Taking Beautiful Photographs: Backgrounds

Another important element to think about when you are taking photographs is the background.   The background can really draw attention to your subject, or distract away from it.

First, before you even start shooting away it’s important to check the surrounding area where you will be taking pictures.  A large telephone pole, bright blue playground, or even oddly place tree limbs can really take away from an otherwise beautiful photograph.

If the location where you are shooting has a lot of distractions you can change the angle from which you are shooting from.  The general rule is to get down low and be on the same level as your subject, but here, I got slightly above the subject (sweet Lily) and made the grass the background, bringing more focus to the subject (again, gorgeous Lily).

If you are shooting indoors, and having difficulty finding a suitable background, make your own!  I purchased several yards of this opaque, matte black fabric and use it consistently to take black and white photographs of my children.  I have also seen some photographers use bright, graphic prints to make a fun and colorful (but still consistent) background.

Use what you have!  When taking pics  (again of baby Lily when she was oh-so-new) at an unknown location, like inside of someone else’s home, search around.  Lily’s older brother had bead board all around his room, and it made for a nice backdrop of a sleepy baby Lily.

It is also important to remember that the closer the background is to your subject, the more sharp and in focus it will be.  Here, the brick walk is very crisp and apparent, but because the texture and tone remain consistent, it allows the subject to remain the focal point.

Typically, when shooting portraits, you want the background to be blurred and out of focus.  You do this by widening you aperture, (the smaller the number, the wider the aperture).  Also, the farther away the background, the more out of focus it will be.  You can also always go in later and blur the background with photo software, using a softener.

And lastly, one of my favorite ways to ensure a non-distracting background, is to fill the frame with your subject.  Oh how I love close-ups of those sweet little faces!

Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised how an unexpected background can really liven up and change the mood of a photograph!  Like this old, faded yellow entryway.  I loved the way it looked  behind little Lily  (it didn’t hurt that her little red shoes popped against the yellow, and the blue of her jeans looked brilliant)!  You will never know until you try!

Happy picture-taking!

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July 26, 2011. Photography.


  1. Chrissy replied:

    Thank you so much for the information! As a stay at home mom, I also take photographs. (Right now it is just a hobby but have been paid to do alot of weddings.) I am always looking for tips! Thank you again so much! :)

  2. Mercedes Hayes replied:

    You are absolutely gifted. Thank you for the tip. I am going to try to put your tips to work!

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