Don’t forget the background.

One of the most common mistakes new photographers make is to be so interested in their subject that they completely forget about what’s going on behind it.

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Cane Toad

We can’t always choose our backgrounds but that doesn’t mean we lack options. When I was photographing the cane toad above it had part of a house behind it, and that didn’t look so good. I guess I could have demolished the house but of course in this case I only needed to shoot from a different angle.

So when you look through the viewfinder, sure — you need to see how your main subject looks. I’m talking about whatever it is in front of you that made you want to take a picture in the first place. But then remember to check to see what’s going on behind it. It sounds so ridiculously obvious, but you’d be surprised how often people forget to do that. And it took me ages to learn to stop making that rookie mistake.

So what are your options with a bad background?

Like I said earlier, the easiest approach is to find a better viewing angle, but we can’t always do that. And demolishing houses can sour relations with the people who own them.

Blurring the background away might be possible in some situations, especially if your background clutter is far enough away from your subject. I talk more about that in this article describing how to blur away your photo backgrounds. Just remember that blurring the background can push it out of focus but it won’t change its colour.

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Beginners’ guides to digital SLR photography


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The essential basics


Making sense of technical stuff

Photography words

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Common problems and their solutions

Preying mantis

Taking things further


Photography at night

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