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All Photos Courtesy of Cutting Edge Photography

Photography is a visual art. Although B&W imagery is a classic, not all photography should be boring and dull. Bringing in bright colored backgrounds will make your photographs “POP” and your subject feel alive. Incorporating bold backgrounds will also allow you to show off a bright, cheery and fun session with your session. I love to have bright colors in my teen and HS Senior sessions. This makes my sessions much more fun for my subject and emotionally grabs them and their friends when they view my images.

orchid seamless paper

Color Matching

There are a two ways I use bright colors — color matching and using complementary colors. Color matching allows you to accent a tone in your subject’s clothing with a similar background color. This will allow for a common theme and use of multiple colored backgrounds with an outfit with varying colors. One thing to be aware of with color matching is to find a color that very closely resembles the background. A shade too far off, will cause the clothing and background to clash. A photographer can adjust the tone (bright or dark) of the background by adjusting the amount of light falling on the background. For a lighter tone and brighter background, you may want to raise the power on your background light and/or move the subject closer to the background. To make the background darker, either lower the power on your background light or move the subject further away from the background. So, to match up colors, all you have to do is dial up or down your power to get your colors to match.

Complementary Colors

Complementary colors means using two distinct colors that work well together. In printing, the most common complementary colors are magenta/green, yellow/blue, and cyan/red. The use of complementary colors creates an aesthetically pleasing image. Famous artists, such as Monet and Cézanne, often used complementary colors to draw viewers into their image. Putting a complementary colored background behind your subject can allow for a very artistic image. I see what my subject is wearing, then select the background that complements their clothing.

How do I get my colors to pop? By ensuring I have the correct amount of light falling on the background. Many people look at the background and, at first, think it is too bright. However, after seeing the final image, they are amazed at how bright and cheery the images is. So, have fun and brighten your images by incorporating bright colors into your studio.

My favorite colors to work with:

Tulip Seamless Paper

An overall great pink toned background suitable for Children, Teens or HS Seniors.


Deep Yellow Seamless Paper

Very lush and vibrant. This is perfect for HS Seniors and Models.

deep yellow seamless paper

Teal Seamless Paper

Need something between blue and green? This is the one that bridges that gap. Bright, but not overly saturated. Great for Children, Teens and HS Seniors.

teal seamless paper

Crimson Seamless Paper

This is a good color for HS Seniors and Models that allows for a slightly more hearty red that can dive into a deep, deep tone with the correct amount of background light.

crimson seamless paper

Lighting Tips:

  • Use a hair light and/or kicker light to separate your subject from the background.
  • Background light can be adjusted to make the backdrop paper lighter or darker.
  • When laying the subject down on the seamless paper, be careful of color casts in their skin or on light tone clothing.
  • Bright colors work better with lower lighting ratios (1:1 or 1:2). More dramatic lighting ratios tend to work better with darker seamless backgrounds.

David Hakamaki

David Hakamaki is the owner of Cutting Edge Photography in Michigan. David has become known as the "Home Based Photography Guru" and operates a full-time home-based studio in a small, rural community. David has gained national recognition for his work with HS Seniors, Families, Children and Wedding couples. David serves on Simply Color Lab’s “Senior Dream Team”, and is a member of Kubota Image Tools’ “Champions”. He is sponsored by Simply Color Lab, Kubota Imaging Tools, Triple Scoop Music, Animoto, Fundy Software & LumiQuest. David is a regular Speaker at local, state & national conferences, provides training webinars, acts as a Photography Mentor, serves as a beta tester on industry products and has been featured in PPA Today.
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