Beauty and the Background

When taking photos, Bruce Kirkby blogs, it's crucial to consider what's in the background to get the best shot


As the months pass, the underlying messages of this blog remain constant: 1) anyone is capable of taking great photographs, 2) the biggest challenge of travel photography is having your camera with you everywhere and 3) the emerging world of digital images allows for so much experimentation that you can have fun anywhere, with just a small point-and-shoot camera.

With just half an hour before check-in for my flight, on Montreal’s first warm day of spring, I set off towards the narrow streets of old town, camera in hand. Buskers jam-med the busy corners, and I spent time interacting with a few before taking portraits of them in action. Repeating rows of maple trees and benches near the train tracks made for nice abstracts, but I wanted to capture a more iconic image—something undeniably Montréal.

Horse-drawn carriages drew my interest, but they seemed bland on their own. After a quick search, I found a buggy in front of the limestone buildings of City Hall. By sitting on the road and waiting for a gust of wind to straighten the flags behind, I was able to add colour to the image, and anchor its location.

As a photographer it is easy to focus so intently on your main subject that you miss opportunities to add additional layers—subtle visual spicing that will vastly enhance the image. Before pressing the shutter next time, ask yourself if a small shuffle of your feet could add more interest, or remove distracting background elements.

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