Guest Article by Ralf, based in Idaho, he's a studio photographer and blogger. You can follow him on Flickr and Twitter.
Never underestimate the power of using backdrops in portrait photography. Backdrops can contribute a whole new dimension to your art in the form of textures, scenery, color, etc. The sky's the limit with the thousands of different backdrops to choose from to enhance your photos. In a photographer’s toolbox, a quality, custom backdrop is a necessity.
A scenic backdrop is a great addition to the storytelling facet of portrait photography. You can let your imagination run free with the use of custom scenic backdrops. By adding a background scene, you are illustrating to the viewers, glimpses into your subject’s mind at that very moment. Do you want your subject lolling about in the warm sunlight of a charming cafe in Paris, France? Can you picture your subject navigating the crowded streets of Japan? These stories can all be divulged with the help of a scenic backdrop. Look at the couple below in the photograph. Would you feel the same about this photo in they were standing in front of a plain, black backdrop? Probably not. The whimsical, majestic feel you get from this particular photo, comes from the Castle in the Clouds backdrop.
Not every photo backdrop needs to depict a story. Sometimes, a solid color is what you need to create your desired effect. A solid color backdrop lets the subject stand on its own and speak for itself. There are no distractions or busy scenery to take away from the subject. The photo below, using the Black Muslin Backdrop, is powerful. In this instance, the subject is this woman standing fierce, standing proud and no imagery is needed at all. There is a silence about this photo that speaks volumes. Solid backdrops can be especially useful in portrait photography because essentially, you are trying to capture your subject’s true personality.
Texture in portrait photography can be what you need to create a stunning, dimensional photo. In photography, you are always striving to draw in your viewer. You want to first catch their attention, and then hold onto it. Texture can be extremely interesting and a textured custom backdrop is a great way of achieving that affect. The photo below is a solid Sage Muslin Backdrop however, it looks layered in different shades of green. With a little trick lighting, a textured, sombre color effect is formed.
It is important to remember the positioning of your subject in relation to your backdrop. With a backdrop that depicts a scenery, it is even more important to keep your angles in proportion to the backdrop. For example, in the From Russia with Love Backdrop shown below, the subject would have to appear smaller than the palace in order to seem proportionally correct. Keeping that in mind will ensure that your photo is believable. It is also a good idea to always remember the rule of thirds. This relates to the idea that there is an imaginary grid of 9 squares over your photo. Your subject should be placed so that the points of interest are hitting the intersecting lines, in turn, ensuring a natural balance to your photo.
Backdrops are a must use apparatus in your photography “toolbox.” The great thing about them is that they are portable! You can literally take your scenic backdrop right outside, or even to a client’s house for an in-home booking. The custom solid backdrops can be especially versatile as you saw in the Sage backdrop photo. A photographer can never have enough “tools” to assist in creating the absolute best vision of art possible.