Week 13 - Use a foreground element in your photograph to show depth

Have you ever seen a landscape that looked incredible, but when you snapped your photo the image didn’t have the same impact?

It happens more times that we might care to admit. We live and experience a 3-D world, and sometimes that doesn’t always translate to a 2-D image... unless you can create the perception of depth. 

This week we will create a sense of depth by using a foreground element.

The flute in the foreground helps provide a sense of depth in this photo. Without it, we might not have a true appreciation of the distance to the buildings on the horizon. Flickr photo by Paul Chenoweth.

The foreground element technique is used frequently for nature and landscape photography, but you can also see it employed in photographs of building interiors.

When you are photographing a landscape or vista, it can be tempting to only focus on your primary subject, which is usually far away. The next time you compose a shot like that, include something close to you in the foreground. That element will create a sense of depth. 

How does it work? When your viewer sees the foreground element, it will look much bigger in comparison to the subject in the rear of the photo. Your viewer knows that the foreground element isn’t really that big and concludes that it must be closer. That subtle inclusion creates the perception of depth for most viewers.

When you are looking for your foreground element, make sure to use something that complements or leads the eye to your subject. In many cases, you can have it form a leading line. 

If you don’t do this correctly, you could end up with a foreground element that is distracting. If my eyes go to your foreground element and stop, it is likely serving as a distraction. Remember what we covered in Week 1 - we need one hero. Anything that doesn’t lead your eye to your subject is a villain and should be vanquished. 


The Challenge

Create a sense of depth in your photo by including a foreground element. Look for something that helps to tell the overall story or complements your subject.


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Once you have a great photo, post it in the comments here or tag it #composition21 when you post it on Twitter or Flickr. Note: Just post the link to your photo, and the system will generate your preview icon.


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