Add Professional Touch
"The more natural the background, the better the portrait."
All too often portrait backgrounds are thought of as a plain white, dark blue or black solid background and for many portraits these work extremely well. However just as each photo opportunity is unique so is the chance to find new backgrounds.
These are called portrait backgrounds for a reason - you don't want a "busy" wall, reflections, bright colors that take the eye away from the subject or anything that doesn't stay in the background.
Color is important but when the focus is on the subject it's much less so providing that the subject doesn't "disappear" into the background. Anything that takes the eye or focus away from the subject is bad for backgrounds.
As is recommended in most tip articles - shoot plenty of shots! It costs minimal and bad shots can be deleted but more shots increase the chances of getting the spectacular shot that makes doing this worthwhile!
Dealing with Groups
With multiple people in the photo it can be a challenge to get groups and deal with multigenerational shots as well as people in general - making your portrait backgrounds pays off in saving time and aggravation of getting the almost perfect shot that you can't fix.
At a country wedding vows renewal an astute photographer used the perfect portrait background - an existing red barn where family members were posed in front of it both sitting and standing. This allowed natural light and the worn red paint of the barn was a distinctive but not distracting backdrop.
Make sure there are no distractions on the people also - the spot or trace of lipstick or smudge of dirt becomes another distraction that pulls the eye away from the subjects just as much as poor portrait backgrounds do. Attention to detail is so important!
With family group shots if the family puts the effort for coordinating color make sure you also put the effort to coordinate the background as well.
A background that clashes means disappointed customers and this falls squarely in your lap in studio shots where the background is your control.
Outdoor Events Call for Creativity
Sometimes at outdoor events it's difficult to find suitable portrait backgrounds - if all else fails light clothing against solid trees or shrubs works.
Alternately if this is something that happens often a breakdown PVC frame and fabric can bring the background to you anywhere.
Either of these cases it's strongly recommended to get and use a tripod - inexpensive 'help' as it holds the camera at a set place.
People move - we think we're in the same spot but are a foot over, changing the view somewhat - once a tripod is set it doesn't move but allows the photographer to tend to details.
A sheet can work as background for small dogs and other pets, maybe for babies but not for adults and groups due to size. A larger background of 10x20 allows plenty of room to stand or sit comfortably. Remember that while portrait backgrounds are important lighting is as well.
Some lightweight sheets can show through to distracting things when light is brought in. Good quality backgrounds will cost more but also with care will last much longer and give better shots in the time they're used.
Value is always better than cost alone. It also allows experimenting with textures that compliment the backgrounds rather than detract from it.
Other backgrounds can be used for holidays or seasonal photos. An example can be a family photo with a child sitting on a sled rather than just in the lap or on a table. While the background should be solid and not distracting sporadic colors can lend itself to an extra spark in photos.
An example might be earth tones for a fall background color with a splash of orange in a pumpkin or in leaves or flowers as a prop. In this case it adds to, rather than detracts from the photo subjects.
Summer photos can also make use of natural flowers, parks, beaches, boats and many other interests as possible shoot locations, each with unique things to lend to the photo. When people are relaxed it carries through better in the photo, especially for those family members who hate their picture taken.
An experienced photographer can catch better photos naturally than in the "sit here, tilt your head, move forward" that is effective and works but seems like one of those games where you put hands and feet on colors and shapes! It's also much easier working with children and pets from a natural standpoint.
Pay attention to the portrait backgrounds whether natural or artificial and it widens your opportunity. With natural backgrounds make sure there's not a tree coming out of Jimmy's head or branches leading to Suzy's hand (unless she's holding them!).
Anyone can take a picture - a photographer sees the problems before they're printed and prevents problems. This insures those priceless 8x10s continue to be a focus of customers' homes.
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Portrait Photography Tips