Setting your photography apart from the rest may seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and edits, it’s a lot easier than you think.
It’s funny how little details (such as the subject not being properly emphasized in a frame) can make or break - what could be a - masterpiece. And what better way to position your subject than the failsafe edit of Separation? Here’s what you need to know:
Separation is the concept of creating a visually clear-cut differential between your subject and the background or everything that surrounds it. In a fixed or controlled environment such as a film set, this would be as easy as pie – you control the elements that fall inside or outside the frame. But if you’re at the site of the shoot, trying to work with natural, fixed features of the environment, here is where it gets a bit tricky.
You have 4 editing choices:
1. Physical Separation
First, position your subject as far away from the background as possible. We’ve spoken about this in detail in (check out the post below). The good news? This move comes completely free of charge. The bad news? This may not be practical in certain situations eg. where your subject cannot be moved due to natural circumstances.
2. Depth Of The Field
This is the zone of acceptable sharpness in front of and behind the subject that will appear in focus. Creating a small zone of focus will give you a shallow depth of field, which blurs out most of the image background and draws attention solely to the subject. Pros: quite easy to do. Just increase the focal length of your lens and the background will instantly start to blur. Cons: a camera lens with a lower aperture number is needed to create a shallow depth of field – and these cameras are quite expensive.
3. Colour Separation
Here we move on to colour theory. The greater the difference is between two colours, the higher the level of contrast. Complementary colours are located on opposite ends of the colour spectrum and when paired next to each other, produce the highest level of contrast. Due to the striking nature of these contrasting colours, they are often used to make a photograph stand out instantly. Pros: if the right colours are paired up, the result will be nothing short of breathtaking. Plus, you won’t burn a hole in your wallet. Cons: a proper Colour Separation is relatively difficult to do as it’s quite hard to instantly find complementary colours in the middle of your daily rush.
(Pro Tip: if you’ve hit this stumbling block, try Adobe Colour https://color.adobe.com/ to instantly find complementary colour sets)
For those of you who are new, exposure is the amount of light that falls on your camera sensor or film and plays a key role in how light or dark your photographs are. Exposure Separation is a technique often used in studio portraits to overexpose or underexpose the background, depending on what you’d want your final piece to look like.
An easy setting to pull this off? The studio, of course. The studio’s artificial lighting can be used to illuminate different parts of the frame. If you’re trying to pull this off on location, however, it would be difficult to bring lighting gear to the site and expose the image or video, especially if the subject keeps moving around. Pros: exposure is one of the main and the most significant forms of Separation. Cons: you would have to pocket out for lighting gear (which is costly) and to bring in a team to set up the gear to the location as well.
As useful a feature as Separation may be, you wouldn’t always need it. Analyse this picture by Jade Masri. It’s clear that the two women and one man in the centre of the frame, are the subjects, although there’s little Separation between the subjects and the background. It is also made clear that a concert is the subject in the background.