The Basics – Foreground Interest

Foreground Interest is yet another tool in the photographers bag of tricks that helps to draw the viewer into your world as well as to create depth in an otherwise flat two dimensional space.

I  prefer to photograph my toys using a fairly wide open aperture which leads to a very thin slice of the photographic plane that remains in focus (this is commonly referred to as a short depth of field). I like to pose my mini figure subjects in front of an out of focus background , this minimizes distractions and keeps the viewers focus on them. To combat a feeling of flatness to these images due to a lack of detail, I look for visual interest in my foreground.

Foreground interest can be found in a variety of ways; think texture, a reflection or leading lines. Many photographers ignore the space between the edges of the image and the subject – a veritable no mans land of underutilized space. Foreground interest is an important compositional device that can help the viewer meander into the image rather than simply being forced to immediately focus on the subject.  A little simple foreground interest, a few dynamic leading lines and you’ve created an image that draws your viewer into your world at a pace which you control.

This vintage Fabuoand photo has always captivated me. The harsh light, the strong leading lines the reflection that draws you into the photo, keeps my eye busily moving around the photo.
This vintage Fabuoand photo has always captivated me. The harsh light, the strong leading lines the reflection that draws you into the photo, keeps my eye busily moving around the photo.

While toy photographers work with small subjects our photos don’t have to feel small. By adding this layer of visual interest at the bottom edge of the photo frame, you will give your photo a feeling of depth because there is more for the eye to see on the way to the subject. By creating this interesting and dynamic entry point, you add an extra layer of visual interest for the viewer to linger over.

"Ooo Pretty Distraction" Here the small flowers in the foreground add visual interest and lead the viewers eyes deeper into the image.
“Ooo Pretty Distraction” Here the small flowers in the foreground add visual interest and lead the viewers eyes deeper into the image.

As you’re setting up your next amazing toy photo, examine the foreground. Does it help to tell your story? Is there sufficient interest to draw the viewer into the photo? Are you effectively using leading lines to direct your viewers attention?

Photography is a craft, a form of expression, a means of communication; why not use all the tools at your disposal to really drive your photographic point home? The more visually interesting you can make your photograph, the longer the viewer will spend looking at your image. Not an easy task in this visually fast paced world, but one worthy of your pursuit.

~ Shelly

If you have taken an interesting photo that you feel has excellent foreground interest, please share the link(s) below in the comments. I find we all learn more if we share our work with each other. 

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Joecow
4 years ago

Thank you for a great article on an interesting subject. I enjoy shallow depth of field and mostly shoot wide open myself. Generally I haven’t thought much about foreground!

Maëlick
4 years ago

Wow this post made me realize that all my outdoor photos fall in two categories. The first category consists of photos I wanted to take because I wanted to show some details of a natural texture I find interesting. I never realized how much using a minifigure as a main subject was actually an excuse to take a close-up photo of some nice rocks, wood or moss I found outside. Thanks to your post I’ve discovered that all of my outdoor portraits exist because of a natural texture I particularly like and want to show to the world. The second… Read more »

AliceinCleveland
4 years ago

Really enjoying your basics series! It is a combination of an interesting foreground and a healthy serving of leading lines that I wanted to utilize for this photo.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEL-MrymgYe/

It was my intent for the eye to climb the hill as our able friend did, rather than this just be a photo of him standing up there.

brett_wilson
4 years ago

Another wonderful post to add to my toolkit! Thanks Shelly.

Zao
Zao
4 years ago

Great article Shelly! I really like to read your “The Basics” post. It helps me to become a better toy photographer :)

Lynn Moore
4 years ago

I’m really enjoying this series of posts Shelly! I feel like I’m learning many wonderful tips. Now I just have to figure out how to incorporate them into my (very small) studio setups :-)

Thank you for sharing all this information with us :-)

Ann Van Breemen
Ann Van Breemen
4 years ago

Hi I’m new to the world of Legography and have just discovered your blog. I found it very interesting as I prefer to do outdoor photos with my figures. I find it fascinating and challenging to fit these little people into the big outdoors and make it look real. Heres’s one I took during the Tour de France bike race. I called it Tour de Force.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BH3WcP4B4lz/

Ann Van Breemen
Ann Van Breemen
4 years ago
Reply to  Shelly

Thank you Shelly, I will.