Monday, May 10, 2010

A Week of Storytelling: Day 2 – Make the Background a Part of Your Picture

Photograph © Rick Sammon. All rights reserved.
Canon 5D Mark II. Canon 24-105mm lens.

It’s Day 2 of Storytelling Week here on my blog. Each day, I’ll share a photography tip illustrated with one of my favorite photographs that I took this past April at the Sister’s Meal Festival in the province of Guizhou in southwest China.

The idea of this weeklong project: When you go to an event, on the other side of the world or on the other side of town, try to “tell the whole story” with your pictures.

Today’s tip: Make the background a part of your picture.

Those of you who have been on my workshops and who have attended my seminars know one of my favorite expressions: The name of the game is to fill the frame.

Filling the frame does not always mean that you need to fill the frame with the main subject.

In this picture, the woman working on a silver ornament is the main subject. I have a full-frame shot of her, but I prefer this that shows her co-workers in the background because it tells more of a story.

To get everything in the scene like this in focus, use a wide-angle lens, small aperture, and focus 1/3 into the scene.

Want more travel photo info? My current app, 24/7 Photo Buffet, offers a wealth of photo tips for photographers on the go – even HDR photographers.


P.S. Shoot me an email if you are interested in joining my 2011 China workshops. I will have some guest pros leading some workshops, too. Email me: Rick Sammon at


JimmyD said...

Rick: I've heard you say many times to focus 1/3 of the way into the frame. Is that typically manual focus on an item at that point, or are you picking a spot in auto focus at that point in the frame? Just curious.

Ken Toney said...

Rick, Has every one been in China lately? All the "big" guys have photography from Southeast Asia today on their blog (Scott,Joe, you). I would like to take some time off and go over there someday. I agree 100% that the background can MAKE the picture. Too many time I catch myself just blurring it out. It's like the vertical horizontal thing, just do both (blur and not blur). Thanks for the blog today.

Rick Sammon said...

Jimmy - can you use AF to focus 1/3 into the scene, too. just lock it in.

Rick Sammon said...

Jimmy - can you use AF to focus 1/3 into the scene, too. just lock it in.

Rick Sammon said...

thank you, ken!

Dwight said...

Rick: first of all, thank you so much for all that you do for us struggling photographers. You must never sleep!

In a related question, I have heard multiple mentions of using the "back button" to lock in the focus. But I usually just press the shutter button halfway down, then re-compose. Is there a reason that the back button would be preferred?

Rick Sammon said...

Dwight.. the back button focus technique is a must for wildlife and sports - because it lets you focus independently from shooting.