I am used to say that the background make or break the shot.  It is not always possible to choose our background.  When you can do so, please take advantage of it.  Our eyes and brain work in tandem and are isolating the subject from the environment in real life.  They enabled us to see in three dimensions.  This has a tremendous impact on what we see and what we DON’T SEE in real life.  Because our two eyes are focusing at 8 feet looking at this man, represented in this picture, the background located thousands of feet away is so blurred that it becomes undistinguishable in real life.  Our two eyes are 2.75 inches apart (for most of us) and this in turn is the equivalent of a sensor size of 6cm x 6cm.  This means 4 times the surface of a full frame sensor.  So you can appreciate how blurred the background would be in real life?

Now when we are looking at a picture, all the information is on the same plane.  Our brain tries to interpret the information sent by our eyes using as reference our normal three dimensional vision.  If we can see on the same plane this men, located 8 feet away and the background located 1 000 feet away clearly, our brain asses that the information is wrong.  Doing so, the feeling is not good which in turns contribute to the likelihood that we like the picture or not.

In this picture, focal length was 42.6mm on a Nikon Coolpix P7000 at f/5.6 (using 4.5 as the multiplier, this represent approximately 200mm).  In the original image, the distance between the subject and the background, combined with the haze that was in the air did contribute to an excellent background.

Using Nik Silver Efex Pro I converted to B&W, increased contrast and structure on the person only and add some grain and vignette to produce the distinctive look that work well with the beret which is an old hat dating from the 19th century.

So tell me, how do you like the shot?  Does the background is pleasing to your eyes?

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