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Pay attention to the background
Here's one thing that separates snapshots from great shots: Clutter. It could be a distracting background, a tree seeming to grow out of Aunt Doris's head, or irrelevant elements distracting the viewer from what you want to emphasize.
How do you get rid of clutter? Pay attention to everything in the photo. Study what's in the frame, and do what you must to eliminate the distracting elements. How do you do that? Here are some de-cluttering techniques:
1. Use selective focus: choose a wide aperture to blur the foreground and background.
2. Zoom in: Use a longer lens to crop out unnecessary elements.
3. Move around: Reposition yourself so there's a less obtrusive background. This includes finding a higher or lower angle.
4. Pan: Move the camera with a moving subject. This keeps the subject sharp while blurring the background.
Just say nay: Cars, woman partially obscured by horse clutter up this shot and distract the viewer from my daughter's equestrian debut.
No horsing around: How many of the tips listed above do you think I used to get a less distracting background? Gear: Nikon D40, Nikon 55-200mm lens.