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Landscape Photography: Basics of Foreground Photography to Create Depth

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Photography is an art that captures beautiful landscapes in their most appealing form. The art of transforming a three-dimensional scene into a two-dimensional picture, making sure that the depth is visible, is a skill that differentiates a passionate photographer from the rest. Foreground photography is a delicate way to bring out the third dimension in an otherwise flat, two-dimensional image.

One way to bring landscape photographs alive in the third dimension is to modulate light and using the software to create the effects we desire. But a finer way of getting the same effect is by using the foreground to create an illusion of depth. Let’s dive into more details and importance of foreground photography. 

What is Foreground Photography

While clicking landscape photography, you can broadly divide the landscape into- foreground, mid-ground, and background. You can define foreground as everything that is in front of the main subject in the frame. The subject of the photograph is usually considered to be the middle ground in photography, while rest of the elements in the picture is the background in photography of landscapes. 

Read Landscape Photography: 9 Tips for the Perfect Picture!

An interesting comparison can be made between a photograph and a stage. You can compare the audience to be the foreground, the centre stage with the middle ground definition, where the major action happens; and the upstage with the background. As per middle ground photography definition, this part of the photograph should contain the most vital elements of the picture, with the foreground serving to focus the viewer’s attention to them.

composition of landscape photography
Composition of Landscape Photography (source)

Basics of Foreground Photography

In order to create stunning images using the foreground, it is important to know the basics of this technique. Here are a few points to get you started on foreground photography.

  • Study the Foreground

Before you decide which elements of the foreground do you want to include in the image, it is important to have a good look at the foreground all around the viewfinder. With careful observation, you will be able to merge a beautiful foreground with middle ground in photography.

  • Lower the Height of the Camera

A very simple, yet very effective way to accentuate the foreground in the picture is to get down a bit and click the picture from a lesser height. This adds to the intensity of the foreground and gives a dramatic effect to the background shot.

  • Choose the Right Aperture 

In general, a smaller aperture gives you a higher depth of field. In foreground photography, you should choose the right aperture depending on the type of image and the desired effect. Going by the foreground shot definition, you can opt for a small aperture to have a large depth of field. This way the image in complete focus.

aperture for foreground
Smaller aperture, greater the DOF
  • Place the Horizon Carefully

In many landscapes photographs, the horizon is a prominent feature. You will be able to click awesome shots if you place the horizon towards the top of the frame, rather than in the middle. This simple step will give prominence to the foreground in your picture.

  • Change Your Angle

What appears to be a dull picture from one angle may be a great shot from another angle. This is why you should change your angle frequently when clicking the foreground. You will be amazed at some of the shots you take just by changing the angle of an otherwise boring foreground.

different angle for foreground
Click from different angles 
  • Make Creative Use of Obstructions

Many times, the photographer will have to tackle obstructions, like fences, in front of the subject. While these are also foregrounds, they don’t add any value to the photograph. You can change the obstruction into a creative style by getting as close to the subject as possible. This way, you will be able to transform this foreground into your very own foreground photography style.

By adding interest to foreground photography, you get the liberty to play around with the foreground in your shot. Now that you know the basics of foreground photography, let us move on to the various creative ways by which you can use a foreground to enhance the overall appeal of the photograph.

Creative Uses of the Foreground

You can make the most of the foreground photography by using the foreground in a variety of creative ways. Although you define foreground as the elements in front of the main subject, you can use foregrounds to create a variety of effects.  Here are some ideas:

1. As Leading Lines in the Photograph

If you keep looking for leading lines, you will find plenty in nature. Some natural formations and patterns like rocks lined up in front of a waterfall, stairs leading to a majestic building or even shadows and reflections in your shot. The ideal way to capture what is the foreground of a photograph is to use a wider lens and lower shooting position. This way, you can make the foreground cover a major area in the picture without losing the impact of the subject.

Leading lines
Leading lines for new dimension to the photo (source)

2. As Frame of the Picture

Yes, you can use an appropriate foreground to define the boundary of a photograph. Tall, straight structures like large rocks or thick trees usually fit this criterion. Creative use of foreground photography as a frame can direct the focus of the viewer on the subject. This type of photography is also popularly known as a frame within a frame photography.

3. For Creating Sections in the Image

Unique photographs can be obtained if the foreground is appropriate to section the photograph. For example, a tree branch that sections the sky in two parts, poles or flags creating the illusion of breaking the photograph in distinct segments etc. This is an awesome way to modulate the effect of the standard foreground definition.

4. For Telling a Story

Sometimes, plain portraits can be transformed into effective stories simply by adding foreground to them. For example, the portrait of a woman can be transformed into the life of a mother by asking her child to sit in front of her. Similarly, the bird that happily eats a worm on the periphery of a lake can be focused to create a deep meaning to the picture of an otherwise plain lake.

Foreground photography is all about being creative with the foreground in a picture and adding new dimensions to the image. With some practice, you will be able to play around with the foreground and get some really cool shots. However, it is advisable not to get too carried away with foregrounds. You should keep a balance such that the foreground only serves to create a flow of attention towards the subject. It should never dominate the subject otherwise the photograph loses its essence. 

Do you have some more tips for our readers who wish to practice foreground photography and polish their skills? We will be happy to know. 

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