TIP #2. SIMPLIFY THE BACKGROUND
It's all about the storytelling. A confusing background competes with the subject for the viewer's attention, leading to a less than satisfactory portrait.
Remember that everything visible in a photograph is there only because the photographer chose to include it. If the background is cluttered, the photographer chose to include the clutter -- either creatively (good) or carelessly (bad).
If the photographer observed the clutter and recognized it to be an important storytelling element, he used it creatively (hopefully in an effective manner). If the photographer did not notice the clutter, however, its inclusion is careless and usually results in a photograph that disappoints: The photograph doesn't tell the intended story.
So, how do you simplify the background?
Often, it is just a matter of viewpoint. You might move in closer to your subject. (An under-appreciated trick that solves many, many photography problems!) Or you might try a different viewing angle. Rotating around the subject just a little bit (left/right/up/down) might be all it takes. If these fail, try moving the subject instead. Again, having your child take a little step, to one side or the other, might be all you need.
Technical means for simplifying the background include using a more telephoto lens (to bring the subject closer to you) and using a wider aperture (to make the out-of-focus background a soft blur).
Keep in mind that a simple background doesn't have to be bland. It should help tell the portrait's story.
In this portrait of a young artist, I chose a strong graphic design. The background is bold, but it is still simple. Your eyes are attracted to the contrast between the red and beige colors on either side of the image. And, in the middle, -- at the line of strongest contrast -- you find a lovely young woman, smiling back at you. It is an effective storytelling portrait.
Once you've found great light (see Tip 1) and a background that accentuates your subject, you've come a long way towards a memorable portrait of your child.
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To start planning a studio or environmental portrait session for you and your child, call me at 703-729-3780. I'd enjoy the chat!
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My Northern Virginia wedding and portrait photography studio is conveniently located in Ashburn, Virginia, just west of Dulles International Airport and north of the Brambleton shopping center.