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3 - Background & Foreground

Backgrounds are critical in flower photography.

Most flower photographs fail because the backgrounds detract from the flower.

Here are three examples of good-background types.

Good-background Type #1 - Context

There are innumerable context situations with flowers.

Here are two examples.

Context: Habitat

Below, the background shows the context of the flower, in regard to habitat.


Background Shows Context: Habitat

Context: Life Cycle

The pips in the background illustrate another type of context, the life cycle of the rose, below.

The photograph also shows how direct sun isn't always bad.

Note how the shadows are bright.

Perhaps the photographer used a reflector, or was wearing a white shirt or blouse.


Background Shows Context: Life Cycle

Good-background Type #2 - Contrast

There are several types of contrast in regard to backgrounds.

Contrast: Color

In the photograph below, the flowers and the background are contrasty, color-wise.

The green background makes the magenta-colored flowers more magenta-ish.


Background Showing Color Contrast

Contrast: Tone

Tonal contrast is also involved with backgrounds.

The non-colored tone of the background, and its darkness compared to the flowers, make the flowers standout.


Background Showing Tonal Contrast

Contrast: Depth-of-field

Depth-of-field, how much is in focus, is another contrast that's most useful.

The out-of-focus background:

• Is pleasing to the eye.

• Makes the in-focus flowers prominent.

• Let's the viewer know that there is a field of these flowers.


Background Showing Depth-of-field Contrast

Contrast: Texture

You can also use the contrast of smooth and rough in your compositions.

Below, the smooth background was created using depth-of-field.


Background Showing Texture Contrast

Good-background Type #3 - Repetition

The flip of contrast is repetition.

In the photograph below, the flowers are repeated again in the out-of-focus background.

It's a shape repetition.

Above, there was no example of a shape contrast, but it's a contrast that can be used.

Likewise, all of the contrasts can be used as repetitions:

• Color

• Tone

• Depth-of-field

• Texture


Background Showing Shape Repetition

Background Sources

Most often, you're using existing backgrounds.

You can't move non-potted, non-cut, flowers around.

You can block a poor existing background, though.

Experiment with black velvet, colored fabrics, both solid-colored and with patterns, as well as other materials.

If permitted where you're photographing, assemble a backdrop stand using stakes as poles and a crosspiece.

Attach the crosspiece to the poles with plastic-bag twistems.

Secure the background to the crosspiece and poles with clothespins.


If most flower photographers ignore backgrounds, even more ignore foreground.

In a search of over one thousand flower photographs on WikiMedia Commons, not one photographer shot through out-of-focus flowers or vegetation.

Out-of-focus foregrounds:

• Are pleasing to the eye.

• Frame the flower in the middle ground.

• Create depth.

Try it!



Next, we'll look at lens-related topics.