Sometimes fractions of an inch can mean a completely different look and much less time spent cleaning up the background in your image editing package.
Last October, I was in Costa Rica sitting on the porch of my cabin watching the rain. Who goes to the rainforest in the rainy season anyway? I noticed the Bandera or Flag Orchid planted in front of the cabin had some delicious rain drops covering its delicate petals. A big believer in filling the frame, I chose the longest lens in my bag, a Canon 300MM F4L and slapped it on the 40D and started to shoot.
The first image was snapped and, after chimping, I realized that the out-of-focus foot path was intruding on my soft green background. With the focal length I was using and the distance to subject I knew that I could, without moving my feet, change the background pretty dramatically.
I leaned a little to the left crouched slightly and was able to eliminate the gray path at the bottom but picked up a fence post in background instead. Leaning to the right eliminated the fence post but brought the roadway into view.
Moving back to center and lowering my vantage by crouching just a little bit more, I was able to completely remove the fence post and the path from the Field of View. The distracting of the roadway to the left of the image was greatly reduced. It can easily be cropped out or cloned away to give the flower the prominence it deserves.
All of the images were shot without moving my feet. Just a little body lean, up-down, left-right, and the background is drastically altered. It is simple and obvious. How often do we remember to maneuver around the subject slightly looking for those out-of-focus-out-of-mind background distractions?
Next time you line up a close subject with a long lens and a shallow depth of field, move your torso a little and see what happens behind the action. You can probably eliminate or reduce some work in your image editing suite.
Rikk Flohr © 2009