When you do photoshoots, it’s important not to overlook the background.  It’s amazing what a difference a background can make to the appearance of your image – whether it’s a portrait or a still image.  The background can detract from or bring forward important features you want to highlight in any image.

Keep It Simple

Don’t overthink it and end up with a busy background in an effort to be unique.  Most of the time, simple is best.  You don’t want the background to distract from the image that is supposed to be the main focus.

Avoid Conflicting Messages

While sometimes conflicting messages work well in print advertisements, they don’t often work well in portrait photography.  When you think you’ve found a great location, take a few shots of the location without the main image so that you can see how everything looks before you spend time there.

The Sky Almost Always Wins

While you may not think it’s unique, the sky never looks the same at any given time.  The clouds will be in different locations, and depending on the time of day you’ll get a different look and feel, due to the light.  If your focus image is special, it’ll all come together very well with the sky as your backdrop.

The Ground Works Too

Look down at your feet and imagine a different angle for your photos.  Are there leaves, grass, or rocks?  What’s down there that could be an amazing background for your focal image?

Contrast Your Main Subject

This is especially true when you’re taking portraits or product images.  You want the subject to stand out in an exceptional way.  If your main subject is red, you don’t want the background to be red.  You want it to be on the opposite side of the colour wheel, which is a shade of grey.

Look for Patterns and Texture

A background with some patterns (like brick) or texture (like leaves) is often a really good thing to put behind your focal image.  Try a vine going up a wall for a great backdrop for those prom photos, or a hay bale for a formal wedding photograph.

Make It Symmetrical

Eyes are drawn to symmetry and if you can find a background that lends itself to symmetry, it will make the main subject stand out.  Nature has a lot of that, such as a pond that reflects the sky and trees.

Use Interesting Lighting

The sun can offer interesting choices of lighting at different times of day, whether indoors or outdoors.  Try taking pictures of your subject in the same pose at different times of day to learn how the light affects the photograph.

A background can make or break your photo.  It can make a portrait stand out or it can make it look ridiculous.  Keep in mind applying good taste, the point of the image, and what it will be used for will go far to help you take successful photos with backgrounds that do them justice.