The background to your photograph is fundamental in creating a well-composed and striking image, but can easily be forgotten when directing a model on a shoot. A distracting, cluttered, or jarring background can sadly ruin an otherwise good photo so it deserves careful attention both before and during the shoot.
A background can help to tell a story, and therefore it is important to plan ahead and pick a background that adds to the image you are creating.
An easy way to create a visually cohesive background is by keeping it simple and uncluttered. This will allow the model to be the central point of the image without any distraction. However, even with a plain background it is important to consider how the background can integrate with what the model is doing in the foreground. An easy way to create a relationship between the two is by including complementary colours or an element of colour matching. This will draw the two together and create a strong, well-composed image.
To make the model stand out, a plain but contrasting colour for the background can help the subject to visually pop. Shallow depth of field and background blur will also help to make the model stand out from the background by creating visual contrast. By blurring the background, the viewer can still create an impression of the surroundings, providing context and story, but the eye is less likely to be distracted and can focus on the main subject.
Deciding on a visual theme or emotion for your shoot can also help in choosing a background. Cities and towns provide a busy, urban feel whereas woodland or outdoor settings with trees and flowers will create a softer, natural look. A model also doesn’t have to always be placed directly in the forefront of the image. Using foreground frames that incorporate elements of the background in front of and surrounding the model can be a fantastic way for both to work in harmony with one another and feel truly integrated.
When shooting, consider the distance between your subject and the background. If you are using a busier background to help tell a story, try placing the model at a distance from the background.This will create the effect of the model being more visually separate from the surroundings and therefore the eye will be more easily drawn to the subject of the image.
When out on a shoot watch out for busy cluttered backgrounds, objects coming out of the subjects head and clashing colours. These will distract the viewer and create a visually jarring image. If you cannot avoid a visually distracting background in your image try getting in close and filling the whole frame with your image. Alternatively, in post-processing, try cropping your image to eliminate busy and cluttered areas.
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