What’s in a background? If you’re trying to create a beautiful portrait, your background either makes or breaks the mood, and can cause your portrait to go from okay to WOW.
Lets look at 7 common mistakes photographers make when choosing a background for their portraits.
1. Perspective. Where is your focus? Portraits are of people, not backgrounds. A stunning portrait will have the face of the subject in crystal clear focus, blurring out the background to make it separate from the subject. Depth of field is very important for perspective.
2. Strange angles. Does your subject look uncomfortable? Does she look out of place? Or is everything shot from the same angle? Play around with your subjects. Spice things up. But make sure they look natural at the same time.
3. Double heads and multiple limbs. Have you ever seen a portrait with a tree growing out of the subject’s head? Or how about a stream of water pouring from an ear? Before you snap the picture, take a closer look at your subject to make sure your photograph will be flattering to your subject.
4. Wrong location. What will your subject be wearing? Choose an appropriate location. Talk before hand about clothing choices, special interests, and the best place to photograph. A photograph on a Harley is perfect in a downtown industrial area, complete with jeans and leather jackets. The scene wouldn’t be nearly as perfect with an elegant ballroom gown.
5. Competing lines and colors. Busyness detracts from a portrait. Don’t lose your subject in the background. Make sure they stand apart from it. Colors should match. Lines should lead into the subject and make you focus in on him or her, not the background.
6. Reuse your backgrounds. Every portrait doesn’t have to be new. If you find an area that works, stick with it. Look through other photographers’ photographs to gain new ideas on locations in your area. Don’t reinvent the wheel – use what works.
7. Don’t force a scene. While it is good to have areas you like to work again and again, don’t rely on it too much. If your area is filled with sunlight and shadows when you show up, don’t be afraid to look around and try something else. If your subject is a child and they are easily distracted, placing them near a playground may be too much for them to deal with. Work with your subjects and learn what works best for them. Change quickly and look for ways to bring out the best in what they have to offer.