Isola te your subject
What ’s the Big Idea?
As photographers, it our job to define the subject in our compositions. This may sound easy, but when a scene is cluttered with many conflicting elements, it’s easy to confuse the viewer.
An effective method for creating a strong composition is to isolate your subject. I often use this technique for travel images, throwing the background out of focus so it doesn’t distract from the subject, but is recognisable enough to give a sense of place. Sometimes there’s so much going on in a scene that in order to make the subject stand out you have to isolate it using one of the techniques described below.
What ’s the Key?
There are several ways to isolate your subject so it stands out from the rest of the scene. Try placing the subject in the centre of the frame to call attention to it. Make sure there are no competing elements around it so the viewer’s eye isn’t pulled in different directions. This is what I did with lavender field and lone tree in the picture above. I purposely put the tree right in the centre of the frame, carefully placing the lines of lavender so they enter from the corners. This draws the viewer’s eye straight to the tree.
Selective focus is another technique that is very easy to execute. All you have to do is get close to the subject and use a wide aperture such as f/2.8 or wider. This is one reason why portrait and sports photographers use fast lenses with maximum apertures of f/2 or even f/1.4. It enables them to throw the background completely out of focus, so all of the attention falls on the subject.
The perspective can have also a major effect on isolating the subject. Choose a high angle to place the subject against a plain background, or a low angle to use a plain sky as a clean, clutter-free background as I did in this image.
You can use also selective lighting in low light conditions by painting your subject with light so it stands out from the dark tones of the scene. You can get really creative by using various coloured gels over your light source to create a strong colour contrast.
Finally, get close to the subject or zoom in to fill the frame with the subject so it dominates the frame. This creates a graphic, bold composition, and by definition eliminates any distractions.
Lines of crops and plants are perfect for directing the viewer’s eye