When taking a photo, it’s easy to get your attention so wrapped up in your main subject that nothing else matters. And while this is a great feeling to have, it’s important that we pay attention to at least one other thing: what is off in the distance, creating the background that surrounds your focal point. A poorly composed background can distract attention from what’s important in your photo; however, if done right, it can enhance the subject, and even take a leading role in telling your visual story.

De-clutter the Distance

Whenever possible, eliminate unneeded objects from the background. This can include anything: people, power lines, signs, fences, trees, trash, even shadows and the sun itself – anything that doesn’t help the composition usually hurts it. If you have complete control over the scene, you might be able to simply pick up and move the offending objects. If they are fixed in place, though, you may need to get creative in order to get rid of them.

Blurring Out

One of the easiest ways remove background clutter is to open up your aperture – this will create a shallow depth of field, causing the background to blur into a creamy swath of colour (especially if you use a nice prime lens!). On the PicsArt camera, you can get this effect by using the “Portrait” scene mode, available in the menu. Simple backgrounds ensure that the viewer’s attention is focused firmly on the main subject.

Be aware of your edges, and zoom in if they aren’t necessary. Filling your frame is the other easiest method of removing unwanted background elements, so don’t be afraid to get in close.

If you want to isolate your subject, a longer focal length will compress the background more, while wide-angle lenses will accentuate the distance and increase your depth of field.

Create Some Depth

A different perspective can minimize the appearance of something that can’t be removed entirely. By changing your vantage point, you can strategically hide undesired items in shadows or behind other elements. Try getting up high or down low and see how your composition changes.

Another angle of view can also make things appear smaller. For example, think of a fence: if you look at it face-to-face, it occupies a lot of space. But, if you look along the length of it, it becomes a relatively thin line leading off into the distance, which can even provide a strong compositional element. If you can’t remove something, try re-contextualizing it instead; is there another way you can use it to add depth and dimension to your composition?

Relating to the Foreground

Creating a strong background isn’t always about keeping it clean. The background can be an important storytelling device, especially when it’s directly related to the foreground, either by visual cues or by ideas. In the photo below, the shoreline draws the eye from the foreground to the background, while at the same time, the line of people creates a conceptual connection that reinforces this relationship.

When you bring your pictures into the PicsArt photo editor, you can simplify them further by cropping away needless edges. To remove something within the composition, try the clone tool – this allows you to brush the pixels from one area of a photo over top of another. So, if you wanted to remove a sprinkler head from a lawn, you’d first select an empty patch of grass using the target tool. Then, simply brush your finger over top of the sprinkler, and it will be covered by the information from your target area. Tap the solid white circle to access brush size and feathering options.

When creating a photograph, remember to apply your rules of composition (such as shape, texture, and the rule of thirds) to your background and foreground. Keep reminding yourself to look at the background; never let it distract attention, and whenever you can, use it as a way to strengthen your main subject and add more visual interest to your photography.