Photography Basics: Backdrop And Lighting Ideas

Lighting and background ideas for photographers. Tips and hints for what to do and what to avoid.

With any kind of photograph, you must keep your subject in mind. To begin with, backgrounds should compliment and not distract from the subject or subjects of the photograph. Solid backgrounds should be used when the subjects in the photo are considered 'busy' or have a lot of conflicting colors involved.

The opposite is true for subjects in solid or semi solid colors. Backgrounds can be chosen based on colors or schemes that compliment the subject. When your subjects are people you should take into consideration their attire, skin tones and hair color. With fair complexioned people, you want to avoid light colored or pastel backgrounds so as not to wash the subject out. With darker complexioned people you want to avoid dark backgrounds, leaning towards the lighter end of the spectrum.

Lighting is an essential part of photography. Too much light and the photograph will be washed out or overexposed. Not enough light and you will have shadows on the focal point of the picture. Whether you use natural or artificial lighting, keep the direction it is coming from in mind. Lighting should shine on your subject at an angle from the front, usually shining from above. A 45 degree angle from above is usually best when using artificial lighting. This helps reduce shadows on the face of the subject. When using natural light, i.e., sunlight, try times in the morning or early evening. The light is usually 'softer' and this helps reduce the chance of harsh angles appearing on the subject.



Lighting ideas can be as various as the imagination of the photographer. For those special Christmas photos without having to pay a professional photographer, try turning off the overhead lights in your home, position your subject in front of your Christmas tree and tilt a table lamp so the light falls on the subject. Stand in front and to the side of the lamp to take the photo. The lights on the Christmas tree will offer contrast background lighting, while the lamp light will softly illuminate the subject. The same trick can be used with the subject holding a candle. In this case, stand in front of the subject and have them turn to face either the left or the right side of you while holding the candle in front of them. Again, have a small table lamp on behind you to add additional lighting to the scene. The subject then either looks at the candle or past the candle depending on what type of effect you want for the photograph. This will add soft shadows to the planes of the face helping accent the gentle tone for the photo.

Outdoor photography can be very expensive if you hire a photographer, but you can also learn to shoot some simple settings easily. For those romantic shots, position your subjects so that the light from the setting sun shines on them from over your shoulder. Just make sure that your shadow does not show on the subject. This gives you a natural background, and adds a 'romantic' touch to the photograph.

The best time of day for bright colors or active photos would be during the early afternoon when the sun is coming into its zenith. This cuts down on shadows cast upon the ground from both the subject and the photographer's bodies.

Children running and playing at the park or in the surf at the beach are wonderful scenes for a photo shoot. Children often 'cheese' in a posed photograph, but when they are at play, their expressions are genuine and you can capture that moment forever on film.

Lighting and background ideas are limited only by your imagination, you as the photographer only need to remember a few things. You subject is the most important thing in your photograph. Lighting and backgrounds should compliment and not take away from the subject.

© High Speed Ventures 2011