The next few weeks will provide plenty of opportunities for most of us to whip out the camera and snap a few portraits. From candid shots of visiting friends to the carefully composed holiday family photo, the background is almost as important as the subjects. Poorly composed backgrounds detract from the faces you want the focus on so to help you get some good portraits this year here are a few tips for getting good backgrounds.
1. Think about the background. Ok, so that one seems obvious but many people don’t give the background of their shot any thought until they’re sitting at the computer trying to crop parts of it out. Of course for candid shots you may not have a lot of control over the background but taking a quick glance before you press the shutter will give you a chance to take a step to the left and crop out that overflowing kitchen trash can.
2. Get up close. If the background is undesirable, but you can’t fix it get in close and let your subject fill the frame. This can work especially well with kids who look extra-cute close up.
3. Use your aperture. Aperture can be used to control depth of field and depth of field makes nice blurry backgrounds so even if the kitchen trash can is in the shot it’s not so distracting. Essentially a wider aperture makes a blurrier background and a small f stop number gives you a wider aperture. For a more tips on aperture click here.
4. Check out your neighbourhood. If your own home doesn’t really lend itself to providing a good background you may find that there’s somewhere nearby that does. It might be an open field or it might be a graffitied wall, that all depends on the photograph you have in mind but a short stroll with camera in hand might give you a bright idea.
5. Increase the distance between your subject and the background. This is another way of increasing the blurriness of the background and can be especially effective if you don’t have control over your aperture setting.
Like anything practice makes perfect so get out there and play, and if you find yourself with a portrait you love but the background still needs work check out this quick fix for cluttered backgrounds guide. Happy holiday snapping!
These are some good suggestions. Occasionally, I still can’t get the background soft enough, even wide open. What do you think of the new Alien Skin “Bokeh” software?