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Background Matters: Portraits & Headshots

Finding the best background for your portrait has a massive impact on the end result. Arguably, it is more important than any equipment or expertise. Knowing what to look for and how to utilise the locations around us can really help your image to communicate the right message! A portrait signifies who you are and what you are all about, and as such, it is so important that everything present within the frame is actively there to help tell your story. Sometimes, the focus should be on the model, and that’s when we can utilise simple colour block backgrounds. Other times, the portrait acts as an introduction to who a person is, and in those cases, it is crucial to find the best background for an authentic representation. Here are some things to consider when looking for that perfect background. Professional headshots

If you have access to a studio, or even if you want to get creative with a bedsheet and some lamps there is some portrait lighting techniques that are perfect for creating a more professional headshot, think portfolio images and business headshots. You can utilise a black background with a low-key lighting technique for a moody and atmospheric feel. If you are looking for a bright and youthful feel, then you will instead want to use a white background with a high-key lighting technique. A great tip with a white background is to position your model near a large window and use natural light. The window will help diffuse the light covering your models face and you will retain more details than if you used high-key lighting. Portraiture Introducing an outside location as a backdrop is a really creative and authentic way to advertise exactly who you are. You should always consider the storyline of your shoot. What message are you trying to convey? Who is your model? And, what is the purpose of this photograph? Asking these questions will help you to choose an appropriate background.


An actor’s headshot may benefit from a plain black backdrop and impactful lighting, whereas, for a solicitor, it would make sense to include a nod to their profession within the frame. This could be something like a courthouse in the background. In doing this you are communicating their whole brand in a single photograph making it easy for their clients to know exactly what they are offering. These subtle visual cues paint a picture of who they are and what they do.


When you are shooting outside, remember to take your models hair and outfit into account. A red headed model could blend into an autumnal scene but would pop against a lush green field. So always consider your model and look for contrasting or complimentary tones on location. You should also make sure that your background is not distracting. Busy prints and active locations can steal the eyes focus. Find a location that puts the model first, the background should be an asset to the image and the model should always be the main focus. A creative way to use outside locations more abstractly is to look for interesting tones and textures and shoot with a shallow depth of field. When you shoot with a shallow depth of field the background will become blurred. This gives the illusion that your model is brought forward out of the scene and the focus is really on them. This is a great technique when you need a headshot to pair with a personal account or story.


Where we come in:

Here at Stace photography we do the hard work for you. It can be time consuming to know where the best locations are and as professionals, we are comfortable adapting to any weather conditions and changes of light that England may throw at you. We pride ourselves on finding backgrounds to your portraits that make sense for you. We are professional story tellers and we want to help you convey your message; whatever it may be!


Background Matters!

A background really does work to enforce the message of the photograph. From putting all eyes

on the model to mapping out a story of who they are, the power of the background is undeniable! Portraits and headshots work as a visual advertisement and as such they should be easy to read and promote authenticity. A portrait is often one of the first things clients will interact with and as such it should be an accurate and informative representation of who you are. Backgrounds matter!





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