Learning Photography: How to Decide the Ideal Relationship Between Subject, Foreground and Background

Most of the time, I shoot in aperture priority, and most of the time, I leave the aperture at maximum (f2 for most of my Fujifilm lenses). Most of the time, it results in the effect I am looking for, with a shallow depth of field, a sharp in-focus subject and soft out-of-focus foreground and background. But, sometimes, I look at a photo and wish I had shot at f4 or f8 instead of f2, so that more of the frame was in focus or the out of focus parts contributed more to the composition.

I have been teaching myself to play around with the aperture when I am taking photographs. I now shoot most compositions at both f2 and f5.6 to see the difference the change in the depth of field makes, and, for some compositions, I try other apertures until I get the relationship between subject, foreground and background that I want. As I am shooting at multiple apertures, and, sometimes using multiple focus points, I am discovering that, for some compositions, the differences can be dramatic.

This little ball of string has recently become one of my favorite things to photograph, next only to LeelaCat. I love the color and the texture of the string and the repeating geometrical patterns it makes when wound tightly into the ball. Plus, it doubles up as a toy for LeelaCat, and I often use it to guide Leela into a frame I want to photograph. I like it so much that I dug into my craft box and found half a dozen more colorful balls of string.

Usually, Leela is the in-focus subject, but here, I focused on the ball and used her as the background. The jute rug and the drying fiddle leaf fig leaves add some extra color and texture. I find myself doing this more and more — use what would typically be the subject as foreground or background. Sometimes, when I change the relationship between subject, foreground and background, an entirely new composition emerges.

The four photographs here are at f8, f5.6, f4 and wide open at f2, shot close to the minimum focus distance. Because of the short focus distance, even at f8, there’s significant background blur and at f2, Leela dissolves into the bokeh. If I had plants or furniture in the background, I would have preferred to use f2 to blur them into bokeh. For this composition, I prefer a narrower aperture, perhaps the f8 or the f5.6, because having LeelaCat in the background is the whole point of the composition.

Different parts of our life are in focus during different phases, and different parts serve as blurred backgrounds. Like in photography, I’m learning to make a deliberate choice in life on what is in sharp focus, what is slightly out of focus in the background, and what disappears in the background blur. I’m learning that I can decide to be in a narrow depth of field mode when only a small part of my life is in focus, or a broad depth of field mode when I see many more parts of my life. And, I’m learning that I can change these choices, and and create dramatically different results.

More tomorrow.

By Gaurav Mishra

Learning to see the #beauty, #play and #vitality in #quarantinelife, mostly by learning to make photos and learning to write about them.

One reply on “Learning Photography: How to Decide the Ideal Relationship Between Subject, Foreground and Background”

Comments are closed.