A Few Pointers for Portrait Photography Backgrounds

It takes a lot of concentration and skill to  work successfully with people in photography. Landscape or nature photography affords you the luxury of time. People don’t. Whether they get fidgety and bored easily or they don’t want to sit there all day and roll with your creative urge, portraits require relationship skills as well as technical skills.

portrait photo

Photo captured by Keith Willette (Click Image to See More From Keith Willette)

One of the first aims in portrait photography is to capture the best side of people. The aim is to take them reflecting a positive and happy demeanor. Now this doesn’t mean laughing and kidding around (although it can), it can mean capturing someone when they are concentrating on something they really love doing. A thoughtful and meditative manner always makes an interesting photo. This can work well for people who play a musical instrument or partake in a creative hobby.

There is another important aspect of portrait photography that I wish to share with you. That is your outdoor background when you don’t have a studio. Your person and the props you use in the photo are considered your foreground but your background will enhance or completely kill a portrait photo. I’ll give you an example.

Think of the location in which you take the photo. You may have someone standing under a tree on a sunny day. Sounds nice, right? Yes, but you may not have noticed the dog taking a leak on the tree in the background—not a very nice example I know. I only say this because it happens. It’s life and it can happen to any of us. So unless you’re using a completely blurred background, or intend to adjust the background in Photoshop, be very careful.

A great way to combat this (as much as you can), is to make a list of locations that make for a beautiful background.

Here are some ideas:

  • Secluded beach
  • Field of green
  • Mountain range
  • Church
  • Old buildings
  • Sky

Keep your background simple. That’s what I was aiming for with the above list. It’s fine to have a busy background if you’re not going to have it in focus. To make this work I suggest making a detailed list of places that you can go to that are easy to get to and will make great backgrounds for your portrait. Keeping in mind this is if you do not have a studio. Also think about the light at the time of day, the weather, and local regulations about photography.

portrait photography tips

Photo captured by Alexei Jurchenko (Click Image to See More From Alexei Jurchenko)

You can work out what gear you need as soon as you have worked out your location. This will determine your technical needs and a creative plan usually manifests from there. You can choose whether to use soft lighting, a flash with a soft filter, hard sunlight, etc. It’s a very creative exercise and a lot of fun. You’ll be amazed at what you come up with.

If you have any questions about portrait photography, please drop me a line. But for now, good luck and happy shooting!

Amy Renfrey

About the Author:
Amy Renfrey is the author of two major successful ebooks “Digital Photography Success” and “Advanced Digital Photography”. She is a photographer and also teaches digital photography. Her educational ebooks takes the most complex photography terms and turns them into easy to understand language so that anyone, at any level of photography, can easily move to a semi-professional level of skill in just a very short time. She’s photographed many things from famous musicians (Drummers for Prince and Anastasia) to weddings and portraits of babies. Amy also teaches photography online to her students which can be found at http://www.DigitalPhotographySuccess.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Rikki says:

    I am interested in photography. Most, if not all, of the pictures I have taken are nature pictures. I have taken a few portraits but not very many. I have a Canon PowerShot SX130 IS. I have messed around with some of the scene settings and have had some good and bad pictures. I was just recently asked to take a friend’s family photos and her child’s baptism. I don’t have that much experience with portraits and would just like some pointers. I feel there is a lot of pressure to take great pictures for such an intimate occasion. I really don’t want to mess it up. Once again some pointers would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. A beautiful model especially her blue eyes that expressed emotions.

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