Lately I have become a bit more flexible with the aspect ratio. At first I couldn’t separate myself from the 3:2 ratio, and I still like that the best, but I found that for portraits it leads often to ‘empty’ space which did not contribute to the image. I do not mean functional “negative space” but just superfluous real estate.
So I am experimenting with 1:1 and 5:4. The serie i am making now of people on the square in front of the railway station is very suitable for learning the artistic impact of different aspect ratios. This photo was cropped to 1:1, the diagonal playing an important role in the composition.
One of the tell tale signs of a more experienced photographer is his choice of background. In particular with travel portraits, to get the background right greatly improves a portrait photo. I have done that wrong (trees, poles, what have you coming out of heads, etc) many times before slowly improving. The main reason is that a beginner is so caught up with the portrait itself that he or she completely forgets about the background. Yet it is crucial. Recently I made an impromptu portrait of a lady in the downtown area, where the background is always messy. I noted the dark slabs of granite used to clad the supporting columns of a skyscraper and I used that as background (see photo). The portrait now ‘pops’ .
There are many pixel-perfect landscape photographs of amazing scenery. The right moment (light) and leading lines. However, often I feel something is missing, but I didn’t know what. The answer is simple: a foreground. Many of these photos are fantastic backgrounds without a foreground. Why? Because it is so hard to get a great landscape AND a compelling foreground. So if you see such a combination, it’s a winner.