In Front & Behind
Most photographs—maybe all of them—have their most important element important literally up front, or at least dominant. As for the surround, even if it is nothing, a blank, you can really use it … as echo, a contrast, a mirror, to extend or contradict. Sometimes it is just energy. However you use it, it is an opportunity to create a tension that really makes your photo richer.
For this exercise, you’ll need really to work with it, to find the organic connection—literal, compositional, or both—between your main focus and other things in the frame (not necessarily physically behind it). You can seek out layered events or you can make them happen. Try both, over and over. This exercise in figure/ground is one of the most basic there is, and you need to get to the point where seeing and resolving absolutely everything in the frame, all objects and energies, is completely automatic.
If you get something that completely surprises you, by all means submit it.