Sometimes you really don’t have much to work with when you’re out doing a spontaneous photo session, so we’ve assembled a few things to take your subjects out of a lame location and into a dreamy shot. Your goal is to focus on subjects, so whether it’s your kids, pets, family or oldest daughter and her new beau, size up the situation and learn how to make the most of a dull landscape.

Camera First

Start by testing your initial camera settings. Fire off a few. Play with your settings. Adjust things ‘til you get into a groove. Continue to review after each photo to make sure the focus is spot-on, the framing is artful and the coloration is to your liking.

Each style of shot below will likely require a new re-jiggering of settings: things such as exposure, depth of field (DOF), maybe angle, and definitely point of focus should be considered. Know that (camera settings) change is good as you work through these:

Capture close up images of the local plants and flowers and maybe you will find something interesting

  1. Shallow DOF to blur-out backgrounds
    This is one of the simplest tricks is to do to blur-out the background. You can blow-it out (throw things into light or white) or soften items in the background to create what’s called bokeh. 

    How do you do this? If your camera has an aperture control setting, start by dialing it as wide as it can go (that means an f/number like f/1.4, f/2.8, etc. as opposed to f/8 or higher). If you have interchangeable lenses that require a dial on the barrel, again, select the widest aperture.Working with a smartphone or point and shoot? Pick the Portrait setting. Or experiment and try the Macro setting—that means you need to stand darn close to your subjects to get something in focus. Chances are you will fill your frame with subject(s) alone.

  2. Go low
    If you want nothing much in the background, position yourself such that you point the camera upward at your subjects. Lie on the ground, sit or crouch low. Think puffy pretty clouds overhead or clean blue skies. Maybe you want some dappled texture and light coming through—place subjects near a thicket ‘o trees.When executing photos from this angle be sure to watch where shadows fall on faces and monitor the overall perspective. You can certainly play up a Jack and the beanstalk vibe, but only if that’s what you want.

Look for patterns or landscapes to create interesting views

  1. Crop out the ugly and go wide or tall
    Maybe just a portion of your environment is lackluster—like the dull dirt road under foot—but there’s a wide horizon in the distance with a gorgeous sunset or rolling hills. Step back from your subjects, way back, and place them on that all critical Rule of Thirds point within the frame.Take a few shots, then imagine what the crop-out will look like when you are home editing photos (keep in mind how the Rule of Thirds will fall for what gets cropped out). Slice out the dirt road and make a long and wide photo.
  2. Angle it
    Take a lesson from Film Noir movie directors and intentionally shoot your picture at an angle. An extreme angle. You may be able to obscure ugly items in a background by doing so.

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