Here’s a quick tip on composition: Before pressing that shutter, quickly scan the background for distractions!
Here was a photo I took of my daughter carving a pumpkin (Fig 1). I actually planned the shot to capture the moment when the top of the pumpkin was removed, since there is usually lots of hanging fibers and stuff that I though would make for an interesting picture. As you can see, I failed to take into account the background, which had a flower arrangement that was just about the same color as the pumpkin! It made it very hard to see the part of the shot that I wanted to capture: the hanging fibers and seeds and stuff. If I had just moved the flowers it would have made for a much better picture. In fact, if I had positioned the pumpkin so that there was no distracting background – such as the chair back – it would have made for a clearer photo.
As it was, I used the Brush Tool in Lightroom to reduce the saturation and brightness and decrease the sharpness and contrast of the flowers, and sharpen and add contrast to the inside of the pumpkin (Fig 2). I also reduced the Luminance of the orange color so it wasn’t so intense. The shot was not as good as it could have been, but it made the subject stand out more from the background.
So the next time you take a picture, especially if you have a few moments to think about it, scan the background for distracting elements such as bright or similar colors, shapes and general clutter. You will be rewarded with a clearer, more effective picture.