Far too often, I see the light and I compose the subject, but I pay inadequate attention to the background. Later, sitting at the computer, I think I picked a bad day to quit drinking, because there before me is a beautifully lit subject that appears to have a tree growing out of her head, or a scowling stranger over her shoulder.
Last weekend, I went into the backyard with my 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, determined to pay attention to backgrounds while shooting. Sometimes this required contortions that would get me shunned in polite society, but I think it was worth it.
From most angles, this poppy would have been surrounded by other poppies, irises, mulch, and all sorts of greenery and brown-ery. But for the photographer willing to lay down in the mulch, a very different composition appears.
I took many photos of bees in the poppies, but I had to wait patiently in a 3/4 crouch for this one.
Even at f/8, the 105 micro produces very narrow depth of field for a close subject, and that helps a lot with backgrounds that would certainly be distracting if they were sharp. Knees in the mulch, nose inches from subjects that could make me regret invading their privacy.
Of course, a background can be compelling in its own right, but it has to know its place - in the background! This was shot with the miraculous 85mm f/1.4. The smooth bokeh of the background allows me to exaggerate the colors without creating too great a distraction. I think.