Now that we've turned off the flash and found our pocket of light, let's deal with what's going on behind, in front of, or maybe even all around your subject. Is there a visual obstacle course cluttering up your images? If so, clean it up!Start by taking note of everything around you... make a mental list. Toys, cabinets, poles, telephones, furniture, blankets, laundry, fence lines, literally everything. It's amazing the stuff we visually "tune out" that come back to haunt us in print.
Once you've made your list, ask yourself - does this thing add to the story I'm telling with this picture? Does this thing compete for attention with the star of the show?
For portraits (that is, intentionally posed pictures) the surroundings should never take away from your subject. Every item should only enhance it, or help tell your story.
Here is what seems like an extreme example of background clutter, but believe it or not when taking this photo Krista didn't notice ANY of it. She couldn't see past those sweet brown eyes!
Now look at this shot, while the background isn't jumping out at you like the above example, notice how the crib frame goes right through her sweet little head cutting it in half? This is a big no no, and a very common thing that takes you training your eye to notice.
For action shots, you want your background to give context, but not be so cluttered that it competes. (photo examples of good and bad)
Since we've limited your surrounding to your pocket of light, lets start by making sure all of the clutter is removed from the picture. Take a test shot. Chairs, phonebooks, grandma's spoon collection - if it's showing up and distracting from those baby blues, ix-nay from the icture-pay.
If your background still isn't working, don't be afraid of some heavy lifting! What's a little redecorating in light of a lifetime of fabulous pictures? (Hint - when furniture looks good in pictures, it usually looks even better in real life!)
Down the road we will talk about how to create backgrounds using props, papers, and other fun fabulous things, but for now, we are going to keep it simple and teach you how to work with what you have. Here's a fun fact - Krista has never used a manufactured background in a picture. When she wants a blank canvas, she either clears the furniture off of a living room wall, or uses somethi ng neutral like the front of a building.
Here is one in her living room, she moved a love seat over so that Chloë could sit in front of one of the only clear walls in the house.
Like learning to read light, it may take some time to develop your new eye - but once you start "seeing" the clutter in your surroundings, you'll never take pictures quite the same way again!