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A Landscape Pro's Guide To Using Foregrounds

Better foregrounds = better photos!

By David Fleet


Image Copyright: David Fleet

Using foregrounds is a crucial part of every photographer's compositional toolkit. This is especially true for landscape photographers. The details nearest the viewer invite them deeper into the scene and give the eye a place begin its journey.


The Common Mistake...

As you stand in front of wide sweeping views it can be easy to neglect the little things right under your nose. You find yourself drawn to the impressive sights beyond - mountain ranges or ocean waves!

Whilst this is an understandable approach to landscape photography, it is, in truth, almost always a mistake. Including objects in the foreground adds so much more depth and perspective to an image. It's also a great way to introduce texture, detail, contrast, colour and lead-in lines into a shot.


Depth and Focus


Image Copyright: David Fleet

A key benefit of using foregrounds comes from the role they play in depth perception. You can choose to make the foreground itself the main focus of the shot by using a narrow depth of field. In other words, the colours and textures of the foreground objects are crisp and clear, whilst the background is left blurry and mysterious.

Alternatively you could throw the focus on to something in the middle-ground or background, isolating it from the foreground which remains blurry.

Each of these approaches results in shots with a different mood and feel, but both are well worth trying out in your landscape photography.


Choosing a Foreground


Image Copyright: David Fleet

Because an undesirable foreground object can easily ruin your pictures, be sure to choose an object that ties in well with the theme of your image.

Make sure that your foreground adds to your primary subject, rather than distracting from it. Foregrounds are a great opportunity to show details and textures that connect with the background, but can't be made out so clearly elsewhere in the shots.

Examples might be: shiny pebbles on a beach, crusty Autumn leaves, soft flowers, reeds, twigs, wet grass, a forest floor, footprints in sand and so on.


A Frame Within a Frame


Image Copyright: David Fleet

One nice way of using foregrounds is to create a 'frame within a frame'.

Say you're making use of neabry objects, like trees or flowers, to increase the sense of natural beauty in a picture. Try composing the scene so that the trees line the side of the image - framing the background.

This will create a greater sense of depth in the picture and makes the spatial dimensions clearer. The trees also serve to lead the viewer's eye to the main focal point.

Of course, before you use this framing approach, you need be sure to have a great focal point behind. Its's a good idea to use this framing technique to better identify the story you're telling with your photograph.


Be Adaptable

It's not the end of the world if there simply isn't a decent foreground to make use of. It shouldn't stop you having a go at creating a compelling shot of something without it there.

So don't feel bound by any rules. It's better to leave a foreground out altogether than include a bad, distracting one! You can achieve some quite cool effects with landscape shots taken using a telephoto lens. The result is deliberately 'flattening', and can produce an abstract feel.



So, always bear in mind that foregrounds can bring a lot to any image, especially landscapes. They allow you to include details, texture and lead-in lines, whilst giving the viewer a sense of scale and depth.

Using foregrounds is only one small part of successful landscape photography though. So here are some extra tips to help you take better landscape photos: 10 Landscape Photography tips.


Image Copyright: David Fleet

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