how-to-use-foreground How Using Foreground Elevates Your Photographs
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How Using Foreground Elevates Your Photographs

 29th Sep 2020

Foreground is a big part of composition and it often requires the photographer to think outside the box.UBC 2017 250 REPLACED W MASTERCLASS

Any scene or situation, no matter how uninteresting it may seem at first glance, can be transformed into something eye catchingly beautiful. All it takes is a bit of creativity.

There is so much to learn and explore within the art of photography, whether you are a budding or seasoned photographer, you can create absolute magic with your camera.

In this blog we’re going to talk about using foreground and I’ll leave you with some great tips to take away and practice with. First though, let’s get into what foreground actually is...

What is foreground?

When you look through your viewfinder, the foreground is what is nearest to you as the photographer. 

It’s not just the background that helps to add context to your chosen subject, foreground also does this really well.

The foreground space in your viewfinder can be used to draw attention to something further away in the frame. For example, you can make use of leading lines to pull someone’s eye down the image. Such as a line of trees that lead to a statue. 

Foreground is particularly important for landscape photography because it is a great way to add depth and interest to an image.


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Look at this great shot from Lanzarote. See how the greenery right in the foreground adds light and interest to the photo?

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What a photograph! The light is perfection and what a picture of serenity. The river acts as the leading lines here and draws you into the image in an organic way. 

Here’s some more images that make use of foreground.

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Of course landscape photography isn’t the only genre that benefits from using foreground. 

Foreground offers an exceptional opportunity to use all parts of the space you have to create something spectacular in any photograph.

How to use foreground

Have you seen people standing with one eye closed and their hands in front of their face making a rectangle with their thumbs and forefingers? 

Of course you have! I dare you to do this now, right where you are and see if it changes the perception of what you’re looking at?!

Foreground helps you add depth to your composition. See the image you want to take and then consider how to add more to it. A flat image provides no differentiation between foreground and background - it's boring! 

Let’s look at this very simple example. Imagine this beautiful sky without the brightly coloured flags. It would be a 2D image of some clouds and a pretty sky.

The flags in the foreground add a pop of colour as well as interest and depth. A touch of magic to a potentially standard photo of the sky on the South coast.

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A great photograph is purely visual. Whilst you will experience the location with all of your senses you need to bottle this up and share it via your photograph. 

You can add foreground simply by getting closer to and including a bit of something in the composition down one side, above or below. 

Start with a blank canvas and consider all the aspects of what you want to include. Think about what you want in focus and what you would like to blur, bringing focus to the most interesting aspects of your photograph. 

Make sure you have decided on your primary object - is it in the foreground or background? Is it in focus? Have you tried it the other way? What looks better? Does the background highlight or take away from your foreground?

Your creativity will naturally grow as your skills develop. Get out there and practice!

Top tips:

Make sure you think about your whole photograph! Here are my top tips for really nailing foreground:

Move your body

If the image needs something - move your body. Get on your feet, try a new angle, incorporate more into your foreground.

Think multidimensional

There is more than one focal point in an image but it’s your job to take your viewers on a journey. Lead their eyes into the image and show them some magic!

Frame your shot

You can frame your shot naturally with rocks, trees or vegetation for example. You can also use man made frames such as open windows, doors and arches. It adds so much to your photograph.

Look for leading lines

Tell a story with your photograph. Direct their eye with leading lines such as railway tracks, rivers, a line of trees, a road or a footpath. Use this tool to add depth and differentiate between foreground and background.

Try new perspectives

Don’t be scared to shoot up, down, to the side or from below. Try new things to get the interest level up. If you need to do some yoga in a field to create the illusion of a dandelion in the foreground of a forest then do so!

In conclusion, foreground adds depth, interest and dimensions. Use it to enhance your composition and add something special to an otherwise flat image!

There’s so much more you can learn about composition, and I’d love the chance to share my 25+ years of experience with you.

I’ve got a great online photography course that will teach you the foundations you need to become an even better photographer. It’s great for those of you new to the craft, but also if you’ve been taking pictures for a while and want to get more knowledgeable using your camera.

The course is spread over  5 weeks and includes weekly encouragement and coaching. You’ll learn:

  • How to feel in control of your camera. Stop 'hoping'
  • How to get the "Wow Factor"
  • Beautifully composed, well lit and exposed images
  • Being confident and feel creative

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