In my previous article, I talked about the importance of detail in macro photography. Here I will concentrate on another, more aesthetically-oriented aspect of macro photography - the background.
Arguably as important as the subject itself, the background can have a huge impact on a macro shot. Photographers working in all genres use the background to emphasize the subject and to connect it to its environment. There are many variables that contribute to an effective background. Among these are the amount of blur applied to it, the brightness and saturation of its elements, as well as the colors and shapes that comprise it.
With any given subject, changing the background can yield a completely different look and feel to a photograph, as the examples below illustrate.
|Wasp with vegetation background||Wasp with earth background|
As can be seen in the first image, I shot this beautiful wasp from about eye level. The color of the background is due to the green vegetation behind the wasp. For the second shot, I stayed in the very same place, only extending the tripod's legs by a few centimeters to get slightly higher. The result is a similar composition, yet with a very different, earth-toned background. Achieving such a dramatic change in background with such a small adjustment to camera position is a consequence of shooting from a close distance. Note also that the relationship between background distance and subject distance is extremely large. I like to say that in macro, everything revolves around the subject, and so a tiny change in camera position compels a large angular change in the direction of shooting, and the closer you get - the larger the change. And as we've just seen, the change in direction has a great effect on the background and thus on the mood of the image.
In practical terms this means that shooting a subject with a background of our choice requires careful consideration, and (often) no small amount of effort. The payoff is as you start understand and apply these subtle adjustments, you open up seemingly infinite possibilities for creating beautiful backgrounds that not only complement the subject, but serve to link it to its environment.
|This image of an ordinary-looking Levantine Leopard (Apharitis acamas) benefits a great deal from its vibrant, yellow background, through which the animal is connected to the springtime environment.|
While close shooting distances inherently mean relatively blurry backgrounds, there is a farily wide spectrum available that is largely a matter of taste. Some photographers like a very smooth and even-toned background, while others love "busy" backgrounds, with recognizable details, shapes and colors.
|When a subject fills the frame, a |
simple background can convey mood
and ambience while keeping attention
on the subject.
|A very small subject such as this |
orange-tip butterfly (Anthocharis
cardamines) calls for a busy
background to create interest.
I tend to fall somewhere in the middle. When a subject is rather large and dominant in the frame, I usually find a smoother background to be more appropriate; one that doesn't detract from the subject. Yet I do try to give my backgrounds gradients – either of brightness or of color. Conversely, when the subject is quite small, I aim to create a much busier scene behind the subject. A medium-sized subject (like the frog shown below) works great with a moderately - or to be more precise - selectively busy background.
|Note that he busiest parts of the background occupy the emptiest area of the image, creating a sense of compositional balance; always a consideration when composing in the field.|
I want to stress that the above guidelines are just that - guidelines. They are by no means hard and fast rules, and shouldn't be treated as such. Each photographic situation suggests its own way of working best. I often break the 'rules' and strive for creativity above all else, as should you.
|The background can even become part of the subject, like this use of the sun |
as the 'sorcerer's orb'.
The color of the background, as one would imagine, plays a significant in emphasizing the subject. You can use a background color which is complementary (ie opposite in hue) to that of the subject, or at least very different. Doing so brings out the subject by emphasizing its own colors. However, a background with colors very similar to that of the subject can also be effective, giving an organic feeling of assimilation. This works especially well with camouflaged animals. I should mention that I use natural backgrounds exclusively, as oposed to studio backdrops or any other artificial materials. Nature offers fantastic colors all on its own.
|A complementary background color can make the subject "pop".||A background of a similar color to the subject's has its own beauty, and an organic feel to it.|
A related issue is the brightness level of the background. A background having similar brightness to that of the subject will of course create less contrast in comparison to a background which is brighter or darker. However, I try to refrain from creating a background which is too bright or too dark, as that can throw the image out of balance.
|A very bright background can work well as long as it doesn't divert |
attention from the subject.
By carefully considering the colors, brightness, shapes and textures in front of which we shoot, and combining those with the ability to adjust depth of field and the angle of view, we can achieve almost any background we desire.
|Placing a yellow flower behind the subject has allowed me to highlight this beautiful robber fly.||Another trick I use is to shoot in front of a background of similar color to the subject's eyes.|
Erez Marom is a nature photographer based in Israel and a regular contributor to Composition magazine. You can see more of his work at www.erezmarom.com and follow him on his Facebook page and deviantArt gallery.
Aug 10, 2014
Aug 3, 2014
Jul 14, 2014
May 25, 2014
|Owens Valley Milky Way by ed rader|
from Sign, sign, everywhere a sign..
|Break by Hank3152|
from Motion blur
|Camp by T bird|
from A Big Year - birds
|The Maasai Shepherd by cgravel|
from - African Man - (Portrait in Black and White + A Border)
Boundary's Prima 'fully modular' backpack is expandable to 30L and has a removable camera case and tablet sleeve. Early Kickstarter backers can get one for $189.
Stanley Greene captured 'brutally honest' photographs in the war zones of the Middle East, Chechnya and Georgia. He was also one of the few African-American photographers working internationally.
Owners of Leica M cameras that suffer from peeling CCDs will be able to claim a free repair in the future so long as the camera was purchased within five years of the fault becoming apparent, the company has announced. Read more
No mic socket? No problem. In this video, Daniel Peters at Photo Gear News shows you how to make a lapel microphone using just a smartphone and a pair of earbuds.
The Carl Zeiss Jena BIOTAR 75mm F1.5 Red T lens is very rare and priced accordingly. It can be yours today for the low, low price of $15,000.
The MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) has developed a drone that does not require any human control for recording tracking shots. Read more
In this terrifying video, Iraqi journalist Ammar Alwaely narrowly misses a sniper's bullet, which takes out his chest-mounted GoPro. Warning: strong language. Watch the video
A new report expects action camera growth to increase about 15% by 2021, with Ultra HD cameras driving demand. Read more
Profiles for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom have been released for Irix's ultra-wide 11mm and 15mm primes. Like all profiles, these correct for distortion and vignetting.
An upcoming firmware update from DJI will cripple its drones unless they are 'activated' on the company's website. Live streaming will be turned off and flight radius/altitude will be limited.
Brent from ShareGrid rounds up the 10 most common products filmmakers are renting from one another for productions; chances are good you own one or more of them.
DaVinci Resolve is making strong moves to compete with Premiere and Final Cut Pro, including affordable control panels for colorists. According to Premium Beat, they're really good.
If you are not planning to fly your drone commercially you are not required to register it with the FAA anymore. This decision was handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.
Whether you're syncing a flash, wondering why banding is appearing in your image or getting strange images from your camera's silent shutter mode, the way your shutter works has a role to play. Here's what happens when you press the shutter button. Read more
William Vazquez travels all over the world documenting humanitarian work. He spoke to us about the challenges of his work, the importance of research and why a multitool and duct tape are your best friends in the field. Read more
These ten film cameras stand the test of time. They are easy to find, affordable and capable of excellent results. Read more
Photographer Aydın Büyüktaş uses a drone, 3-D rendering and Photoshop to create mind-bending landscapes.
They're offering tips for composing selfies and converting to black and white.
Whether you're seeking ultra-high resolution, first-rate autofocus or 4K video capture, there are some supremely capable 'semi-pro' cameras available. Find out which models we liked best in our updated semi-pro camera roundup. Read more
With composition specified by the director, drones may one day be able to navigate a movie set on their own.
Canon has made the previous version, 1.1.0 available for download again.
Impossible? Not if you have a fast lens and 5 stops of stabilization.
This 'strictly limited edition' is a refurbished original Polaroid 600 redesigned with a custom two-tone paint job.
Nikon today announced a reorganization of its corporate structure which will see several divisions and business units closed or merged. Read more
High school students from New York got he chance to shoot along with award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv in Morocco.
VentureBeat reports that Monday's Surface Pro announcement will bring evolutionary updates to Microsoft's high-end Windows 10 tablet.
The Japanese Camera Journal Press Club has awarded Olympus three out of its four annual prizes after voting by photographic magazine editors and readers.
The photos are great, but whether drones should have been flying in a couple of these places is debatable.
It's not dead yet! A few years ago several high profile filmmakers convinced Kodak to keep making motion picture film. Now they need more facilities to process it.