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Senior portraits are fun to shoot and they give you, the photographer, a lot of room creatively. When shooting graduation portraits, especially in a studio, you’ll want a clean background so your subject is the focus. Seamless paper is the perfect unobtrusive background solution. While seamless paper is all one tone and disperses light beautifully, using it doesn’t take out all of the guess work. Here’s some best practices to adhere to this graduation season.

Pre-Shoot Checklist

One very important step is to make sure you talk to your subject beforehand to familiarize yourself with their personality. You’ll also want to discuss wardrobe choices and if they’d like to use propping. Knowing these things will help you pick what color photo background to use, how much room you’ll need for the shoot and will help you choose a lighting schematic.

Simple Backgrounds, Beautiful Portraits 

Simple clean backdrops for close up senior portraits will give you a fresh and beautiful effect if you choose a neutral color as your background. Find the right color that meshes with your subjects skin and hair coloring. And remember, some contrast is good thing. A subtle blue like the Blue Mist paper background can help to really enhance the subject’s features. If you want to use a more natural hue, the Bone seamless paper will help to create more attitude and a fashion setting to the photograph. And as always, a light to medium gray will give you a lot of options to work with for your lighting. You can create some wonderful effects just by adjusting the settings to achieve either a darker or light background.


A good rule of thumb is to use a color that will complement the subject’s eyes as well as what they are wearing. This is why it is a good idea to have an in-person meeting your subject prior to the shoot so you can have more of a sense of how they will look in front of certain studio backdrops. When you pick a background that is going to highlight features on the subject, it will make the photograph turn out more personal to them. Using colors to complement their appearance is what they are paying you to do so it is really important that you take that into consideration when choosing a background for them. 

Cost Effective

Seamless backdrops pay for themselves when used for studio use since they are disposable and could be added to the total of the senior portraits. They are also cheap enough that you could order several rolls to store in your studio and be able to offer more color options to your model. They can also be pulled out onto the floor and used as a background and a floor drop if you decide to have the subject sitting or laying on the floor. 

Add Gradient to Seamless Paper by Playing With Light 

When you hear a photographer say that light is everything, it’s true. Lighting has the power to make or break your photography so you need to pay close attention to it. If you light the seamless background evenly, you leave open the possibility of having a boring background which won’t do much for showing off the subject. Seamless backdrops have the potential to dispense light beautifully, so try arranging the lighting to get a gradient in the background, light to dark, dark to light. This will give the background a creative appeal to it and will make your subject stand out more. It will also help to give that clean, fresh effect we talked about earlier. You can accomplish this by setting up one or two lights off to the side of your subject. And don’t forget to make sure you move around with your camera and take shots at multiple angles. This will help you to create shots with your seamless paper that have depth. 

Finding the right background can seem daunting at times but as long as you take into consideration as to what color will complement the subject’s appearance best, you should be fine. Move around and give some direction as to how you want them to pose, but for the most part try to let them be themselves to get comfortable looking poses, and brilliant looking photographs that everyone will be happy with.


Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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