Background patterns


Alpine flora. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Jude at Travel Words has embarked on a year-long project to improve her photography through a series of personal challenges (#2020PhotoChallenge) and she’s invited us to join her. You can find out more here.

I think it’s a great project, and when I found myself critiquing images for this week’s challenge, I realised it’s definitely time I took part and offered some of my images for critique.


Agapanthus, and more agapanthus. Using depth of field to create patterns. Image: Su Leslie 2019

The challenge is ‘to photograph a subject using a background which is a pattern without distracting from the subject’ — and Jude acknowledges that it’s a difficult one.

The issue of distraction is central I think. Too much overwhelms the subject, too little runs the risk of not being seen as a pattern at all. And then there’s the question of what the pattern is formed by — and does it make sense in terms of the subject?

I think some of the most effective photos I’ve seen that incorporate patterns into the background are urban scenes –think brick walls, multi-stories with endless glass, graffitti. Trawling my archives failed to turn up anything even remotely appropriate.

So my background patterns are made of light — bokeh if you like. Do they work? Do they fit the brief? I’m not really sure.

sparrows in western park20

Making patterns with light; bokeh is my friend (I think). Image: Su Leslie 2019

And what about this one? Too tongue-in-cheek?


A necessary pattern. Image; Su Leslie.

Do visit Jude’s challenge posts, and those of other bloggers who are taking part. We learn so much from each other’s comments.

34 thoughts on “Background patterns

  1. For me, the knitting image is the most successful. It’s arresting, and immediately explains itself. I like the sparrows too. The patterns of the dappled light add to the mood and bring me straight to a summery glade. I’m slightly less sure about the flowers, particularly the first one. I find the granular pattern a little distracting, without its adding anything. The second one, although harder to read, has a gentle, misty quality that I’d be happy to see as a greetings card (that’s not intended as an insult by the way!).

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  2. I agree with Margaret that the knitting one is the most powerful shot and I like sense of potential in the flat paper instructions in combination with the wool.

    I once read that the eye goes to the lightest part of a picture – mine does, so I do find the agapanthus one distracting. The bird one works better for me as the effect is more even. Cropping the first one square would have put more emphasis on the plant, or (given a magic wand) if the gravel had been a bit darker.

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  3. You should have saved the knitting pattern for next month’s textures Su! I think you are quite right when you say that this challenge needs a larger background pattern – have you seen Sue Judd’s contributions? She has a fabulous one with a dark patterned background and one figure as the subject which I think is a perfect example of this kind of photography. I like Bokeh, but this week the pattern should be one which is distinct rather than created. I thank you for your photos, and I love them all. Hopefully we’ll both find something more suitable now we know what we are looking for, but I agree that an urban setting is probably the place to find it.

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    • I’m really surprised at how many comments the knitting pattern shot has garnered, since I put it in there solely as a joke.
      I agree about Sue’s shot. It was looking at her post that made me realise that urban landscapes offer some of the best shots for this kind of photography, although I also think that the pattern has to make sense in the context of the subject, and that’s tough too.
      A really good challenge Jude — I was genuinely challenged, have learned new ideas and thought more about my photography. A win all round.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As usual I love all your photos but in the context of this challenge (and what an interesting one it is!) I’m particularly fond of your first one with the alpine flower – the pattern and especially the colour of the pebbles (?) are perfect to emphasize the flower!

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  5. I’m skipping the comments so I’m not influence by what other people have said. I find the first one the most distracting, even though I like it, because the background colors are so much the same as as the flower. I like the whimsy of the third one, but I think the one with the birds best fulfills what I thought the challenge was, at least as far as the pattern in the background not distracting from the rest of the photo. That being said, I guess the birds aren’t really a pattern. I like it anyway.


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  6. Pingback: 2020 Photo Challenge #9 – TRAVEL WORDS

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