Show nature

August 20, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

We often seek nice and clean backgrounds for our subjects. I advocate this too. It makes your subject stand out and "pop." It looks so professional, it really does. From time to time, however, I am tempted to not take the "perfect image" and rather to show my subject in nature, where and as they live. Perhaps it tells more of a story. Perhaps it gives us more insight into their world and how they experience it.

So how do we make such an image work? Is there not too much clutter and chaos in the scene? How do we make the subject stand out from its environment? Here are a few things that may be helpful:

  • Even though there is chaos with branches, stems, leaves, and even another insect we still have to create some separation between all of that and the subject. So choose an aperture that shows some of the environment but still blurs it enough so that the viewer will focus on the sharp subject rather than the other stuff.

  • Use brightness to draw attention to where your want the viewer to look. As you can see, some of the greenery in the background was very bright. But in post processing I darkened them down some in order for the subject to stand out more. Then I brightened the butterfly as it was in shade. By darkening the background and brightening the butterfly it turns the viewer's attention to the butterfly without turning the environment totally off (by making it to blurred or too dark).

  • Use color. Tone down the background colors a bit and bring out the color of the butterfly. The butterfly's color was very muted as it was in the shade. By bringing out the colors of the butterfly it becomes more prominent in the image.

  • Use size. The butterfly's size helps place our attention on it. For this kind of scene to work photographically, we have to move in closer to make sure that the butterfly takes up a good size of the image. If this is not possible, then crop into the image to create the same effect.

While this image will not win any awards I still enjoy it. It shows the butterfly's life. It shows where it lives, disorder and all. But it stands out enough to clearly be the subject of the image, and that is what makes it work. So remember the four things you can use to make such images better.


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