How to Create Visual Interest and Depth Using Foreground

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Nature Photography Simplified by Prathap. Composition Tips for Landscape Photography. Using Foreground element to create depth and visually interesting photographs.

Using foreground objects in an image makes it much easier to create depth and also adds visual interest to the viewer

On World Photography Day, I offered a unique opportunity for my blog readers to share their photographs for review.

The process of review was so beautiful and so satisfying that I was amazed to see so many talented photographers following my blog. I am so thankful my blog readers!

At the same time, it opened up an opportunity to know what is lacking in lot of photographs that I reviewed. Most important element that was lacking in many photographs was Composition.

Strong compositions are definitely not so easy to achieve just by reading few concepts here and there. It requires enormous amount of practice and retrospection.

It’s a lifelong learning process for any Photographer no matter how popular the Photographer is!

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept ― Ansel Adams

I feel learning it step by step, one composition technique at a time will make you make great photographs.

Many photographs that I reviewed were lacking foreground element.

Let us discuss the importance of foreground in Photography especially in Landscapes, Seascapes and Waterscapes.

How to Create Depth using Foreground?

Just include a foreground object in your photograph! Believe me, it’s that simple!

What is your primary goal of photographing a subject?

  • Is it Beautiful?
  • Is it Colorful?
  • Is it Noteworthy?

We are attracted to a subject/object due to one or several factors mentioned above. We would like to photograph it and want to take that memorable instance back home or show it to the world. Isn’t it?

We concentrate on composing the photograph so that we cover the main subject of interest in the best possible way. That’s fantastic!

But remember that we are trying to distill a 3-dimensional reality into a 2-dimensional photograph. It will invariably lack the impact when you finally take it home. You won’t get the same feeling that you got when you looked at the scene. Because the photograph is inherently flat!

Nature Photography Simplified by Prathap. Composition Tips for Landscape Photography. Using Foreground element to create depth and visually interesting photographs.

I have cropped the foreground rock for illustrating how flat the photograph looks without a foreground object

The reason is clear. In the process of photographing, you forgot to create the depth. The easiest way to create the depth is to use a foreground object.

What is a foreground object? Anything that is in front of the main object!

Nature Photography Simplified by Prathap. Composition Tips for Landscape Photography. Using Foreground element to create depth and visually interesting photographs.

I have used rock as the strong foreground object to show the depth in the scene. Also the low position of the Camera enabled me to emphasize the depth in the image. Reflection cloud also emphasizes and adds to the visual interest in the image

Would any foreground object do?

Yes and No. If you want to create just the depth, then yes. But if you want to make it a compositional element which creates visual interest in the photograph, then no!

How to Create Visual Interest using Foreground?

If the foreground object is visually interesting to hold the viewers attention and direct him/her towards to the main subject of interest, then you have made a photograph worth viewing!

Remember that you are photographing a main subject/object because it is visually interesting to you. This is quite obvious!

But you have to find the foreground to create the much needed depth in the scene intentionally. This means, it is your job to find a visually interesting foreground now!

There are thousands and thousands of them in nature. You just have to look for them.

Let us look at some of the most obvious ones.

  • Rocks and their interesting textures in a stream
  • Shells/Pebbles in the Sea shore
  • Small flowers in the mountain range
  • Fossils in the Beaches/Islands
  • Small trees or plants in a grand scene
  • Fallen leaves in a forest

And the list goes on.

Nature Photography Simplified by Prathap. Composition Tips for Landscape Photography. Using Foreground element to create depth and visually interesting photographs.

There are multiple foreground objects used in this photograph of a Sunset scene.
I have emphasized the small pebbles and the jagged edges of the rock by using a very low angle creating a visually compelling image with added depth!

Just remember that, most often, you have to go low with a wide angle lens to exaggerate the foreground element (which is usually small). It is usually the texture, details, and color in the foreground elements that creates the visual interest.

Keep the Foreground Object Sharp

It is probably clear by now that you need to have the foreground object as sharp as possible in the photograph.

Why?

Because the foreground object is the closest element to the viewer. It better be sharp. Otherwise, the entire photograph would be ruined no matter how beautiful the main subject of interest is!

Yes…I know what you are thinking! Having a blurred foreground to make the subject stand out is a valid case. But let us keep it for another day!

Conclusion

Always remember one thing:

An expensive Camera and a super sharp Lens would only help you make a sharp photograph. It’s invariably the light and composition that makes a great photograph

Invest your time and energy (which is much cheaper option than buying a new camera or lens) in learning and practicing the composition techniques. It will help you throughout your lifetime no matter which camera or the lens you use.

What are the key composition techniques that you apply often in your photography? Which composition technique(s) helped you achieve great results?

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14 Responses to How to Create Visual Interest and Depth Using Foreground

  1. Eileen September 16, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    Thanks for sharing this article. It is written simple and straight to the point. I know I will try this and not have to reread the article several times to try and remember what was said. Thanks it is very helpful

    • Prathap September 17, 2014 at 1:44 am #

      Thank you so much for kind words Eileen. I really appreciate it.

  2. Michele September 17, 2014 at 8:53 pm #

    Well done. Love the example shots. Thanks.

    • Prathap September 18, 2014 at 12:46 am #

      Thank you very much! Michele.

  3. Cornel October 1, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    I have been following you for a while and I don’t usually do comments, just to busy really! but I think it is about time I take a minute to thank you for the many articles I have read from you which have helped me tremendously in my hobby. Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge. Much appreciated.

    • Prathap October 1, 2014 at 10:19 pm #

      Thank you very much for your kind words Cornel. I really appreciate you taking time to give me feedback. Thanks!

  4. Apoorva November 30, 2014 at 7:39 am #

    Lovely article and the simplest I have found. Thanks so much for sharing. Highly appreciated for simplifying concepts and devoting your time .

    • Prathap December 3, 2014 at 12:16 am #

      My pleasure! Apoorva. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  5. Deepanker December 15, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    We met Prathap today at Bharatpur sanctuary, me and my wife were amazed by the clicks he managed with thorough patience and talent. He shared his blog and we started following. Never knew we met such an accomplished photographer.
    Regards
    Yashu and Deepanker

    • Prathap December 18, 2014 at 8:08 am #

      Thank you so much for your kind words Yashu and Deepanker. I am so glad that you are following my blog. I hope we keep in touch. Thanks!

  6. samir mehta March 18, 2015 at 7:31 pm #

    as you correctly demonstrated, i, too, try to keep interesting objects in foreground. but i am confused about where should be my focal point. should it be in background, midway or in foreground. please opine.

    • Prathap March 18, 2015 at 11:04 pm #

      Hi Samir Mehta, Focal point could be in the foreground, middleground or background. Generally if it is a landscape, you are searching for a foreground element to hold viewer’s interest and to create depth. Which essentially means, your focal point is either in the middleground (maybe a person, boat, etc) or in the background (mountains, clouds, etc).

      I hope this helps.

  7. Myra June 11, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    A helpful article. Is it possible at times to include the camera settings used on examples used (say, at bottom of the photo)? Thank you for helping us along our photography journey.

    • Prathap June 11, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

      Definitely Myra. I will keep it in mind from now on. I have given complete camera settings in my photo stories. I hope you have read them. Thanks.

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