Before you press the shutter release, quickly scan around the viewfinder for distractions – anything that doesn’t make your photograph stronger should be ruthlessly culled. Pay particular attention to out of focus highlights in a background – the sky showing through gaps in tree foliage is a classic example. Your viewers’ eye will be drawn to these.
Don’t be afraid to try and mask these with your subject or shift your viewpoint to cut them out altogether. Watch out for skies with no colour in them. A flat, greyed-out expanse can drain a picture of life. It’s often better to not feature the sky at all at such times. When taking pictures of people, animals or flowers, watch the position of the horizon – you don’t want to decapitate your subject with a soft horizon line or change in tone. Be prepared to drop or raise the position of the camera and angle it up or down to isolate your subject against a softer, more uniform backdrop.