my flickr photostream

Friday, July 10, 2009

Check your background (and the rest of the frame)

© 2009 Simon Hucko

Ever take a great picture of someone, only to realize later that there's a telephone pole coming out of their head? Things that we hardly notice in the moment can be distracting or even comical, and can ruin an otherwise great image.

The solution? Take a second before you snap the shutter to look around the entire frame of the photo. Make sure there are no distracting elements in the background, or other things that will detract from your image (this includes people or objects between you and the subject). If you see something, try to adjust your composition to eliminate the unwanted element. A wider aperture (lower f number) can help by shortening the depth of field and adding blur to the background. A tighter crop can help as well, removing everything except for your subject and a little bit of background around them.

For the picture above, I chose to have the antlers coming out of his head to add some humor to the image. It was an artistic decision, and not an unfortunate (or fortunate) accident.

Sometimes things slip in at the edge of the frame, and you can't even see them because your viewfinder doesn't cover 100% of the image (true for all optical viewfinders). In that case, it's time to crop down a little in post.

© 2009 Simon Hucko

Here's one that I took in Yosemite, and blew right through when editing. I should have cropped out the little bit of tree on the right of the frame, which I did when I converted it to black and white recently:

© 2009 Simon Hucko

So remember, you are in control of your image. Take a second and check your entire frame, making sure you are only capturing what you want. You can save yourself a lot of aggravation (and humiliation) down the line.

Full set from last weekend here



  1. Good post - this would have saved me a lot of deleted photos at a concert I was at recently - too many heads in my shots.

  2. @Matt - Yeah, it's easy to do because your brain filters out those kinds of things. Part of the challenge of photography is forcing yourself to really see what's there, and not rely on the filtered representation formed by your brain.

    In fact, that's a good idea for a post...

  3. Speaking of your brain "filtering out" Your brain won't let you see your eyes move in a mirror. Try it. Look in a mirror. Move your eyes side to side. You won't "see" it happen. Your brain makes up an image of unmoving eyes. Wonder what else our brains won't let us see?

  4. @Huck - I tried that after I read your comment, and was floored. My brain is stupid