Foreground

September 26, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

In many cases, strong lead-in lines start at the bottom edge of the frame and also act as the foreground element. Such lead-in lines are powerful as they lead you into the image. Ideally, we want the lead-in line to be the lead actor, the star of the show. We want to grab the viewer's attention and invite him or her to journey into the image. So introducing a second actor will usually be a distraction, sapping away some of the power of the lead-in line. What about going even further and making the other foreground element the main star and having the lead-in line play the second fiddle? Most photographers may advise against this because it goes against the grain, against expectation, and seems to break the rules.

          Part of advancing our photography skills is to go against the grain, against expectation, and to break the rules. BUT please only break the rules like a pro! Rules are there because they work. Don't go breaking something that works, unless breaking the rule works even better. Learn when to break the rules and when not to. Break them with a purpose and deliberately. We can almost look at this topic from the perspective of nicking something on the edge of the frame versus cutting it deliberately and more purposefully lower down.

Here is an example. Most photographers would have stepped to the right and gone with the footpath as the main actor. After all, the footpath is strong compositionally and leads beautifully into the image. It also makes some turns which is more dynamic than a straight line. However, I chose to break the rules. I introduced the plants as the main foreground element and downgraded the footpath to the second fiddle.

          What do you think? Are the plants a distraction or do they enhance the composition? To me, the image is much better taken this way than going only with the footpath. Here is why?

  1. The plants create even more depth by showcasing the distance between the plants and the background.

  2. They hold the viewer's attention for longer. The viewer looks at the plants and then later follows the footpath into the image. Without the plants, the viewer would have taken off into the picture straight away.

  3. The plants create balance with the sun.

  4. Moving to the right to eliminate the plants also changes the perspective of the footpath in relation to the sun. The path would then lead to the left of the sun even more, possibly even away from the sun.

So here is another picture take a little while later. I included the plants yet again rather than stepping a few steps forward to eliminate them.

This image still works well, but the strong sun is no longer there. The direction in which the footpath points is no longer that critical. Even so, without the plants on the left, this image will have a huge section on the bottom left as negative space. The plants play a vital role to eliminate the negative space. They add some visual weight to balance the image. One could argue that the photographer could have stepped to the right even more and had the footpath start on the left side of the image. However, in so doing we further separate where the path is leading from the brighter section of where the sun was, which still pulls the viewer.

          Depending on the scene and if it makes sense after some analysis, go ahead, break the rules.


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