How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

If you’ve ever wondered what makes a particular image feel complex and interesting, the answer is likely hidden in the layers of the photo. These “layers” are more commonly known as foreground, middle ground, and background — each of which plays a vital role in a photo’s unique composition. Let’s dive into what each layer means and how to best showcase its details for eye-catching results.

What are the foreground, middle ground, and background?

The element of the photo closest to you makes up the foreground. The furthest element away from you is the background, while the middle ground makes up the area in between. Not all photos have (or need) all three elements — some might only have a foreground and background, or a middle ground and background.

If you’re having trouble identifying the different elements, or if you’re not sure whether a photo has two or three elements, try this: imagine peeling back individual layers of the photo. See how many layers you can separate from others. You may have two or three different layers.

What’s the benefit of using all three layers?

When you frame a shot so it has a foreground, middle ground, and background, you add visual interest to the photo by creating depth and dimension. This is especially true in landscape photography. Try to find various textures or interesting objects in each layer, such as flowers in the foreground, water in the middle ground, and mountains in the background.

When you become more comfortable identifying the three layers, you can also begin incorporating additional photographic principles, such as leading lines or the rule of thirds. Leading lines will guide the viewer’s eye to an area of interest, while the rule of thirds helps you to create pleasing compositions.

Discover even more photography tips and techniques you can use to improve your skills.

Explore everything you can do with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

At 5 am on February 24, Russia began the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. They are violently trying to steal our country.

Russian forces have invaded Ukraine, confirming our worst fears. At this very hour they are attacking us on the streets of many Ukrainian cities. We are at war.

Skylum was proudly founded in Ukraine, and our core development center is based in Kyiv. At this harrowing time, unfortunately we cannot guarantee the on-time delivery of updates to Luminar Neo. We strive for excellence in everything we do, and we will make sure to further develop and improve Neo and to keep you updated on any news.

However, today we ask our community for help and support. Here are some details on what has happened and how you can support Ukraine in this difficult time.

! At 5 am on February 24, Russia began the full-scale military invasion of Ukraine. They are violently trying to steal our country.

! Right now, there are missile strikes and bombardment of peaceful Ukrainian cities. We must hide our families in bomb shelters and protect our land with weapons in our hands as part of the territorial defense forces.

! This disastrous and entirely unprovoked Russian war has already taken the lives of 198 civilians. 33 children have been injured, and 3 have been killed.

! The Armed Forces of Ukraine, young and brave heroes, are fighting all over the country not only for Ukraine but for Peace and Clear Skies in Europe.

As we write to you from a city under attack, we want to be very clear: This war is not just something you see on TV. It is not happening in some distant lands. It is happening right now here in Ukraine, and the Russian forces who are invading our lands and threatening our families may come to your doorstep one day too if we do not stop them.

Sanctions that world governments are currently imposing are not enough. Russia must be completely isolated from all spheres of the civilized world: the financial system, technologies, sports, culture.

Here is a list of simple actions you can take to help Ukraine. We MUST unite to quite literally save the world before it’s too late:

– Contact your local representatives and pressure them to provide more support for Ukraine and stricter sanctions on Russia. We need military and humanitarian aid and Russia must be cut off from SWIFT.

– Donate money to humanitarian aid organizations. Find a full list over here: https://how-you-can-support-ukraine.super.site/

– Follow the news from official channels. Avoid fake news and disinformation!

In iOS 13.0 and later, people can choose to adopt a dark system-wide appearance called Dark Mode. In Dark Mode, the system uses a darker color palette for all screens, views, menus, and controls, and it uses more vibrancy to make foreground content stand out against the darker backgrounds. Dark Mode supports all accessibility features.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

In Settings, people can choose Dark Mode as their default interface style and schedule automatic changes between the appearance modes. Because people make these choices at a systemwide level, they generally expect all apps to respect their preferences.

Comply with the appearance mode people choose in Settings. If you offer an app-specific appearance mode option, you create more work for people because they have to adjust more than one setting. Worse, they may think your app is broken because it doesn’t respond to their systemwide appearance choice.

Test your designs in both light and dark appearances. See how your interface looks in both appearances, and adjust your designs as needed to accommodate each one. Designs that work well in one appearance might not work in the other.

Ensure that your content remains comfortably legible in Dark Mode when you adjust the contrast and transparency accessibility settings. In Dark Mode, you should test your content with Increase Contrast and Reduce Transparency turned on, both separately and together. You may find places where dark text is less legible when it’s on a dark background. You might also find that turning on Increase Contrast in Dark Mode can result in reduced visual contrast between dark text and a dark background. Although people with strong vision might still be able to read lower contrast text, such text could be illegible for people with visual disabilities. For guidance, see Color and Contrast.

Dark Mode Colors

The color palette in Dark Mode includes darker background colors and lighter foreground colors that are carefully selected to ensure contrast while maintaining a consistent feel between modes and across apps.

In Dark Mode, the system uses two sets of background colors — called base and elevated — to enhance the perception of depth when one dark interface is layered above another. The base colors are darker, making background interfaces appear to recede, and the elevated colors are lighter, making foreground interfaces appear to advance.

Prefer the system background colors. Dark Mode is dynamic, which means that the background color automatically changes from base to elevated when an interface is in the foreground, such as a popover or modal sheet. The system also uses the elevated background color to provide visual separation between apps in a multitasking environment and between windows in a multiple-window context. Using a custom background color can make it harder for people to perceive these system-provided visual distinctions.

Use dynamic colors that adapt to the current appearance. Semantic colors like separator automatically adapt to the current appearance (for guidance, see Dynamic System Colors). When you need a custom color, add a Color Set asset to your app’s asset catalog and specify the light and dark variants of the color so that it can adapt to the current appearance mode. Avoid using hard-coded color values or colors that don’t adapt.

NOTE: We made a fancy PDF of this post for printing and viewing offline. Click here to download it for free.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Introduction

You may have taken an image of a beautiful scene or subject before, totally convinced that it was going to be a stunner, generating ‘oooh’s and ‘aah’s among your friends and family!

Then, during post-processing at home, you were gobsmacked. The image was ‘OK,’ but it was lacking something. But what?

The chances are quite high that you were lacking a beautiful foreground, or that you have not created a foreground at all.

Most ‘decent’ images have a distinctive foreground, middle ground, and background. Each of these sections plays a very important role in compiling an awesome shot. Or let me put it differently: most of the time you can raise the beauty or ‘compositional attractiveness’ of your shot by a level or two, just by including a suitable foreground.

That summarizes why the foregrounds in your photos are super important.

In this guide you’re going to learn about the following:

  • The roles a foreground plays in raising the aesthetic level of your image
  • How to achieve a great foreground

Recommended Reading: If you’d like to improve your composition skills for better images, grab a copy of Photzy’s best-selling premium guide: Advanced Composition.

What Role Does a Foreground Play in ‘Beautifying’ Your Image?

It is quite interesting that the ‘average’ photographer has no difficulty in understanding the importance of the background in an image. Is it clean or cluttered? Is it sharp or blurred? Does it include an interesting object? Does it add value? Should I make it more/less prominent? And so we can keep going with the thoughts running through our minds as we take a peep through our cameras’ viewfinders.

The reality is that foreground is as important as a background and one should ask all of the same questions of a foreground. The only difference is that we could exclude a foreground and it may not matter at all. There are some genres of photography, however, where a foreground plays an important role, such as in landscape photography.

The reality is that foreground is as important as a background and one should ask all of the same questions of a foreground.

In general, a viewer’s eyes enter an image in the foreground and then move to the back of the image. The foreground is the first thing we observe. Even if that is not the case, our eyes may move back from the background to the foreground and look for something to settle on.

So, let’s have a look at the roles of foregrounds in images.

1. A Strong Foreground Raises the Appeal to a Viewer

It can be the focal point of an image, pulling your viewer’s eyes into the image, leading them through the image, or to your main subject.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Bokeh comes from the Japanese word boke (ボケ), which means “blur” or “haze”, or boke-aji, the “blur quality.” Bokeh is pronounced BOH-Kə or BOH-kay.

Visit any photography website or forum and you’ll find plenty of folks debating the pleasing bokeh that their favorite fast lenses allow. Adjectives that describe bokeh include: smooth, incredible, superb, good, beautiful, sweet, silky, and excellent… but what exactly is it?

What is Bokeh?

Bokeh is defined as “the effect of a soft out-of-focus background that you get when shooting a subject, using a fast lens, at the widest aperture, such as f/2.8 or wider.” Simply put, bokeh is the pleasing or aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph.

Best Aperture for Bokeh

To achieve bokeh in an image, you need to use a fast lens—the faster the better. You’ll want to use a lens with at least an f/2.8 aperture, with faster apertures of f/2, f/1.8 or f/1.4 being ideal. Many photographers like to use fast prime lenses when shooting photographs that they want visible bokeh in.

Best Lens for Bokeh

Although bokeh is actually a characteristic of a photograph, the lens used determines the shape and size of the visible bokeh. Usually seen more in highlights, bokeh is affected by the shape of the diaphragm blades (the aperture) of the lens. A lens with more circular shaped blades will have rounder, softer orbs of out-of-focus highlights, whereas a lens with an aperture that is more hexagonal in shape will reflect that shape in the highlights.

Don’t worry if you don’t own a very fast lens. By increasing the distance between the background and your subject, you can see bokeh in images that are shot at smaller apertures like f/8.

How to Achieve Bokeh

To increase the likelihood of creating visible bokeh in your photographs, increase the distance between your subject and the background. You can do this by decreasing the distance between the camera and subject. The more shallow the depth-of-field, or further the background is, the more out-of-focus it will be. Highlights hitting the background will show more visible bokeh too, so if you’re using a backlight, side light or a hair light, the bokeh may be more pleasing to the eye.

Bokeh Camera Settings

You’ll want to shoot with the lens wide open, so you’ll want to use a shooting mode of Aperture Priority or Manual. Manual gives you the ability to choose both your aperture and shutter speed, whereas Aperture Priority allows you to choose the f/stop while the camera chooses the appropriate shutter speed for the exposure. You could also use the Flexible Program mode, choosing the widest possible aperture/shutter speed combination.

Bokeh in Portraits

The most photographed subjects showing nice examples of bokeh are portraits. Close-up portraits show bokeh very well. Close-up and macro images of flowers and other objects in nature are also popular subjects to photograph that shows off bokeh in the image. An often-photographed subject that is an extreme example of bokeh is photographing a grouping of holiday lights or other highly reflective objects. When purposely photographed out-of-focus, these normally harsh or bright objects become soft, pastel, diffused orbs of glowing light.

Bokeh can add softness to an otherwise brightly lit photograph. Using this technique to separate your subject from the background can also allow you to utilize a not-so-photogenic background in your image—but because of its diffused blur, it helps to “highlight” the subject, not detract from it.

PicMonkey Pro and Business subscribers have access to background remover. This feature automatically determines what constitutes the foreground or subject of your photo, so it can remove the background pretty much instantaneously. And you can do custom fine tuning with the erase and paint tools.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

We’ll show you how to remove backgrounds on a photo that sits in a larger design and how to do it if you’re editing a solo photo.

How to use background remover on a photo by itself

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Click Create new and choose a photo to edit — or grab one from Hub.

In the Background Tools section of the left panel, click the Remove bkgnd button.

How to use background remover on a photo that’s part of a design

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Click Create new and choose a design or template to edit — or grab one from Hub.

Select the photo layer by clicking it in the Layers panel on the right, or by clicking it on the canvas.

Click Remove bkgnd from Image tools, which opened in the left panel when you selected your photo.

Fine tuning your erasure with Erase controls

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

If you want to remove more of the background or less of the background than the tool chose for you, click the Erase button among the tools in the left panel. In the controls that appear to the right, choose the paintbrush tab (see icon up top) to paint back parts that were erased, and the eraser tab to continue erasing more.

Move the sliders to adjust hardness and size, and then drag your mouse over the parts in your image you want to erase or add back. Click Apply when you’re done. You likely won’t need to adjust Spacing, Strength, or the fancy-shaped brush tips, but sometimes the triangle tip is helpful if you’re working with really fine edges. In that case, the Rotation slider can be helpful too.

What kinds of images work best with background remover?

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

JPG or PNG, less than 12 MB

Photos with a clear subject in the foreground: photos of people, animals, products, houses, cars, etc.

Images with good contrast between background and foreground

Plain backgrounds are better than busy backgrounds

Images with one or a small handful of people work better than images of large groups of people

Images in which the subject is cut off in the middle of the frame (behind a desk, for instance) will look odd with the background removed, but images where the subject is cut off at the edge of the frame will look fine

Studies of computer vision or machine vision applications using a light field camera have been increasing in recent years. However, the abilities that the light field camera has are not fully used in these applications. In this paper, we propose a method for direct separation of foreground and background that uses the gradient information and can be used in various applications such as pre-processing. From an optical phenomenon whereby the bundles of rays from the background are flipped, we derive that the disparity sign of the background in the captured three-dimensional scene has the opposite disparity sign of the foreground. Using the majority-weighted voting algorithm based on the gradient information with the Lambertian assumption and the gradient constraint, the foreground and background can be separated at each pixel. In regard to pre-processing, the proposed method can be used for various applications such as occlusion and saliency detection, disparity estimation, and so on. Experimental results with the EPFL light field dataset and Stanford Lytro light field dataset show that the proposed method achieves better performance in terms of the occlusion detection, and thus can be effectively used in pre-processing for saliency detection and disparity estimation.

© 2017 Optical Society of America

Chang Liu, Jun Qiu, and Songnian Zhao
Appl. Opt. 56(11) 3185-3192 (2017)

Zhuang Ma, Zhaofeng Cen, and Xiaotong Li
Appl. Opt. 56(23) 6603-6610 (2017)

Qiangqiang Zhou, Lin Zhang, Weidong Zhao, Xianhui Liu, Yufei Chen, and Zhicheng Wang
J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 34(3) 370-383 (2017)

Shuai Ma, Zhenghua Guo, Junlong Wu, Xu Yan, Licheng Zhu, Ping Yang, Shuai Wang, Lianghua Wen, and Bing Xu
Appl. Opt. 60(2) 392-404 (2021)

Wei Yin, Yan Hu, Shijie Feng, Lei Huang, Qian Kemao, Qian Chen, and Chao Zuo
Opt. Express 29(9) 13388-13407 (2021)

References

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Figures (12)

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How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

In this tutorial we’ll learn how to use a

container to structure the top section of the webpage. We will use the style attribute to specify the height of our

container, apply a background image, and specify that the background image should cover the entire area of the

container.

Before we get started, we’ll need a background image. You may download and use our demonstration site’s background image for the purpose of the tutorial, or you can choose a new image. (For a refresher on how to add images to webpages using HTML, please visit our tutorial HTML Images from earlier in this tutorial series).

Once you’ve chosen your background image, save the image in your images folder as background-image.jpg .

Next, paste the highlighted code snippet into your index.html file below the opening tag and above the closing tag:

Make sure to switch the text that says Image_Location with the file path of your image and don’t forget to add the closing

tag.

Note that we have added the comment to help organize our HTML code. A comment is a piece of code that is ignored by the browser. Comments are used to help explain or organize code to developers. They are created with the opening tag .

We have also specified the height to 480 pixels and padding-top to 80 pixels, which will create 80 pixels of space between the top of the

element and any content we place inside. Note that you will not be able to see the effects of the padding-top value until we place content inside in the next step.

Save the file and reload it in the browser. You should receive something like this:

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Alternately, you can use a background color instead of a background image. To use a background color, replace the

element code snippet you just created with the following highlighted

element code snippet like this:

Save the file and reload it in the browser to check your results. The background image should now be replaced with a container that is the same size but has a solid yellow color.

If you compare the

container on your site with the same

container on the demonstration site, you may notice that your webpage’s

container is surrounded by a small margin of white space. This margin is due to the fact that all HTML pages are automatically set to have a small margin by default.

To remove this margin, we need to add a style attribute to the opening tag that sets the margin of the element of the HTML page to 0 pixels. Locate the opening in your index.html file and modify it with the highlighted code:

Save and reload the file in your browser. There should now be no white margin surrounding the top

container.

You should now know how to add a

container with a background image to structure the top section of a webpage.

Want to learn more? Join the DigitalOcean Community!

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Tutorial Series: How To Build a Website with HTML

This tutorial series will guide you through creating and further customizing this website using HTML, the standard markup language used to display documents in a web browser. No prior coding experience is necessary but we recommend you start at the beginning of the series if you wish to recreate the demonstration website.

At the end of this series, you should have a website ready to deploy to the cloud and a basic familiarity with HTML. Knowing how to write HTML will provide a strong foundation for learning additional front-end web development skills, such as CSS and JavaScript.

I was initially looking at developing my own background removal algorithm but it appears that the popular document format DjVu has its own foreground / background separation functions if I can only understand how to work with it.

Quoting the DjVu docs:

  1. DjVuText — black and white (bitonal) documents
  2. DjVuPhoto — continuous-tone images such as photos, scanned graphic art, etc.
  3. DjVuLayered — color documents such as magazines, catalogs, historical documents, etc.

And for the software integration:

DjVuLibre includes a standalone viewer, a browser plug-in (for Mozilla, Firefox, Konqueror, Netscape, Galeon, and Opera), and command line tools (decoders, encoders, utilities).

Any ideas how I can work with the DjVu tools to separate the background and foreground of a given scanned document?

1 Answer 1

If the document is scanned from a scanner then the image is just a flat bitmap like image. There are no layers or objects as such. Just pixels and more pixels. To make a DjVu into layered document it would have to be generated as a layered document.

Sorry, I was not aware. I did some research and you are right. The layering option needs to be turned on in the DjVu encoding settings though. The tells the encode to use a special image processing algorithm to search for foreground and background objects and it save them to separate layers.

http://djvu.sourceforge.net – DjViLibre is a C++ library that will do what you need.

WinDjView – http://windjview.sourceforge.net/ is a nice DjVu file viewer built on DjVuLibre. It has an option to View either Foreground or Background objects. So this would be a good way to test how good the algorithm is before digging into c++ code.

I would recommend uploading some scanned TIFF / JPEG files to http://any2djvu.djvuzone.org/ and then using WinDjView to see the results of the fore / back separation. I uploaded 1 color JPEG document and was quite impressed with the results.

Source code for WinDjView is available at http://windjview.cvs.sourceforge.net/viewvc/windjview/windjview/ – RenderThread.cpp – The function CRenderThread::Render() is the layer splitting/viewing code for the foreground/background viewing functions in WinDjView.

Also there is a PDF document explaining how the algorithm works – “A GENERAL SEGMENTATION SCHEME FOR DJVU DOCUMENT COMPRESSION . ” – If you perform a Google search with “vincent djvu segmentation” and then click on “Quick View” link of the 1st result then you can read the PDF. The original PDF is no longer available.

I will have to do some more testing myself. I wonder what the licensing fees are for commercial apps ?

I hope this answers your question a little better than my first attempt. I looked a DjVu when it first came out and overlooked this feature for some reason.

I uploaded about 10 more documents and have come to the following conclusions. 300dpi B/W images are not able to be processed by DjVu into fore/back layers. The whole page of a B/W converted image is contained in the foreground only. When you upload to any2djvu, it first asks you if it is a B/W or color document. When you choose B/W you lose the background processing option which supports my theory the B/W is not supported for automatic background separation. Fore/Back separation works on Gray and Colour images. I do not have enough scanned images to test how well it performs though.

The fact the B/W separation is not supported possibly points to part of the reason DjVu did not take off in the document management industry many years ago. When it first came out, most computers had a difficult enough time processing, deskewing and despeckle of B/W images. So it was not feasible to perform greyscale or color image processing and most solutions were B/W for speed reasons. If we were working with color images back then, then DjVu would have been a very good solution. DjVu at the time it was released, was not much use in scanning applications for OCR. It is a great technology though even today.

You can activate the Foreground Select tool in two ways:

by clicking on the tool icon in the Toolbox,

through Tools → Selection Tools → Foreground Select in the image menu.

This tool has no shortcut, but you can set one using Edit → Preferences → Interface → Configure Keyboard Shortcuts → Tools → Foreground Select

2.8.2. Directions for use

Let us start with an object distinctly different from background, not needing to be refined.

Roughly select the foreground you want to extract. When you select this tool, the mouse pointer goes with the lasso icon. It actually works like the Free Select tool. Select as little as possible from the background.

When the mouse pointer comes over line beginning, a small yellow circle appears: release mouse button to close selection. While selecting, click-and-drag draws a fuzzy line, drag only draws a straight line.

If the mouse pointer doesn’t cover start point, double clicking closes selection with a straight line.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

The selection is closed.

As soon you click to start drawing, a small window pops up:

For the moment, only a little cross is active, allowing to quit: returns to the original image.

Press Enter to create the mask :

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

The mouse pointer goes now with the Paint-brush icon. The dark blue area (this color can be changed) is for background. The light blue area covers the zone you have selected, on which you will paint to extract foreground. It contains the foreground area and a small part of background . Outside the selected area, the dark blue area is named Unknown pixels area .

Options in the small window become active:

A Preview mask checkbox that toggles displaying a preview of the foreground extraction status.

A Select button that will be used to create the extraction after marking the foreground.

Draw a line through the foreground : using the default selected paintbrush, whose size can be changed in options, draw a continuous line in the selected foreground going over colors which will be kept for the extraction. The color used to draw the line is of no importance; not using the same color as foreground is better. Be careful not painting background pixels.

With this one-color object distinctly different from background, a few strokes are enough:

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Toggle preview to verify result.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

This Preview mask is a mask: you can draw directly on it and see result immediately.

Try Matting Levin engine that may improve result.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

When you are satisfied with result, click on Select button to get the selection of the foreground with its marching ants.

2.8.3. Options

Figure 14.34. “ Foreground Select ” tool options

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Normally, tool options are displayed in a window attached under the Toolbox as soon as you activate a tool. If they are not, you can access them from the image menu bar through Windows → Dockable Windows → Tool Options which opens the option window of the selected tool.

See Selection Tools for help with options that are common to all these tools. Only options that are specific to this tool are explained here.

Draw foreground : to draw what will be foreground.

Draw background : to draw what will be background.

Draw unknown : to add pixels that are in background to your selection.

The size of the brush.

Color (default): you can adapt the color of the preview to your image, clicking on the color swatch.

Grayscale : new in GIMP-2.10.14, to see the resulting mask in black and white. This preview is similar to a layer mask. It is useful in images where FG color and BG color are not very different and limit between them nor very evident.

Work with Matting global (default) and improve result with Matting Levin .

Default is 1. Repeating algorithm may improve result.

2.8.4. Refining Foreground Extraction

In most images, foreground is not distinctly different from background. Refining selection allows you now to extract these foregrounds. Procedure steps are the same as above, but, during drawing foreground, you will often toggle Preview, use Zoom ( + key), Draw background to delete unwanted background extraction areas. You can also work directly on Preview mask.

Figure 14.35. Example for Draw background

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

On the left: drawing foreground ill-advisedly went over background area: a part of background will be included in foreground selection!

In middle: Draw background option is checked: draw on inclusion and unwanted pixels.

On the right: unwanted selected pixels in background are no longer in foreground selection.

Figure 14.36. Example for Draw unknown

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

On the left: the selection left a small part of foreground unselected, in unknown pixels area.

On the right: with Draw unknown option checked, draw on unselected pixels. They are now selected.

Although photography is a two-dimensional art, to call an image “flat” is not exactly a compliment. Indeed, a good photograph, especially a landscape, should create the illusion of depth.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Depth is achieved by means of placing objects of interest in the foreground, middleground and background. It’s a technique that dates back at least from the Renaissance when it was first used in paintings.

Understanding this concept will help you create powerful compositions and give your landscapes a strong sense of scale.

Beyond the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds

We already discussed in length the Golden Ratio and the Rule of Thirds in previous articles. Both are powerful composition tools that view the image as a grid of horizontal and vertical lines, the idea being placing the objects of interest somewhere at the intersections of those lines.

The two principles allow us to create balanced and eye-pleasing compositions, whether we shoot portraits or products. With landscapes, though, we need the illusion of depth. And that’s something neither the Rule of Thirds, nor the Golden Ratio can give us.

We can add depth and scale to our image if we simply identify its foreground, middleground, and background.

Consider the image below. I took it in the Valley of the Gods in Utah. There are clear boundaries between all three areas.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

The most prominent object of interest – the rock formation – is placed in the middleground. The rocks in the background have subdued colors which further enhances the sense of distance. And then, the foreground with its yellowish-green tones adds both balance and warmth to the whole frame.

This is a classic example of how to combine the Rule of Thirds with the concept of depth in landscape photography. Note that the main object of interest is placed to the side at the intersections of two horizontal and one vertical lines (that is, in compliance with the Rule of Thirds).

The photograph below, on the other hand, exemplifies a combination of the Phi-Grid (Golden Ratio) and the concept of depth.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

One of the objects of interest here – the church – is placed more to the center and occupies the narrower horizontal middle section typical of the phi-grid. Along with the line of trees, it forms the background. Then we have a strong foreground with two trees placed along a vertical axis.

We don’t really have an object of interest in the middleground – the lake – here. But it serves well as a boundary between the foreground and the background by means of color contrast.

An object of interest in all three areas

It would be great if you managed to place something eye-catching in the foreground, midground, and background. Put the objects close to the intersections of horizontal and vertical lines – in compliance with the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio – and you should have a well-built composition.

In my experience, though, it’s not always possible to place interesting objects in all three areas. But I find that if you have strong points of interest in two areas, it’s enough to create a landscape with a sense of scale and depth.

The two areas are most often the background and the foreground or the background and the middleground.

In the photograph of John Ford’s Point in Monument Valley, for example, there are no clear objects of interest in the middleground. Yet, the image manages to convince the viewer there’s a considerable distance between the rock formation in the foreground and the mountains in the background.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Using leading lines

Leading lines are especially helpful in emphasizing a sense of scale and depth in landscapes. Those are natural or manmade lines or curves such as rivers or roads that let the eye of the viewer travel into the image, arriving at the exact point of interest.

Consider the photograph below which is another look at the Monument Valley. I used the curvy road as a leading line that begins in the foreground and takes the viewer straight to the rock formations in the background.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

There’s an undeniable sense of distance but also of scale. The size of the truck which can be seen on the road gives the viewer a very good idea of how vast the scene is.

A little technical reminder here

In landscape photography you want the whole image to be sharp – from foreground to background. To achieve this, you need to close the aperture (pick a higher f-number such as f8 and above).

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

This will require a slower shutter speed but it shouldn’t be a problem as you have your camera on a tripod anyway.

Does it sound difficult?

Rule of Thirds, interesting objects in each area of foreground, middleground, background and leading lines in one photograph? You might wonder if it’s possible at all.

The answer is yes.

Simply follow the 3 step framework to add a sense of scale and depth to your landscape photos.

  • Step #1 – Identify objects of interest in at least two areas of foreground, middleground, and background
  • Step #2 – Arrange the objects of interests you identified in step one, according to the Rule of Thirds or the Golden Ratio.
  • Step #3 – Align the leading lines (natural or manmade) of the scene with the rest of the composition.

These are skills that can’t be learned overnight but if you go out and shoot as much as you can, they’ll become your second nature.

The portfolios of your favorite landscape photographers (or even painters!) will also help you immensely. Don’t be afraid to steal an idea or two. Everyone did it before they coined their own style.

Do you have any questions on the use of foreground, middleground, and background? Let me know in the comments below.

With all the photographry resources available today, snapping shots is easier than ever before. Taking a picture is as easy as pressing a button on your smartphone. You can even apply effects and artistic filters to the result. And all this is great for posting photos on Instagram. But what if you need more? What if you want to upload the photo to a serious website, or to attach it to a resume, or to use it as a corporate profile picture? You’re going to need a better background for your photograph.

Here you run into a problem: your photo has a bad or ruined background that you need to get rid of, but you don’t know how to work with Photoshop or Gimp, and even Picasa is too much for you. What to do? Use PhotoScissors! This online photo editing tool removes the background of an image in the blink of an eye.

Here is the easiest way to cutout the background from your photographs:

Open PhotoScissors online and click the upload button. Select the local image you want to strip of its background and upload it. Done!

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

PhotoScissors can automatically remove the background from an image, but sometimes it may need help. Once you have your photo on the screen, you can fine-tune the result and mark the locations of foreground and background. And this is easier than it sounds. In PhotoScissors you have two tools for this: the green marker and the red marker. The green marker denotes areas belonging to foreground objects, and the red marker denotes background scenery.

The right part of the screen instantly reflects your changes, so you can see the image with the transparent background almost instantaneously.

Note that you can delete portions of green or red markup using the Eraser tool if necessary.

When you’re done, click the Save button and save the result as a PNG file. That was easy, wasn’t it? This feature of PhotoScissors lets you remove the background from a portrait and replace it with a transparent or solid color background, or with another background image altogether.

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ANALYZING A PHOTOGRAPH
A How-To Guide

A. A strong geometrical shape is the key to good composition in graphic design and film and photo composition.

B. For course work, for critical writing, and for professional work in the media — learn a vocabulary to apply to visual analysis.

1. the language of sensory descriptions. Talk and write about an image using the most concrete sensory vocabulary. If you say “tree,” talk about how the leaves and branches move, sound, feel and are shaped. What makes this tree different from others. Move from a level of generality to greater and greater specificity in the language you use.

2. the language describing processes of perception. Talk and write about your own stages in looking at and interpreting the picture. What caught your eye; what stood out emphatically; what took a while to notice; how did your eye move around the picture; did it keep coming back to a certain spot?

3. the language for describing the relation between visual and audio elements and their emotional effect. Discuss how a picture conveys tranquillity, dynamism, respect, abjectness? Does it give you a new appreciation of previously overlooked aspects of daily life? Does it reflect a fascination with human art or nature’s art? Does it capture a fleeting moment and freeze it for the viewer? Does it make a social comment or a comment on convention?

II. Analyze two-dimensionality and how it gives the effect of depth. Discuss.

A. foreground and background

B. use of the frame

C. perspective and use of perspective

III. Balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. Look at the use of.

A. Positive and negative space. An visual interest in negative space and its composition is a major principle of Japanese painting and photography.

B. Figure-ground relations. How does the artist compose the background as well as the major figures?

C. The rule of thirds = Place the horizon line one third or two thirds of the way down, not in the center. Place the most important objects one third or two thirds of the way across the image. Asymmetrical balance, achieved by the rule of thirds, contributes to variety and sharpening.

D. OR use classical balance = a centered subject. There is little dynamism in this compositions and it is used in ads that are supposed to appeal to the very rich, often seen in magazines like the NEW YORKER.

IV. Describe the lines. Find the single visual force that is the strongest. There are actual and implied lines. Is there implied directional movement (even a blur)? How do we read it, left to right, up to down? Analyze strongest parts of frame by quadrant.

A. Horizontals — Does or should the artist use the rule of threes in composition? Describe emotions elicited. Discuss placement of the horizon line in the frame.

B. Verticals — Describe the emotions elicited, which are often kinetic, urban, aspirational or authoritative

C. Diagonals give a sense of motion, inconclusiveness, or instability.

D. Shape = design element formed when lines close back on themselves. Commonly square, circle, triangle [often = family, holy family].

E. 3-d shapes = masses, which can only be distinguished from shapes by use of light and shadow.

V. Talk about how the lines and shapes lead the eye. Is there a point where the eye returns or temporarily rests? That is the point of emphasis, and good pictures achieve visual emphasis. Is there an emotion or narrative implied by that visual emphasis?

A. Emphasis = resting place for the eye. Eye returns there. Emphasis creates a center of interest.

1. Human form is most interesting thing in image.

2. Intricacy vs. simplicity. An intricate shape is sharpened when there is also something very simple alongside it; an extreme close-up may show the great intricacy of the texture of the most common objects [for examples, a close-up of all the colors in an oil slick glinting in the sunlight.]

3. Most textured area commands the most attention.

4. The foreground and the right, lower quadrant have more emphasis. The person in front always gets more attention than the person in back.

5. Emphasis comes from implied motion in the image. There are two kinds of eye motion.

a. One is around a geometric shape or back and forth along a line = graphic vector.

b. One is eye motion led by a figure in the content of the image that is going or pointing in a certain direction: examples are a car going in a certain direction, a person walking or picking up a forkful of food, or a glance in a certain direction = motion vector.

6. Humor, the spectacular, the unusual gain our attention. You need other graphic qualities besides these aspects, however, to make a good image.

VI. Texture = visual equivalent to sense of touch. Note kinds of words used to name texture. Texture calls up emotions more primitive than sight.

A. Note how lines together can become a texture with shadowing, grouping.

B. The photo may emphasize the 2-D surface. It may play with printed text or reflections of light or use unusual inserted material to do so.

VII. Contrast creates “sharpening” = more a rapid readability of the image.

A. Contrast of scale — Without this, more time is spent on mentally establishing the gestalt or creating closure, figuring out what the image is. Gestalt psychology assumes that viewers seek to create closure out of the available elements.

B. Contrast of shape

C. Contrast of color

D. Contrast of texture

E. Contrast of tone

Note contrast range in both natural light and light in photography, film, television — Low contrast, for example, on a gray day, may be related to a longer time in establishing closure in black and white pictures; it actually creates more saturated colors for color photography and video. Film captures a much higher contrast range than television or video, where the dark areas can easily become all black or the whites lose detail and “bloom.”

VIII. Unity — Line, shape, and texture create a unity in which the whole is greater than sum of its parts; repetition and parallelism are key to establishing unity. In any photographic analysis it is important to analyze the repetition of shapes and tones in the image.

A. Rhythm = repetition with alternation or repetition with progression. If you just had repetition of elements, it would get boring. An example of progression is a move from large to small versions of a shape; an example of alternation is a shift from light to dark and back again.

B. Motif = a repeated image or sound which reinforces a theme in the work as a whole, perhaps functioning as a symbolic element [e.g., the color red or romantic violins].

C. Redundancy = reinforcing an emotional effect or visual impact in a number of ways within an image or a film as a whole.

D. The image needs a tension between its unity and the kinds of surprises or tensions it contains.

IX. The concepts for this outline are drawn from the following three books:

A PRIMER OF VISUAL LITERACY. Dondis, Donis A. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1973).

A GUIDE TO PHOTOGRAPHIC DESIGN. William W. DuBois, Barbara J. Hodik. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1983).

SIGHT, SOUND, MOTION: APPLIED MEDIA AESTHETICS. Zettl, Herbert. (Belmont CA: Wadsworth, 1973).

Transparent images are pictures that you can see through. You see it and you see what is underneath. Like when a person wears a thin white shirt. The colors merge together. A transparent background usually refers to a background that is completely invisible. The result is similar to cutting a picture out of a magazine or calendar.

The foreground image is always going to show a background under it. The color will depend on the HTML page or program you are using to view it. Some programs will display the empty background as white. Others will show it as black. Paint programs would show it as a white and gray checkerboard pattern.

When you remove the background you simplify and declutter the image. Small photos often look better without one. Switch the background by placing it on top of another picture. The photo below shows me replacing the backdrop. It takes me from my bedroom to the beach.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Removed the background and pasted myself into a beach photo.

How to Find Cut Out Images

I recommend Snipstock because I use it. You could also look for regular public domain photos and cut them out yourself.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Sometimes the background gets in the way and causes problems.

How to Use See Through Background Images

Open the picture in a paint program. Then copy the foreground and paste it onto the background. Put it wherever you want and save it. You might need to reduce the size. There are different ways to use the transparent background images. The most obvious is to use them to make funny photos. I have listed some other uses below.

Display them as they are. Often the background was just something that was there when you were taking a photo of something else. Cut out images are like sculptures and figurines. They highlight the main subject. People that are selling products use them to increase their sales.

Change the setting or location. Make it look like the subject in the foreground was somewhere else. You can make it look more professional or create cool images. Try adding people, animals or ghosts to photos with interesting backgrounds. I took a selfie in my bedroom. Then I added my image to a picture of a beach.

Mix fiction with reality. Add fictional characters to photos of real places. It could be a cartoon or a real looking image. There are lots of free see through background pictures to choose from online. I added Yoda to an old photo.

Add 3D depth to photos. Paste a picture onto a background and save it. Press CTRL Z to undo it. Paste it again a little to the left or right. Then convert them into a red cyan 3D image. The foreground appears to be closer than the background when viewed with 3D glasses. It creates a partial 3D effect. For real 3D you need photos taken from different perspectives.

In this chapter

  • We will see GrabCut algorithm to extract foreground in images
  • We will create an interactive application for this.

Theory

GrabCut algorithm was designed by Carsten Rother, Vladimir Kolmogorov & Andrew Blake from Microsoft Research Cambridge, UK. in their paper, “GrabCut”: interactive foreground extraction using iterated graph cuts . An algorithm was needed for foreground extraction with minimal user interaction, and the result was GrabCut.

How it works from user point of view ? Initially user draws a rectangle around the foreground region (foreground region should be completely inside the rectangle). Then algorithm segments it iteratively to get the best result. Done. But in some cases, the segmentation won’t be fine, like, it may have marked some foreground region as background and vice versa. In that case, user need to do fine touch-ups. Just give some strokes on the images where some faulty results are there. Strokes basically says *”Hey, this region should be foreground, you marked it background, correct it in next iteration”* or its opposite for background. Then in the next iteration, you get better results.

See the image below. First player and football is enclosed in a blue rectangle. Then some final touchups with white strokes (denoting foreground) and black strokes (denoting background) is made. And we get a nice result.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

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How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

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How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Real Estate agent use CleanUp.pictures to remove unwanted objects from pictures.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

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How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Cleanup.picture is also useful to remove any unwanted watermark, date stamp or text.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

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How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

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How to remove people from a photo?

cleanup.pictures lets you remove people from a photo in a few seconds for free. You don’t need complex softwares such as Adobe Photoshop. With cleanup.pictures you can achieve professional results in a few clicks.

Pro tip: Select a bigger brush and don’t hesitate to cover more than the area you want to retouch (especially to cover shadows). It will help the algorithm create the best results.

How to remove an unwanted object from a photo?

cleanup.pictures brush is a spectacular tool to remove unwanted objects. The A.I. algorithm will reconstruct what was behind the object in just one click. Be sure that the whole thing is covered to remove it entirely.

How to remove text or watermarks from an image?

You can remove text and images in a few seconds with impressive accuracy using cleanup.pictures. As for objects or people, simply load your image in the tool and draw over the text or watermark that you’d like to remove. After a few seconds, you’ll see it completely gone.

Pro tip: To get the best results, make sure that you overflow and draw a slightly bigger area than what you actually want to remove.

How to remove blemish or wrinkles?

You can remove blemishes or wrinkles from a photo using the CleanUp brush. Like for other things to remove from a photo, just be sure you overflow the brush over it.

How to remove the background of an image?

The best way to remove the background of a photo online or using your phone is using ClipDrop. It provides the best quality available today.

by Christina Harman

Mastering the art of effective backgrounds is one of the fastest ways to improve your photography.

For better or worse, the background can have a major impact on the composition of a photo. Photos with distracting backgrounds tend to look cluttered and amateur, while intentional backgrounds instantly improve the entire composition, and add meaning and depth to a photo.

It’s easy to overlook the background and forget that it is a vital and prominent part of your photo, but taking the time to pay attention to the details in the background can open the door for new photographic opportunities; and will help you to take your photography to the next level.

Set the Stage

The background is what sets the stage for your entire composition.

An effective background will add to the story, providing valuable information about your setting, and helping to dramatically enhance your photo. You should focus on the background as much as you do the subject. After all, the background is part of your picture, and is often what will make the difference between a snapshot and a powerful composition.

Backgrounds should be used to highlight your subject in a context that helps them to stand out, without being overwhelming. Fortunately, finding the right background for your images isn’t hard, with a bit of practice you will soon be adept at judging backgrounds, and identifying backgrounds that work with the composition at hand.

Modern Approach to Composition Ebook

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How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Here are a few tips and techniques that can help you to create amazing photos with powerful backgrounds – every time.

1. Keep it Simple for a Powerful Composition

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos
photo by Pat David

Objects in the background often compete with the subject for attention. In most cases, this produces a less-than-desirable effect. If you find that your background is too busy, try moving you subject in front of a plain wall, the sky, or something equally simple. A background that is simple and unobtrusive will help to draw the focus onto your subject, and will highlight their emotions, features, and expressions.

2. Fill the Frame

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos
photo by TumblingRun

Sometimes, filling the entire frame with your subject is the best way to work with your background. A close up of your subject can often help you avoid any unnecessary and distracting background elements. Just make sure the subject you are shooting will work well with this technique and that you aren’t cropping out a valuable part of your picture.

3. Use Lines to Convey a Sense of Depth

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos
photo by Nat Wilson Effective compositions often use lines to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. Background lines can also be used to create a sense of movement in your images, or to convey a sense of distance or depth. Converging lines that disappear into the distance are a great example of lines that help to draw the viewer into the image, while adding a sense of depth. Just take care to avoid unintentional and intrusive background lines. Avoid horizon lines or telephone lines that run directly behind your subject’s head, and make sure there are no competing lines running in different directions. Distracting lines will only confuse the scene at hand and will serve as a distraction.

4. Use Contrasting Backgrounds

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos
photo by Simon & His Camera

Contrasting backgrounds are a great way to add drama and excitement to your image, and are a great way to draw the focus onto your subject. When most people think of contrast, they think of black and white, but while tonal contrast is easier to spot in black and white imagery, there is plenty of tonal contrast in color as well. When composing your images, look for backgrounds that contain varying shades and tones, and use colors that contrast with your subject to offset your subject and add visual interest to your photos.

5. Blur the Background

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos
photo by Neal Fowler

One of the best ways to handle a distracting background is to blur it. The easiest way to throw the background out of focus, is to adjust your depth of field by using a wide aperture, and leaving some distance between your subject and the background – the more distance you leave, the more blur there will be. Try starting with an aperture of about f/18 and working your way down, once you reach f/4 you should notice your background starting to blur. Look out for opportunities to use a wide aperture to create background bokeh, a beautiful background element for your compositions.

6. Use the Background to Tell Your Story

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos
photo by theilr

Powerful photos always tell a story. Backgrounds can be an excellent way to enhance your images, and an effective way to help you tell your story. Whether you are outside in a scenic location, at a busy market, or a dimly lit street corner, including the background as part of your composition can help to set the scene and give your viewers a glimpse into the context of your photo.

While backgrounds are an often-overlooked part of photography, paying attention to the background and the effect that it has on your composition will help you to create visually powerful images. It’s amazing how simply shifting your position or moving your subject slightly to the left can entirely change the background, and the resulting composition of the photo.

Keep it simple, make it bright, or zoom in and ignore it altogether, whatever your background is, just make sure it’s intentional.

By keeping an eye out for details in the background, and learning using them effectively, you will be on your way towards creating powerful and visually rich compositions.

About the Author: Christina Harman

Christina is a part time blogger and full time photography enthusiast living in Southeast Alaska. She enjoys travel photography and has taken pictures in countries such as Mexico, England, France, and China. She likes sunny days, new lenses and drinking good coffee. You can visit her at Tangled Thoughts.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Make your subjects stand out from the background and enhance any photo in Photoshop! Learn to use Curves and Vibrance to add brightness and color to specific parts of an image. Then finish the job by both sharpening the subject and blurring the background.

Guide the Eye

Chances are that if you’re photographing a person, you want the anyone viewing that photo to be drawn to your subject. But that doesn’t always happen with images coming straight-out-of-camera. This is especially true of more candid pictures, like in street photography or photos taken using only natural light.

To understand how to fix the problem, we need to talk a bit about what our eyes are instinctively drawn to.

Our Example

There are countless ways to describe how and why photography works. Today we’re going to talk about three of the most important elements; color, light, and sharpness.

Looking at our original example photo, we can make a few observations. To start off, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it as is. The composition is nice. The landscape and lighting are beautiful. The subject is in focus.

But the longer we look at it, the more we might notice that even though there’s a person in the foreground, our eyes don’t immediately gravitate towards her. Now this could very well be an artistic choice made by the photographer. Perhaps they wanted to create a sense that this person is blending into the beauty of the landscape beyond. Even if that is the case, what qualities are preventing the subject from being the obvious focal point in the image?

Light

Light is probably the simplest and most obvious explanation for why the subject doesn’t immediately jump out at us. Our eyes are naturally drawn to brighter areas of an photo. The lighting in this image is pretty even across the board, from foreground to background and from edge to edge.

Using Photoshop, we can use a Curves Adjustment Layer to brighten up the subject without creating an unnatural look. Simply make a selection around the subject using the Elliptical Marquee Tool. Apply this selection to the Layer Mask and add a Gaussian Blur until the exposure change blends evenly with the background.

The subject will be slightly brighter and that will instinctively guide our eyes her way.

Color

Yellows, golds, blues, and browns. The background of the image and the subject both made up of a very similar color palette. Color is a powerful tool for differentiating different elements in a photography. Think of how different this photo would be if she were wearing a bright blue shirt. Blue and yellow are complementary colors and complementary colors tend to stand out from one another.

In this case, the subject’s clothing isn’t different enough in color to help her stand out. Fortunately, we can use Photoshop to enhance the colors on and around her to help the viewer find her faster.

Create a Vibrance Adjustment Layer and apply the same Layer Mask that we used on the Curves Adjustment Layer. Vibrance has almost the same effect as Saturation, with the exception that it protects skin tones. We can crank the Vibrance up quite a bit, making the colors of our subject pop, without making her look unnatural.

Sharpness

Why are images that rely on a shallow depth of field and creamy bokeh so effective? The blurred background can be pretty, yes, but it has more to do with how much more relative sharpness the subject in those images have. Like light and like color, our eyes are drawn to whatever we can see the clearest.

In our example, we can tackle this from two angles. By sharpening the subject, we can enhance the details in her hair and clothing while also making her appear sharper, which will help draw our attention.

Additionally, we can create some subtle, artificial bokeh using some blur tools within Photoshop. Combining both sharpening and blurs will create a natural contrast between her and the background, helping her stand out even more.

Not every subject needs to jump of the page (or screen). Use these techniques as you see fit, whether that be individually or in combination with eachother for greater effect. The important thing to remember is that editing, like photography, is as much about helping the viewer understand the photo as it is about the photo itself.

In traditional landscape photography (or cityscape or seascape), photographers combine wide angle lenses with small apertures to achieve sharpness throughout an entire scene from the foreground to the background. This is in direct contrast to, say, portrait photography where the background is intentionally blurred. When looking at a photograph, the eye naturally goes to foreground elements and wants to rest on whatever is in focus. That works out perfectly for portraits where you usually want the focus on the eyes of your subject. The blurred background and in-focus foreground are strong compositional elements that focus attention where you want it. But in a photograph with everything in focus, you can’t rely on a single focus point to hold the viewer’s attention.

When viewing a photograph, people are usually attracted to areas of high contrast, in-focus foreground objects, and strong lines, curves, and shapes. People often also scan a photograph from top left to bottom right (similar to reading) and points at the intersections of the rule of thirds grid are strong attractors as well. When everything in a photograph is in focus, the eye often wanders and you need to make sure that every layer of the photograph—foreground, middleground, and background—contain some interest.

When shooting a photograph with a lot of depth, people often only think about the background. Think of landscape photographs you’ve seen of far away mountains or a sunset but with nothing of interest in the foreground or middleground. It’s usually pretty easy to include some foreground and middleground interest if you just think about it. An easy way to do this is to lower your viewpoint a little. Find an interesting group of rocks or flowers or some other object on the ground near you and recompose to include that in your photograph. Interest can be added by objects or by strong shapes and textures. A few steps to the left or right can also change the composition dramatically. Don’t be content with what you see in front of you. Move around a little to find a better view with interest throughout the scene.

Once you’ve got a scene with foreground and middleground elements, a strong compositional element to think of is a line or curve that takes the viewer on a tour of everything in the scene. It could be something like a road or a fence, a wall or railing that immediately grabs the viewer’s attention. Or it could be something more abstract like a strong shadow, a color, or the direction people in the scene are looking or appear to be moving. And pay special attention to depth of field. A blurred foreground object can ruin an otherwise beautiful photograph with a strong, in-focus background.

By John Watson

John is the original founder of Photodoto, but after running it for 4 years he had to focus on different things. If you’re interested in what John has been up to recently, you can check is personal blog or browse his photo blog.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

Google Photos has come a long way from the days when it was part of Google Plus. Once a simple cloud-based image manager, the platform has become an artificial intelligence-powered one-stop shop for storing, organizing, and tweaking your pics. It has continually improved upon its built-in editing features, and knowing how to use them will help you get your shots looking their best without switching apps.

Depending on what device you’re using to access Google Photos, you’ll find some differences in features and overall look—we’ll flag what you can use and where. But rest assured—when it comes to image editing, this platform is more than enough, no matter the operating system.

Let artificial intelligence do it for you

Google has been putting a lot of time, money, and developer resources into machine learning, and this technology is on full display in the Google Photos app.

On Android, open the photo you want to edit, then open the editor options by tapping on the three-slider icon (the second one on the left). You’ll see a Suggestions screen with one-tap editing options. In general, Enhance improves your image by enhancing the brightness, contrast, and colors as necessary; Black and White converts your image to grayscale; and Color Pop desaturates the background while saturating the subjects to make them, well, pop.

These suggestions aren’t generic filters, though. They use AI to make intelligent tweaks specific to your image, based on its content and the results of Google’s research. The options’ names remain the same from photo to photo, but the program adjusts how they work for each one. For the time being, the choices are limited to the ones mentioned above, plus some image-dependent suggestions like Portrait and Fix Brightness, but Google has said they’ll add more options for different kinds of images in the upcoming months.

Unfortunately, iOS users don’t get the Suggestions tab—at least for now. Instead, Enhance is baked into the Auto filter, which still produces great image-specific results. If you’re editing a photo shot in portrait mode, there’s also a Color Pop option—it uses depth information to separate the foreground from the background, saturating the former while desaturating the latter.

Google Photos was designed to be primarily a mobile app, so if you’re accessing it on the web, you’ll only get the Auto filter.

Slap a filter on it

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photos

The right filter on that diner food can make it look Instagram-ready, and you can lower the filter intensity to make it look like your cat’s not planning a vendetta against you. Sandra Gutierrez

Filter apps such as Instagram, Hipstamatic, and VSCO have been around for a long time and are still solid image-editing options. But if you’ve been swimming against the current all this time, you don’t have to miss out on filters—Google Photos has a limited, though tasteful, selection of 12.

On Android, open the editing options and slide the carousel on the bottom to find the Filters. Choose the one you want and tap on it to apply it. Tap on it again and you’ll see a slider that you can drag to dial up or down the intensity. The filters also set some default values for the adjustment tools we’ll look at in a moment, so you can take them as a foundation and build your own effects from there.

Perhaps the best thing about using an app like Google Photos to apply filters is that most other people don’t. Instead of working from Instagram’s stock set that many know by heart, or VSCO’s ridiculous number of hard-to-navigate presets, you’ve got a dozen strong options that people won’t recognize as easily.

Tweak things yourself

Google’s machine learning-based one-tap editing is great but, as a photographer, I’m honor-bound to declare it no match for diving in and doing things yourself, as it allows you to maintain creative control, and appease the restless spirit of Ansel Adams.

Google Photos delivers, both in terms of the options available and ease of use, but the layout and descriptions of features will be a bit different depending on your operating system. On Android, all the major controls are listed in the Adjust tab, and when you tap on one, a slider will appear. You can use it to increase or decrease intensity.

Among the options you’ll be able to tweak, you’ll find options such as:

  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • White Point
  • Highlight
  • Shadows
  • Black Point
  • Saturation
  • Warmth
  • Tint
  • Skin Tone
  • Blue Tone
  • Pop
  • Vignette

If you’re editing a photo shot in portrait mode or that otherwise has embedded depth information, you’ll also see Blur and Color Focus controls. If you’re on a Pixel phone, there’s an additional option called Portrait Light, which uses machine learning to artificially change the light source in your picture.

Things are arranged a little differently on iOS and the web, but the tools all do the same things. In the Adjust menu, there are two global sliders: Light and Color. You can tweak them to adjust everything at once or tap on them to play with individual sub-sliders.

Under Light, you’ll find the following settings:

  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • Whites
  • Highlights
  • Shadows
  • Blacks
  • Vignette
  • Pop

And under Color you’ll have:

  • Saturation
  • Warmth
  • Tint
  • Skin Tone
  • Deep Blue

On iOS, if you open a photo shot in portrait mode, you’ll also see a slider called Depth—though you won’t see it if you access the platform through a browser. Under it, there are two sub-sliders: Blur and Foreground Blur.

Got a Pixel phone? Go wild

Portrait Lighting, one of Google Photo’s newest editing features, is only available on Pixel phones from the Pixel 2 onward. It remains to be seen whether this tool comes to more phones in the future, or if Google’s devices get more exclusive features on this particular platform.

Portrait Lighting only works with photos that have depth data, and you can basically change how your face is lit to get a more flattering or dramatic look. To use it, select Portrait Light from the Adjust menu. Then, you can dial in the strength of the effect with the slider and position the light source by tapping anywhere on the image.

In the right circumstances, Google Photos’ effects are more than enough to add a little flare to your pics. You probably won’t be fooling any World Press Photo awards judges, but your images will look more than realistic enough to share to your Instagram story and impress your friends.

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ACM Transactions on Multimedia Computing, Communications, and Applications

Abstract

Due to various applications, research on personal traits using information on social media has become an important area. In this paper, a new method for the classification of behavior-oriented social images uploaded on various social media platforms is presented. The proposed method introduces a multimodality concept using skin of different parts of human body and background information, such as indoor and outdoor environments. For each image, the proposed method detects skin candidate components based on R, G, B color spaces and entropy features. The iterative mutual nearest neighbor approach is proposed to detect accurate skin candidate components, which result in foreground components. Next, the proposed method detects the remaining part (other than skin components) as background components based on structure tensor of R, G, B color spaces, and Maximally Stable Extremal Regions (MSER) concept in the wavelet domain. We then explore Hanman Transform for extracting context features from foreground and background components through clustering and fusion operation. These features are then fed to an SVM classifier for the classification of behavior-oriented images. Comprehensive experiments on 10-class datasets of Normal Behavior-Oriented Social media Image (NBSI) and Abnormal Behavior-Oriented Social media Image (ABSI) show that the proposed method is effective and outperforms the existing methods in terms of average classification rate. Also, the results on the benchmark dataset of five classes of personality traits and two classes of emotions of different facial expressions (FERPlus dataset) demonstrated the robustness of the proposed method over the existing methods.

Great landscape photographs have depth. They draw you into the image through the use of composition and the elements of foreground, middleground and background. Better landscape photographs have the elements of a 3D scene even in a 2D picture.

Better landscape photographs come from learning to see and plan your images. Learning to see requires two elements, I think. One is studying compositions of compelling landscapes and the other is learning to “read” the landscape in the field.

A good exercise for learning to see better landscape compositions is to head over to your local museum or browsing through a book of classic landscape paintings. If you study these paintings closely you’ll find that the painter always includes an intriguing foreground element, a middle ground, and a background. This creates depth in the image.

Once this concept is ingrained in your head by looking at a lot of great landscape paintings and photographs, you’ll start to look for these elements out in the field. The beautiful sunset sky might be the first thing that captures your eye but now look around further for a foreground element.

I found that when I started to shoot a lot of vertical images for the book cover market that this concept of foreground , middle ground, and background really started to cement in my mind.

For example, in this still life setup, I had full control of the elements in the photo, so I could think through the entire image and create the depth and story within the frame.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photosChampagne Bottle Still Life by Edward Fielding

In a still life, every element of the image can be carefully places and planned. Even the point of focus can be carefully placed on the main subject. This of course is much more difficult when dealing with a landscape provided by Mother Nature.

In the field, the photographer has to move themselves around to find a composition rather than manipulating objects on a table. But the same principals of foreground, middle ground and background apply.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photosTree Of Zen Black And White by Edward Fielding

The same concepts I used to arrange the Champagne still life came to bear when I came across this boat landing in Pratt Cove, Deep River, Connecticut.

The old wooden dock in the foreground leads the eye to the water in the middle ground, and on to the trees in the background.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photosLighthouse Among The Dunes by Edward Fielding

This photograph of a lighthouse in the dunes of Prince Edward Island is enhanced by a feeling of depth by including the path and dune grasses in the foreground as well as interesting clouds in the background.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photosConnecticut River Farm by Edward Fielding

This Vermont landscape has a lot of depth because I included the vegetation and river in the foreground, placed the main subject – the red barn in the middle ground and there is room for one’s eye to wander beyond the barn to the mountains in the distance.

How to use the foreground and background to create stronger photosSunset Grafton Ghost Town by Wendy Fielding

My wife did a great job creating depth in this scene at the Grafton Ghost Town outside of Zion National Park. She placed the subject, an old abandoned Mormon settlers home, in the foreground with the trees in the middle ground and the sunlit mountains way in the background. The lighting which helps to separate the layers and arrangement of the elements is something right out of an Old Masters painting.