Photo Background Guide:
How to Choose the Right one for your Photos

Mastering the art of using appealing and effective backgrounds is quite crucial to taking your photography skills to the next level. The background of an image can be used to add depth to an image, project the subject more prominently or provide valuable info with regards to the setting. Either ways, the background of your picture is a quintessential piece of the puzzle. Without the right photo background your images could look flushed out or less impactful than you intended it to be. Even though from a layman’s perspective, the background of a picture may not seem as much but that’s the whole point of photography. Any pro photographer would know how the backdrop of an image can immediately make a whole difference to the viewer.

As a beginner, practicing on how to improve your backgrounds should be your top priority. It is however one of the easiest instincts to learn quickly. Whether you’re taking pictures of a product for an ecommerce store, or taking headshots, or even indulging in natural outdoor photography, image background plays a key role in making the subject stand out. It is important to keep in mind that background may either make or break your image, so always pay close attention to it.

Part 1 How image background plays a Role in Photography 630

Taking photos for pleasure is completely fine in which case you don’t need to pay much attention to the background of your image. But, if you’re out to hone your skills then read on to find out how NOT paying attention to your background can make you end up discarding most of the pictures you click.

After returning from a day of shoot, you transfer your hard work from your camera and on to your laptop or PC to take a look at the fruits of your effort.  Now, you begin skimming through them only to find out that most of the pictures need to be discarded. Why? Notice closely, how your subject is being overwhelmed by the background, or how the background isn’t creating enough contrast for the subject to stand out. Backgrounds are a huge part of the composition in a picture. Think of it like a supporting actor paving way for the lead actor’s performance. Let’s delve into how not having the right image background can take away from your images rather than contributing to their beauty.

Eliminate Distractions

If you see that your background is commanding more attention than the actual subject, then it is not the right background. Most of the time, when you click a fabulous picture where your subject is in just the right position but there seems to be something acting as an ink stain on the image. This ink stain is called a distraction. Supposedly, you’re out capturing photographs of birds and the owl you’ve captured has a tree branch sticking out from the back of its head. This tree branch would be too distracting for the viewer, hence diverting attention away from your main subject. Such circumstances simply require you to take the extra effort of moving slightly to the left or right to move the distraction out of the frame.

Over-exposed Background

Another instance in which your background can create difficulty for you to manage the subject would be when there is too much light. It could be so that there another object in the background which is exposed to too much light that is making your primary subject look less lit. Of course, there is the prospect that you can adjust the image in post-processing software like Adobe Photoshop. Even so, you may need to pick your background lighting carefully in order to avoid having to over edit your image background.

Superimposing via Bokeh

You will observe that the best wildlife and natural photography is one where there is a slight blurry background known as the ‘bokeh’ effect which highlights your subject beautifully. Many photographers often stress upon how complicated this maybe to achieve but it is actually a pretty easy technique. It primarily requires you to use a wider Aperture (which is usually measured by the F stop number in your DSLR) in combination with a wide lens like the 5mm prime. Just set your camera to Aperture Priority or Manual, and set it to the widest focal length which may be between F/2 to F/1.8 (Depending on the camera – Nikon/Cannon/Sony). Now focus on the subject and let your camera blur out the photo’s background.

Using differently colored backgrounds

As you already know, photography is basically the art of painting a picture with different colors of light (exposure). This is achieved with using contrasting or complimentary colors in the background that adds a variety of colors to your pallet. You can choose a background which has objects that present a consistent range of colors in it with very few distraction and just the right light. You can of course control the circumstances by making extra efforts like including different objects of your choosing, or even expend on a plain netting or sheet in order to get that studio like effect.

Part 2 How to Choose the Right Image Background

What we have learned so far that the background of your image should never distract the viewer’s eyes from the main subject. The primary pointers that you should keep in mind to get a jump start on things is that the background you chose for your subject shouldn’t be too loud, have too many illustrious patterns or comprise of distractions that takes the spotlight away from the chosen objet of focus. Rather, the backdrop should be such that it compliments your subject, and adds context or texture to the picture. Let’s look at some tips that helps the best photographers in the industry in clicking appealing and magnetic images.

1. Be mindful of your subject

When you are cooking a dish, you always start out by choosing the star of the dish carefully. Similarly, you need to choose and also understand your subject the same way in order to figure what type of background is most suitable. Whether your subject is a person, animal or inanimate object, pay keen attention to what colors it represents. Then search or set up a background that goes best with it such as a plain white background for an indoor model shoot or a mild bokeh for outdoor nature scenes.

2. Dial down on the distractions

When you go to a professional exhibition, you will realize that most of the appealing artworks are ones that have simplistic and plain backgrounds. It’s okay to keep things minimal as modern photographs are mostly so. In order for your view to quickly grasp the idea behind your portrait, you need to keep your background as plain as a canvas, and by ‘canvas’ we mean consistency which is free of clutters or unnecessary distractions. A backdrop that doesn’t consists of too much of variegated colors that creates good contrasts and lets the subject stand out. Then again, if you have a completely clean background then it may pose the risk of making your subject look superimposed. In such cases, you can look for sceneries that contains textures which augment dimensions into your photo, for example a vine covered wall or a wooden fence.

3. Lighting and Mood

Are you out to click a glamorous fashion portrait, or an artistic shot, or even a press image that must convey a deep rooted message?  Then what you need to do is focus closely on the mood which you set for your photos. Different intentions can be established through use of light, setting and color. If you want your images to look more naturalistic then clicking them in an outdoor setting with plenty of greenery and on a sunny day can help. Also, if you wish to set a more sullen mood filled with shadows, then you can experiment more with darker shades of colors and shadow textures to build contrast. Remember that lighting is the primary key to good photography. Applying different set ups can help you achieve variable changes to your photos. You can either opt for natural lights such as the light entering a room from a window, or even use studio lights to establish a canvas like background. 

4. Take Advantage of Negative Spaces

The use of negative space or blank areas that surrounds the object of focus can be a boon to building your composition. It helps facilitate the subject by isolating the eye’s attention to nothing but the subject of the photo. Negative spacing helps round up the composition of the picture since more attention is invested on the primary subject and you don’t even have to worry about any distractions in your background either. Consider these blanks spaces in your image as breathing room for your composition to be more flexible to the viewer. If in case you feel your image is becoming too crowded, incorporate some negative spacing to bring balance to all the visual elements.

5. Use Line Patterns to lead your viewers

It’s time to get a bit more creative with your skills in making your backgrounds pop! One unique way of doing this is by using patterned lines in the background of your subject to lead the viewer’s eyes to the center of attention. These lines could be anything from windows, outlines on buildings or designs and shapes in the horizon. Just ensure that these lines do not cross out your main subject otherwise they become a distracting element in the background.

6. Experiment with Depth of Field

Remember how we previously discussed about the bokeh effect? Well you can use this effect whenever you feel your background is too unmanageable in terms of your subject. You can use bokeh in your background by ensuring two factors in place. First, use a wide enough aperture or F stop between f1.8 to f/2.8. Second, ensure that your subject has enough distance from your background. The more the merrier! You can enhance the bokeh effect in your background through use of bright lights. Also, if you click it in a busy background then it will help as well.

Part 3 Tips While Choosing Background

Choosing the right background for your photos doesn’t necessarily need to be complicated. You can keep these quick tips in mind to help train your instincts while clicking!

Tip 1: Make sure Background Supports Story

To make your captured images truly stand out, each frame must be able to tell a story or at least convey some sort of context to the viewer. Each time you click a frame, it is a new opportunity for you to experiment with your own creative style. You can try using different color combinations that contrast with your subject so as to add depth to your picture. Each type of photography has its own elements which you can master to highlight the context in your images more sharply.

Tip 2: Avoid abundance of noise

You can use all sorts of objects and elements in the background of your pictures to make them stand out. Don’t be discouraged from trying out things that would enhance your composition. It is however crucial that you remove unnecessary clutters from your images. Objects that turn away the viewer’s attention from your subject is considered noise in your image. This can be done by making minor adjustments or through editing.

Tip 3: Create an Inspiration Board

Visuals often serve as inspiration that leads to better photographs. It helps you to simulate the composition you wish to click in your mind’s eye. Follow the work of well-known photographers whose work has caught your eye. You can also keep an album of your favorite past pieces or the photographs of others to garner inspiration from time to time.

Pro Tip: Use Photo Background Changer

Not satisfied with the background of your image and in need of making quick changes? Try out PixCut from Wondershare and reset or change picture background online instantaneously. With PixCut background changer you can easily edit or cut the background of your image with three simple steps. You can drag the image into PixCut or upload it. The picture will automatically get highlighted and then you can cut the subject out or simply paste a different background.

Features of PixCut

  • Easy to use features.
  • Automatic Selection.
  • Stunning picture quality.
  • Can be used for a variety of purposes like Graphic Design, Portraits or eCommerce.

Wrapping Up

Whatever the purpose, pay attention to the background of your pictures and the results will be rewarding. You can use unique techniques like the one’s mentioned in this article or free online photo background changer like Wondershare PixCut. Either ways, the background of your image should be one that is complimentary to the composition you are trying achieve.

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