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Tips On Fixing Distracting Backgrounds

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Category: General Photography

10 Ways To Fix Distracting Backgrounds - We list 10 ways to stop distracting backgrounds spoiling your shots.

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Objects which look like they’re growing out of people’s heads, unwanted ‘hot spots’, unsightly rubbish and general clutter are just some of the things which can spoil a shot thanks to them pulling attention away from your main subject. However, with a few simple adjustments, you can have clutter-free backgrounds that’ll leave all attention where it’s meant to be.

Dog on the beach
Photo by Daniel Bell. Even though the background of the shot is out of focus, the dog in the background is still a little distracting. 

Check Your Frame

Ok, it may seem like something rather obvious to list, however it’s a simple step some of us forget to do, especially when we don’t have much time to take the shot. But taking the time to study the background of the frame can stop unsightly highlights and objects spoiling your shots.

Remove Clutter

So, you’ve checked the frame and seen there are a few unsightly elements which means the next step is to remove them. In some places this can physically mean picking objects up and moving them out of frame, however this isn’t always possible as you’re not always taking photos in locations where you can just pick up and move objects as you wish. When working in locations such as this, you’ll have to do one of the following that’s listed further down the page instead.

Move Locations Or Positions

Try hiding the distracting object with your subject or if it’s not possible, see if moving a couple of steps to the left or right may help. Again, it’s a simple and quite obvious thing to do but it can make a huge difference to the overall look of the final shot.

Be Patient

If you’re shooting in a busy town centre or in another location where there’s lots of people walking through your shot, set your gear up, position your subject and just wait for your background to clear. If you have people trying to be a nuisance, pulling faces and generally being annoying in the background, just patiently wait for them to move on as they’ll get bored a lot sooner than you will.

Adjust Zoom

Cropping some of the background out by using your zoom to pull your subject in so they fill the frame more will remove distracting objects and ensure your subject is the main point of focus.

Dog running beach
Photo by Daniel Bell. The position this shot was taken in is much better as there's nothing in the background to distract the viewer.

Move Your Feet

Don’t just think you can use your zoom to get closer to your subject. Move your feet to find a different angle, a better background or to simply ‘zoom in’ closer to your subject.

Depth Of Field

Using a larger aperture to throw your background out of focus can hide distracting objects and allow all attention to fall on your subject which is pin-sharp. However, areas which are over exposed and strong colours can still pull the eye towards them even if they are blurry so just be aware of that and check for any objects that may do this.

Simple Backgrounds

Plain walls, studio backgrounds and even the sky can be used as backgrounds and they won’t distract your viewer. For smaller items, use pieces of card, paper or material as backgrounds which you can slip behind your subject, hiding whatever unsightly items are behind it.

Change Your Angle

If you can’t move your subject you’ll have to move yourself. Try shooting from a lower position so you can use the sky, for example.

Post Production

Even though it’s always best to get it right in-camera, you can edit your shots during post production to fix your background. You can, among many other things, clone, crop, remove backgrounds completely and adjust brightness levels of all or parts of your shots. Take a look at ePHOTOzine’s techniques for more editing tips.

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