Nothing says unprofessional like a white bed sheet for a background.
They are usually wrinkled, have to be lit with extra lights to cover up all the wrinkles, they look bad when you’re putting them up and clients are never impressed. You want your clients to be impressed, so here’s a take on how to make a portrait with the proper backgrounds for the job:
1. Go Outdoors
Going outdoors will require you to follow one very important rule of thumb: keep your backgrounds simple and free from distractions. Find a place to work where you can find a relatively stable environment.
See more: Using the Landscape as a Photo Backdrop
2. Carry Several Backdrops With You on Location
Nothing will work better for you than to have more than one background in your traveling kit. Collapsible backgrounds are far and away the best way to do this without carrying a lot of extra bulk.
3. Use Multiple Backgrounds
Sometimes, layering backdrops can have pretty stunning effects, particularly if you’re using more than one color. Just make sure the colors are compatible with your subject’s skin tones and the clothes they’re wearing.
4. Use Your Backgrounds as Groundcover
Put your subject on the floor. But before you do, put a background underneath them. Better yet, put two and wrap them up in one. This is a variation on the theme of double backdrops, and nothing works better with this technique than muslin or polyester backdrops. You may have to get up on a ladder, but it will be worth it.
5. Use Your Groundcovers as Backgrounds
Now here is one technique that may require some practice. Turn your world upside down. Change your perspective. Put your floor drops on a stand or tape it to a wall and have your subject stand right back on top of that. Watch what happens. The lesson here is to do things differently and open up your mind to possibilities.
6. Go High Key
If you’ve been shooting portraits for a while, go to extremes. Take a white seamless background, light it up and shoot a subject with a single light and a reflector. Wash the whole scene out by over exposing it slightly.
7. Go Low Key
Then, go the other way. Take a black seamless backdrop and turn it at an angle so that no key light fall on it, or put it far enough back that it doesn’t factor into exposure. Even better, bring your key light up close to your subject so that the exposure compensation will black out the background. This is especially helpful if you don’t have a black backdrop. You can turn virtually any surface black with the right approach.
8. Match Your Background to the Skin Tone of the Subject
This technique can be tricky, but it can’t produce interesting results, especially if you’re shooting black and white. Find a color that matches the tonal value of your subjects skin and watch what happens when only dark highlights show up against a neutral to bright background. Use a light that is sympathetic to the occasion like a softbox. It will work well with softer faces, especially women.
9. Make Your Background the Exact Opposite of the Skin Tone of Your Subject
Contrast. It might require a very different key light than a softbox, such as a single modified bare bulb. This technique works well with strong faces.
Use Multiples of Any of the Above
Take any combination of the above ideas and modify them to work together. There is only one thing standing in the way of your becoming a better photographer: contempt prior to investigation. Get out of your own singular routine and try something different. Maybe not on a paying customer, but experiment with friends and family. You might surprise yourself.