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Backgrounds for portraits

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Category: Portraits and People

Check your background - Backgrounds aren't always given as much attention as they should.

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The background is crucial for successful portrait pictures but it is often over-looked or not taken seriously by keen photographers. For much of the time, the background is what is there naturally and it is up to you to make the most of it. Out of focus lawn, trees, white walls etc and all work well. The key is to use a wide enough lens aperture to throw the background attractively out of focus.

Here though we concentrate on purpose-built backgrounds that you buy for your portrait work.
Broadly, there are three types and all are available from Warehouse Express.

Paper background rolls
Comes in two widths, 1.35m and 2.72m, the latter being the width you often find in studios. A wide range of colours are available with white and black being the most popular. If you had to buy just one colour, go for white – with different lighting, a white background can come out grey, black as well as white. Use coloured filter gels and you can even introduce colour. Of course, the thing with paper background rolls is that you end up cutting off the floor bit after a shoot, so there is a cost. Good thing, though, is that you have a clean backdrop for each shoot.

Supplier of paper backgrounds: Colorama

Muslin cloth
Available in different widths and lengths as well colours. Buy a crease-proof version if you have the choice because cloth backdrops can look poor when stored for any period of time. Can be front lit or back-lit. One big advantage with cloth backdrops is that it is easily portable – unlike wide paper background rolls. With cloth and paper backgrounds, you will need a support system – the cheapest will be two stands and a crosspole to hold the background or cloth.

Supplier of cloth backgrounds: Interfit

Frame backgrounds

These are material backdrops but on a metal frame so fold up to a fraction of their working size. They are very convenient for location shooting because they are easy to carry around – folding the things back up needs practice, though! A black/white job is the best one to buy. This background type can just be rested against a wall or hung from a lighting stand.

Suppliers of folding backgrounds: Interfit

You've read the article, now go take some fantastic images. You can then upload the pictures, plus any advice and suggestions you have into the dedicated Photo Month forum for everyone at ePHOTOzine to enjoy.

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