Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Iím always on the hunt for unusual backgrounds for my portraits. Backgrounds play a key role in setting the mood. If your family is the outdoorsy type it would make sense to photograph them in an area that hints to their lifestyle. For instance, if the family spends a lot of time at the beach, capturing them walking barefoot together at the oceanís edge would make a great picture worthy of framing.
Unconventional backgrounds allow you to exercise your imagination. For instance, years ago I photographed my older daughter in front of a graffiti-covered bridge. Kids like that edgy look and with my limited artistic ability, I certainly couldnít have duplicated the graphics.
Backgrounds also can complement or compete with your subject. I wouldnít consider capturing a baby in front of a piece on a industrial site or a grandmother perched on top of a 55 gallon metal drum but it might very well work for a commercial portrait of the industryís CEO.
Keep in mind what time of day to photograph your subject. Mid-day summer sun (or anytime between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) is the worse time because of the harsh shadows that will fall on the face. There are ways around that but its takes artificial lighting and reflectors (who wants to mess with that).
If you do shoot in bright light, have the sun positioned slightly behind or to the side of your subject. If your camera has a flash option use it even on a bright sunny day. The flash will act as a fill and soften the shadows. It will also help balance the subject and the background.
An overcast day is good because it scatters or diffuses the light. The soft light also helps eliminate your subjectís need to squint. If your camera has a white balance control set it on overcast (the icon is a cloud). Be sure to change it back to auto white balance when youíre finished.
Some of my favorite local backgrounds are the front of the courthouse, Main Street in Kingstree, Welchís Park on Academy Street, and Springbank Spiritual Center (where I always make an appointment and leave a donation afterward). But simple backgrounds such as an old oak tree, a dirt road or a backyard garden in bloom are just a beautiful.
I donít photograph on someoneís property without first asking. Even if the building is abandoned I try my best to locate the owner and ask permission. Itís simple common courtesy and the best way to build your own background catalogue.