I'm have been watching a course called the Fundamentals of Photography produced by The Great Courses. During one of the lectures I viewed today, the instructor emphasized the importance of having a good background. A good background is one which encourages the viewer to focus on the subject, rather than what lies behind the subject. What is behind the subject can be interesting and can most certainly add to the photo, but it should not take the focus away from the subject in a way that makes the subject seem less important. The instructor of the course encouraged the viewer to take time to focus on the background before bringing in the subject.
What about the times when we don't have a camera in our hands?
We go around viewing the world capturing many "photos" in our memories throughout the day. Take a brief moment to reflect on the memories you have today. Are they clear, sharp, and focused on a particular moment? Or do you struggle to bring to mind a clear picture? Maybe if you are struggling, it means that the background to a particular moment overpowered the moment itself. If your mind is wandering throughout the day, how can you expect to remember what you did as you reflect upon your day that evening? To have a clear photo, we must strive to clear up the background so that the subject could be in focus. One of my professor's recommends always keeping a list of the things you remember that you need to do or get at the grocery store. Writing these random thoughts down helps you to relax and focus on the present moment rather than cluttering it up with all of these other thoughts that could potentially cause you to worry or have stress unnecessarily.
Whether or not we have a camera in our hands, we should realize the importance of the background whether it be physical or mental. To let the subject shine in our photos or our memories, a complimentary background is essential.