What Makes a Good Photo Background?

Background plays a vital role in family portraits. How you do find a good one
that suits your family?

Heather Gibb is a traveling photographer who often finds herself innovating a
photo backdrop on the go. She says you can do it too, IF you know what to
look for.

1. Simple or busy….you decide.

Decide if you want the background to have a starring or supporting role in
your photos. You want a prominent background when you have a single
subject. Keep in mind that the background is like another character in the

The more simple the background, the more creative the composition can be.
I find I do more photos with a simple background because I don’t like having
the subjects competing with the background.

Also, I think it can be interesting to have contrasting clothing to the setting,
like more formal attire in an urban setting.

2. Find color, texture or depth

Whether you go with a simple background or an obvious background, it’s
good to look for color, texture, or depth to add some interest.
Grass, flowers, berries, brick, poles and even dumpsters bring color, texture,
or depth.

3. Move or get blurry

This is where you can make almost any background work by how you choose
to shoot the photo. Look around and be sure there is nothing obvious you
don’t want in the photo – outlets, branches coming from someone’s head,
etc. By shooting down on the subject or moving to a different angle, you can
usually recompose the shot to make it more interesting.

I think one of the best things you can do is throw the background out of
focus. Here are some instructions on how to do that.

For DSLR cameras:
1. Switch your camera to Aperture Priority mode by turning the mode dial
to ‘A’ or on Canon models to ‘AV.’

2. Stand back a little and zoom-in your lens – this will accentuate the

3. Choose the smallest f-number that’s available. If you’re using a kit lens
and you’re zoomed-in it will normally be around f5.6.

4. To further accentuate the effect, increase the distance between the
subject and the background. So keep the person relatively close to you for a
head and shoulders shot and position them against a distant background.

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Heather Gibb is a traveling photographer who serves from Utah to New York
City. She loves to read, travel with friends, and get her running workout in.
She is a mom to 3 fun and crazy boys and loves sugar and candy.

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