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Think about the total picture, take into account the various elements available and then shoot the picture. There will often be a variety of ingredients waiting to be added to the photo, much like adding vegetables to a salad to make it more appealing.

The two photographs shown here could have been a simple frontal view of a presidential candidate or a picture of Lee Iaccoco standing at a podium, or worse yet, seated in a car. Checking out the background made the difference.

Being competitive by nature helps in every aspect of life, even photography. If you are willing to settle for average, when good or great are just a half step away, then your pictures will be average.
Much of what we do that appears to be physical is actually mental and photography is no different. If you will engage the brain before and during your photography, you have an opportunity to outshine the other photographers around you.
As simple as it may sound, at the level of journalism practiced by magazine and newspaper photographers the very best never walk into a press conference without checking out where the subject matter will be standing and what is in the background. In the vast majority of press conferences there will be nothing of significance in the background in which case front row and near center will be perfect but every now and then positioning will become important and it may not be dead center.
Our example used here was a simple set up. Lee Iaccoco, then the head of Chrysler, was showing off an experimental vehicle at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas. Photographers that were not positioned properly were out of luck and settled for second best. Not a major deal to anyone but the photo editor at the newspaper and the photographer. They both want to win the game they are in and in journalism every day is a new day with new competition and challenges waiting. Winning the battle of the best is often played in the mind during the hours of preparation.
The same principals applied in the Iaccoco example can be used everywhere. Check out the background and the foreground and in every photo opportunity and when it matters most, use those ingredients to make your pictures better than the others.
Our second example of using the background belongs to presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey when he was speaking in Philadelphia.
We've long ago forgotten what the entire sign in the background said... something like Goldberg's or Goldsteins... and it no longer matters. By positioning ourselves to the side of Humphrey and getting down low enough so that the GO of the sign was located properly, this photograph was produced.

It was simply a matter of taking in all that surrounded the subject before shooting the picture.