Photo backdrops are both useful and challenging to photographers. For example, a backdrop can make a subject stand out, but it can also distract from the subject, too. Some of the main photo background challenges you will encounter as a photographer include distracting focal points, protruding elements and competing lines. One or all of these can cause your subject to appear out of focus, look as though the building behind him is growing out of his head, or make the photo appear too busy and overwhelming. Here are a few basic tips which may help avoid these three common background challenges:
1. Check Your Background Before Hitting the Shutter ReleaseThis one may sound a bit obvious, but is something to remember every shot. Have you ever looked back through photographs, and discovered something in the background that was not noticed during the photo shoot? Before pressing the shutter release, scan the background for any distracting objects, colors or people who do not belong there.
2. Move Your SubjectIf you are not using a studio photography backdrop, and you find there are some distracting objects in the background, pick up and move your subject. Try a different location or find an angle from where you are at that is not as busy or distracting. It is amazing how a small step to the left or the right can change the overall background look of a portrait.
3. Change Your Shooting AngleAnother option besides moving your subject around is moving yourself around. If the photo backdrop is too distracting from your angle, move yourself a little to the left, the right or even sit on the ground and shoot up at the subject. You can also climb up a ladder or on top of something so you are shooting down at your subject with the ground or a floor drop.
4. Place Subjects in Front of Open SpacesOne way to create a blurry background without having to play with your camera settings is to place your subject a long distance in front of the background. For example, place your subject in front of an open field, which will appear blurry in the background. If you place your subject close to a background, such as a brick wall, the wall will be just as in focus as your subject.
5. Using Aperture to Blur BackgroundsIf your background is too distracting, try blurring it. Use your lens to make the background less of a distraction by making the background out of focus. The easiest way to do this is to use a wide aperture (remember, the smaller the number, the wider the aperture). Practice this technique by taking a series of photographs with different apertures, starting at f/20 and working your way down. The lower the number (wider the aperture) the blurrier the background will get.
6. Using Focal Length to Blur BackgroundsJust as you can adjust your aperture to blur the background, you can also change your camera’s focal length to achieve the same affect. Select a lens with a longer focal length which will help blur the background. In most photo shoots, the subject appears to take up more of the frame’s space, leaving the background a bit blurry.
7. Fill Your Frame with Your SubjectOne way of overcoming a background challenge is to remove it from the equation. For example, you want to fill the entire frame with your subject by getting up close to him. You can also use your zoom lens to tightly frame the shot and cut out any background distractions.
8. Make Your Own BackgroundAnother way to avoid backdrop challenges is create your own background by using a studio backdrop. Studio backdrops are made in a variety of styles, from solid colored seamless paper to retro muslin. You can choose if you’d like a neutral, plain background, or something wild and creative. You can also move things around to make the background appear the way you want it to. Do not be afraid to ask your subject if you can move some furniture around to make your background appear less cluttered.
9. Post ProcessingIf there is no way around beating a background challenge during the shoot, remember that you can always conquer it during post production. There are many different types of editing software programs available which can help you remove distracting objects and colors from the background.
-Backdrop Express Photography Team
Interested in learning more about photography backgrounds? Check out Why Should You Use Muslin Backdrops?
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