Thinking in 3D – Foreground

Jack Sparrow in Chains
Jack Sparrow in Chains
A photograph is a two dimensional, flat image. But it is of a three dimensional world. You need to be thinking about how to tell the viewer about all three dimensions. To do this think of your image in terms of three parts

The Foreground, what’s in front the model.
The Middleground – not be confused with Middle Earth – where your model is.
The Background, what’s behind the model.

The Foreground Makes The Image 3D

A lot of the time we try to remove everything we can from in front of the model. We’re focused on just seeing her, and don’t want the distractions. But very powerful, deep images can be created by putting something between the viewer and the model.

Something in the foreground does is place the model in the 3D space the viewer is creating in their minds. They know what is behind her – she blocks it – now they have an idea what’s infront of her because something blocks her.

Depth of field helps with this three dimensional idea too. Normally the things in front of the model will be out of focus. They will be big and fuzzy and the viewers brain will use that to put the object closer to the camera in their mind.

The Foreground Focuses The Eye Where You Want It

The most obvious thing you can do with something in the foreground is block something you don’t want the viewer to see. Do you remember the scene in the Austin Powers movie where the to main characters are walking around naked, but they keep having their private parts obscured by things in the foreground? (YouTube with lots of off-color humor). This has a number of examples of using the foreground to hide things.

Another way to move the eye is to put lines in the image that will draw they eye toward your model. You can use foreground objects to make these lines.

Lastly you can add story information in the foreground. If you have a model sitting behind a desk and in the foreground on the desk is an out-of-focus gun, you’ve added a story element.