Tag Archives: portrait photography

tall dry grass copyright Aloha Lavina.

Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits

Background is always part of image design. Incorporating a background effectively into a portrait is something that can enhance your image and make it unique.

Pay attention to geometry.

Because the brain likes to organize things into patterns, geometry is something that can enhance your portrait and make it pleasing to the viewer. Lines straight or curved, that lead to the subject can help to isolate the focal point of an image from all the other information that is in the design. Here the curve of the pool brings a variation into the square tile design that serves as the background to the image.

wedding portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

A curve can accentuate a portrait with a textured background.

Grunge can give an image a textured effect.

Grungy backgrounds look cool, but there’s actually an artistic purpose to using them. A grungy background helps to contrast, say, a subject with smooth skin. Placing the subject against a background with grunge and texture makes a portrait pop with contrast.

Nick Sotavongse Jewelry Design image copyright Aloha Lavina.

Grunge can give the added contrast to a model's smooth skin.

The background colors can give a portrait atmosphere and mood.

Especially at a shallow depth of field, say f/5.6, a portrait with a lot of texture in the background can help to separate the subject from what’s behind her. In this portrait, the green foliage is blurred by the shallow depth of field, rendering the outline of the model sharper in contrast. Although the background has texture, it doesn’t take away from the subject because it has a limited color palette.

portrait copyright Aloha Lavina.

A textured background can be less distracting at a shallow DOF.

The background can add dynamism to a portrait.

Even a background with lines that intersect the model’s figure can work to make a portrait more interesting. In this portrait, the grill pattern behind the model might seem to clash with the model especially in the complicated patterns of her clothing. But the lighting serves to separate the model from the background just enough to make her stand out. In addition, the background helps to ‘point’ to the Gaga-esque shoulder pads she’s wearing, giving the image the purpose for its design.

Vachini Kraikrish for Muse Hotel copyright Aloha Lavina.

Lines in the background can add a dynamic tension to a portrait.

A uniform texture in the background can help to make a portrait interesting and give it depth.

Even with the interesting colors of the sky, this portrait would have been less interesting without the tall dry grass behind the model. The grass serves two purposes, to create textures behind the model, and to give the image layers that give it visual mass. Without the grass, the portrait would have only had two visible planes, making the negative space of the sky less interesting.

tall dry grass copyright Aloha Lavina.

The background can add visual mass and depth to a portrait.

If you’re looking or a place to shoot this week, why not try to find similar backgrounds and try your hand at textured design in your portraits?

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
When You have to Wing it
From Idea to Image Part I: Planning
From Idea to Image Part 2: Lighting Clothing

How Different Lenses Help You See Creatively
Finding Good Photos Where They Hide

using props in a double portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Prop it Up

Make sizzling portraits tip # 5: Use props to make portraits pop!

Beauty shots or closeup portraits of a beautiful person are favorites among photographers. Many hobbyists get hooked into portraiture because of these types of shots. One of the challenges of a closeup shot is how to give it more impact, how to set it apart from the thousands of beauty shots out there. One simple answer to this challenge is to use props.

Props are easy to add to a closeup because they are usually easy to get, and you don’t have to change the lighting setup or makeup to use the prop. But a prop can help you improve your closeup shots by adding to the composition. Let’s look at some ways you can do that.

The photo below uses a scarf to bring an element of repetition into the composition. The edges of the photo are framed by the repeating shape and lines of the scarf, bringing the attention to the center of the frame, the face.

closeup portrait using a prop copyright Aloha Lavina

Use a prop to add repetition into the composition. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

This next photo uses props to add repetition to a double portrait. The two models are flanked by the masks they are holding, making the photo interesting with the pattern of faces both fake and real, alternating inside the frame. What adds to the effect of the composition is the repetition of colors; repeating the black and red and white pattern brings a graceful variation into the repetition.

using props in a double portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Props can add a harmony to a photo. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

You can also use a prop to give you leading lines. In the first photo of the concept ‘fire,’ the model is holding the piece of fabric out, and I tilted the camera so that I could use the cloth’s line to lead to the model’s face.

prop adding leading line copyright Aloha Lavina

Use a prop to add a leading line. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

In the next double portrait, again I used the cloth, this time to add tension to the composition by leading the eye with its lines first from one of the models to the other, and back.

using prop to add tension to a composition copyright Aloha Lavina

Use a prop to add tension to a composition. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Sometimes, all you need is a bit of color and shape or texture in a composition to add to its impact. In this last photo, I focused on the model’s face but added a bit of her red bead necklace to the shot. This little splash of color just was enough to balance out the texture from the net of her hat, and the graffiti in the background. By placing these three elements in a sort of triangle, I added a compositional frame to the closeup shot.

bits of props work too copyright Aloha Lavina

Bits of props can work, too. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

Introducing props into your closeup portraits can help you add impact to your photos. With a bit of imagination and simple compositional techniques, props can make your portraits pop!

Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

You might also like:
Light is the Thing
10 Cliches a Photographer Can Believe
Making Expressive Portraits
Concept is Everything
Using Location to Make Your Portraits Sizzle