a complex device consisting of multiple flashes, simply by using a flash cobra. and a small aperture (f / 16) plus a fast speed (1/200 s) so that the light coming from the background does not appear on the photo and that the background becomes all black.

To have homogeneous lighting of the subject, positioning a diffuser of light on my flash cobra. By increasing the size of the light source, To obtain a softer light. but deporting the flash over the frog for better lighting. By illuminating the subject from the front, the light would have been flatter. And especially, bringing light on the background while it should disappear.

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