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  • Writer's pictureGary Holpin

Using foreground interest for more interesting photos

Updated: Jul 20, 2023

One of the main challenges of landscape photography is trying to make a 2-dimensional representation of the real world interesting to look at. Done badly it can make a viewer glance at an image and immediately look away (especially on these days of social media when it's all too easy just to scroll past!). Done well, however, a 2-dimensional image can be engaging, and make the viewer want to explore further.

The tips and tricks which can help to make a 2-D photo more interesting are referred to as 'composition rules' and used successfully can greatly increase the chance of moving from a 'snap' to a well composed and interesting image.

Layers help to give depth

One of the most powerful composition rules is using layers to give the impression of depth in a photo. This means considering using interesting elements in the foreground, middle ground (where the main subject of the image normally resides) and background. The idea being that the eye is drawn through the layers from front to back, helping to give the image depth. If more than three layers can be included, then the sense of depth can be even greater.

In many landscape images, the background can be provided by the sky, especially if it has clouds for some interest. Quite often the middle layer is where the main subject and focal point of the image normally resides (such as a range of hills, or a lighthouse, or a Dartmoor Pony). The layer that is most often neglected is the foreground, and not having foreground interest is most likely to lead to an image feeling a bit flat and lacking depth. It is therefore particularly important to try and include some interest in the foreground.

A landscape photo of Honiton by Devon photographer Gary Holpin Photography

In the foggy Honiton morning photo above, I've used the technique of layering to produce a more interesting image with more depth. The sky, hilltop, and fog all create layers in the upper part of the image. I have used the church as a focal point, but rather than just having a large extent of buildings in the lower half of the image, I have used the curve of the hill as an additional foreground layer. Hopefully you will agree that this use of layers helps to draw your eye back through the image, giving it more depth. So, the next time you are taking a photo of a nice view in the landscape, think about how you can use some layers to add depth, especially by including some foreground interest.

Want to learn more about composition?

Improving composition is the easiest way to quickly improve your photography and is at the core of my beginners photography training courses. If you want to learn more, why not consider one of my one-to-one courses, or if you're not local to Devon, one of my weekend residential workshops?

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