Ways to make your subject pop in your photograph

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Ways to make your subject pop in your photograph

In any photograph it is the subject, the point of the image, that we want people to notice. Too often the subject disappears into background. Here are some techniques you can use that will make your subject leap off the page.

Try using tonal contrast to your advantage. This is usually colors; reds against blues for example. It also works with contrasting black and white. Having a pale subject against a black or dark background is equally as effective. It often does not need much. Take the pale blonde against the white or cream background. Place dark sunglasses on her; suddenly the eye goes right to her face. The greater the color or tonal difference is between your background and subject, the more dramatic the image becomes.

It might help to pick up a color wheel, found at most art stores or go with a digital version. Primary colors work best. Bold colors, that are saturated create the most impact.

Pros will often take a few colorful items as props to put on their subjects as they roam through backgrounds.

A shallow depth of field works like magic. This works by setting your camera to its lowest f-stop. When you start to use this you will see why the pros love their fast lenses. The longer the lens the better the effect, a 200mm lens will get you a more visible shallow depth of field than a wide angle, 24mm lens will. The practice is to move in as close as you can to your subject with the lens. The lower the f-stop and the closer you are to the subject, the shallower the depth of field is.

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Be careful with this. Your focus needs to be tack sharp on your most critical point in the image. Be aware of foreground blurriness. The shallow depth of field works both ways, in front and behind. If you are square on to your subject you might find the nose goes oddly out of focus losing its shape. Watch your shutter speed. Too many photographers miss that, getting a blur of camera jiggle as a reminder not to do that next time.

You can use your depth of field button on the camera to get a sense of where you focus line is and what it looks like.

Panning the action. This looks similar to the depth of field approach. It is created differently though. You move your camera along with your subject as they move past you. A slower shutter speed is used for this. By keeping pace with the moving subject, the background, because of the slow shutter speed, becomes streaks of blur.

Keep in mind different parts of the moving subject will be moving at different speeds. The arms or legs of a runner move faster than the torso. This creates some wonderful variants for a creative approach.

Backlighting your subject really separates them from the background. You can achieve this effect with natural sunlight or a studio light. Indoors you can use the house lights. If you are photographing a stage performance position yourself to take advantage of the backlights.

The tricky part of backlighting is the ratio. Usually it is too strong, blowing out detail, even eating into the subject’s outline. You may have to resort to some front or side fill light, either a flash or reflector. You can use a diffuser between the backlight and your subject to soften it.

What these approaches do is create a 3d effect in the image, separating the background and the subject. They control where the eye goes in the image. They all help you tell your story with greater impact.

Experiment with these approaches and you will find a huge leap in the impact of your images. You can study how master photographers have used these approaches for their awarded images. Once you start imaging images with these possible approaches you will be inspired to try them with different subjects everywhere.

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