Choosing Backgrounds

Just four photos today, each showing a fairly standard portrait of a duck. The poses differ (inevitably) but the most distinctive feature of each shot is the background colour. In each case I was fortunate to have the duck well in the foreground so that I could use a wider aperture which helps smooth the background while retaining the main detail. Picking backgrounds is an important part of getting a shot. Things to look for are colour, contrast, and wherever possible a clean, uncluttered space that doesn't intrude on the subject.

In this first shot, the background is predominantly green (grass) with a hint of yellow (narcissi). The duck did pose nicely for this shot, which is a bonus.

Next is a duck against a pale blue (sky) background. That it happens to be perched on the top of a tall hedge (6 foot plus), is also a bonus.

The next shot is the same duck in the same position. I wanted a stronger background colour and spotted a house in the distance. This provided a nice terracotta backdrop, easily blurred because of the distance the duck and the building.

The final shot is a pair of ducks. Once again a decent pose with a nice difference in height of the two ducks, and a lemon/yellow with hints of green background (strong sunlight on the bank of the pond).

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Camera note: all shots taken with the Canon 7D and EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L USM IS lens.

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  1. derWandersmann March 15, 2013 at 3:03 am #

    Nice shots, Words … it's good to see that you have the freedom to move around so much in these shots … the trouble I have here is that things are usually happening too fast for me to be able to pick backgrounds. I miss my old single focal-length lenses, too … these zooms usually have rather small maximum openings, so you've got to have plenty of room behind the subject to be able to throw it out of focus.

  2. SittingFox March 17, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Could almost be spring, winter, autumn, summer (from the background colour).

  3. Words March 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    Adele, that pretty much sums up the weather lately, with a dash too much autumn and winter.

  4. Words March 17, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    dW, the ducks are sleepy in the mornings, which helps. The duck on the hedge is the best example. I only had to move about two feet to change the background, with a slight adjustment of angle. Most of these are at f/6.3 or 7.1. Primes do give better performance wide open.