Photographic Innoventions: Watch Your Back(grounds)

One of the problems we all have at Walt Disney World is distracting backgrounds. From sharing the resorts with thousands of other guests to uncooperative animals or characters, backgrounds are hard to control. So, what’s a photographer to do? First, you have to do some very obvious things each time you look through your viewfinder. Before you press the shutter, look behind and in front of your subject for protruding objects coming out or into the frame, make sure your subject is the focal point of the frame and not a building or person nearby and lines like horizons or buildings are not distracting by being crooked . I learned these points the hard way when I did wedding photography for a few years. Believe me, nobody wants a portrait of a bride with the church’s organ pipes protruding from her head.

Another way to control the background at a busy themepark is to move around your subject until you find a more pleasing background. In the photo here of Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, I tried to use a wide angle to slightly distort the statue to bring it front and center. The angle is a bit different, however, the background is very busy partially due to the use of the small f/10 aperture. You can see lights in the flower bed , a person kneeling next to a stroller in the upper left and part of the fence leading up to the statue on the right. Not very pleasing to me.

I checked out the previous picture in my camera’s LCD display and knew I could do better. Since this was taken during a December trip, Disney had placed poinsettia “trees” around the hub in front of Cinderella’s Castle and by moving a bit to one side, I could put one of them directly behind the statue. I tried a few different angles and liked this one the best. I zoomed in a bit here which helped to blur the background some even shooting at f/10. The direction of the light is much better as well but that’s a subject for another time.

Further Reading: Getting Backgrounds Right

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Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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