Where you stand - Camera position

When we see a subject we're interested in, our brain concentrates on the subject itself while ignoring everything else around it. We just don't see what's happening in the background while we are taking the picture. It takes a conscious effort to pay attention to what is going on behind the subject of the photo.

This is why you find many vacation photos with people that have trees "growing out" of their heads.

It's easy to ask our friends to move to a more photogenic location,  but how can we control the background with a less cooperative subject like this concrete monument?

*click to enlarge

We can change the background of a photograph by moving the position of the camera. 

It often takes a few tries to work out the best position to shoot from. You may only have to move a bit to either side to make everything slide into place. Try holding your camera higher or lower to clear a street sign or telephone wire out of the frame. Sometimes you can walk across the street for a better background. If it's a candid photo of a person, you can wait for your subject to move to a better spot. Maybe there are some stairs or something high to climb on for a different perspective.

By changing the position of your camera, you have a lot of control over the relative positions of the objects in your photo. Keep the background simple.

I chose this photo of the gravestone in San Salvador because it had all the ingredients to tell the story and nothing more. Two photos showed the graveyard setting, but the angel in the background distracted attention from the motorcycle - It wasn't clear if the angel or the motorcycle was the subject. 
The close-up detail photos looked great, but there was nothing to indicate that the photo was of a gravestone.  I got the winner by crouching very low and shooting high. The background became a deep blue sky, the low perspective showed the fatefully twisted wheel, and the cross carved in stone let you know how it all ended.

To control your background, change your camera position.

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