Do you think that the presence of bokeh automatically makes a photo beautiful, so you shoot wide open all the time? It’s time to rethink your beliefs. There will be a lot of situations where you will have to close down the aperture, but it won’t affect the aesthetics of the shot if you follow a few simple tips. We have translated for you an article by Filipino photographer Kebs Kayabiaba, in which he tells how to effectively separate the model (or any other object) from the background in street and portrait photography.
Once upon a time, I only shot wide open, and it really hindered my progress. The kit lens I bought with the camera wasn’t very fast, so I only got nicely blurred backgrounds or creamy bokeh when the subject was close to the camera.
I got excited every time I took a street photo with a blurry background, so as soon as I got my hands on an f/2 lens, I started constantly shooting at maximum aperture to get a blurry background. I shot wide open all the time and just stopped learning new things.
Back then, I thought that a good photo must have a well-blurred background, but, of course, this is not always the case.
Shooting with a shallow depth of field makes it easy to separate the subject from the background, but if you always rely only on it, you will be very limited, including in composition options.
Here are a few more ways to effectively separate the subject from the background:
We can use contrast to guide the viewer’s eye through the photo. You can make the subject well lit, while the background is underexposed.
Alternatively, we can have a well lit background and an underexposed subject.
We can use color harmony. Bright colors will be different from muted tones.
Also, don’t forget about complementary colors. A person in red clothes will stand out against the background of green plants.
3. Motion blur (motion blur)
You can use motion blur to convey the movement of an object. You can get the effect by tracking the object with the camera, maintaining a relatively clear focus on it — in this case, the background will be blurred.
Another way is to shoot a moving background and a stationary object, such as a person in front of a train.
4. Subframing (“photo in photo”) and the use of layers
Subframing is a technique when one of the elements of a photo acts as a frame for another element. Such a frame makes focus on the element inside it.
You can also use “layers” — foreground, object and background. We use different elements to direct the viewer’s attention as they move from one element to the next.
It took me a while to master these techniques, due to the fact that before that I always used bokeh. Now these techniques in most cases are better suited for my work.
To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t use a shallow depth of field. Use what you think is best for your purpose. But if you’re now, like me, always shooting wide open, it might be time to learn something new. It’s time to master new shooting techniques.
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The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors.