Composing pictures with foreground interest: simple ways to draw in the eye

Composing pictures with foreground interest: simple ways to draw in the eye

However strong the mid-ground and background in your landscape shot, it will fall at the first hurdle if it lacks foreground interest. There’s nothing particularly complex about this element of photo composition theory; it’s simply about composing pictures so that there’s an object or natural feature in your landscape image that strikes the viewer’s eye and leads it into the shot.

Composing pictures with foreground interest: simple ways to draw in the eye

All images by Paolo de Faveri

It’s got to be in the foreground, and it’s got to be interesting or eye-catching – in other words, aesthetically pleasing. That’s why you tend to see mossy boulders or flowery banks placed in the front of the best landscape compositions, rather than scruffy hedges or hijacked shopping trolleys.

However, placing boulders in the foreground of all your landscape shots will soon get boring. Read on for some essential landscape photography tips for composing pictures with interesting foregrounds, with exclusive insight from Italian pro Paolo De Faveri (who took this image).

“Landscape photography is all about depth and perspective,” De Faveri explains. “Different planes – from the very near to the infinite – should work harmoniously to give the viewer a real sense of place. Since a good landscape photograph is a photograph that communicates, that speaks to the viewer and provokes an emotional response, a good foreground is a foreground that contributes to the emotion.

“So composing pictures with foregrounds is very important, particularly as the wide-angle lenses used by most landscape photographers mean that they’re one of the first things you notice in an effective composition.”

There are many ways to make a foreground work. If you want to add dynamism and depth, you look for curves or leading lines capable of drawing the eye inside the scene, up to the distant part of the image; if you want to create drama, you might look for an object in the foreground that’s been hit by the light, contrasting nicely with a dark, ominous sky in the background.

Composing pictures with foreground interest

And, as De Faveri explains, you can also ‘make’ your own foreground and add mood to your pictures, by taking advantage of moving elements, such as waves, a stream or grass waving in the wind.

“But for me, the best foreground is the one that smoothly merges with the rest of the scene, that harmoniously complements and enhances the message that you want to convey,” he says.

PAGE 1: What is foreground interest?
PAGE 2: Set up your camera to create depth
PAGE 3: Final tips for composing pictures with foreground interest


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  • Geoff Chalcraft

    Agree- but that first image has crossed the boundaries into ‘cartoon’.