I recently did something I rarely do: I entered a competition. I guess that part of my motivation was the fact that for a variety of reasons (some of which I don't understand), I'm literally not "doing" photography. This is something I have to rectify - but that's another matter for another blog.
It's a portraiture competition, and I chose two of my favourite photographs- of my friend Claude. One was processed in black and white and the other in colour. The colour image (as submitted) is not bad. It's a good clear image and says a lot about Claude and his love of making things.
The image took a lot of work though, because I hadn't looked behind my subject before pressing the shutter.
Let me explain.
The image was made in Claude's rather dark workshop, which means I had to add light, which I did with my club's Elinchrom studio flash units. Using a single flash unit meant I got that high contrast look I was chasing, but I couldn't see much. In fact, didn't really see what I was shooting until I got home and loaded the image onto my Mac. It was too late then, and I needed a fair bit of "post" to get it right.
This is the image as shot.
There are no less than three things behind my subject which shouldn't have been there: an orange crate, the Elinchrom box and his name (which I've removed for obvious reasons).
Had I looked behind him with a torch, or even switched on the light, then I would have seen these intrusions and removed them. I didn't, and I spent some time trying to subtly remove them from the image.
So the message is: in all situations, look at the background.
It's easy to be so concentrating on your subject, that you miss that awful yellow, orange or red object in the background which will distract any viewer from where you want them to look. (If you're really dumb, you may have left some of your gear in shot!)
And while we're on the general subject, always look behind you too. It's oh so easy to step into a passer-by - or traffic - or off the rock you're standing on - and you can't fix those things in PhotoShop! So be careful out there.
(If you want to know how bad things can get, check out David duChemin's horrific story.)
As always, do what I say and not what I do - and keep making photographs!
All the best