Using backgrounds for photography

Whatever sort of product you are photographing, there is always a decision to make regarding the background. A simple product may be wanted as a cut-out, so it can be used in all sorts of situations – on any colour, overlaid on another picture or just floating in space. This gives flexibility in use, but doesn’t add any ambience or sense of scale to the item.

Photography Background TipsEven if a fairly plain background is needed, some texture and interesting shadows can add a great deal to the feeling of depth and solidity of the subject. This is achieved with good lighting and usually some carefully placed reflectors. For more pzazz a reflective background material such as stainless steel, Perspex, glass or various plastics can be utilised to create interest and drama, which may make the shot appealing to editors to use, in trade magazines, to brighten the page. For this, a cut-out would look totally boring.

Tiny subjects, like micro-chips usually have to sit on something very smooth, or the texture of the background will overpower the chip and make it look clumsy. Often, we use glass so that a coloured and/or patterned light effect can be projected in the background. The worst problem here is the dust, that’s falling constantly. One tiny spec looks enormous, next to something 2mm across, and static electricity tends to drag more into the shot. This takes a huge amount of patience to conquer – and some digital retouching!

For food photography there is a plethora of backgrounds, that add style and atmosphere, and lots of kitchen based items, to help add a lifestyle look. We may paint up some rough boards, use natural stone, stretch out fabrics or use formica to add that vital touch.

With larger subjects, putting them in a ‘real life’ situation gives credibility and connection with the viewer. For instance, a fridge would look good in a professional kitchen, but photographing it in a real kitchen would be almost impossible due to lack of space and the disturbance to cooking. However, it can be easily mocked-up and built in our studio. We can put different coloured walls behind and easily change the floor covering to give the impression of several locations.

Furniture Photography BackgroundsNext up is furniture photography. This can be anything from a simple side table, with a little bit of a wall and skirting board in the background, up to a full sized room set. We use ready-made ‘flats’, some with windows in them, which can be screwed together in many different configurations to create as large a room as the furniture needs. We also have carpet in stock, so a straightforward set can be built quickly, for urgent jobs. For a large set there has to be a lot of planning and preparation, to ensure everything fits, and to get all the props, pictures, rugs etc that make it look like home. Through the window you also need an indication of the garden, to add realism, and a bit of sunshine coming in.

Creating the right combination of subject with appropriate background can make all the difference to improving buyer appeal.

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