How to choose the right backdrop color in portrait photography: a brief guide

In portrait photography, the background comes second after the model. Without the right background, the result of the photo will not be the one you wanted it to be.

Despite the fact that the main role in the picture is occupied by the object, the background performs the function of highlighting and showing the object in the right light. To put it simply, without the right background, the object will look wrong. In this article, you will learn about backgrounds and how to choose the correct one. You will also learn how you can make your own backgrounds. If you want to know more about DIY backdrop ideas, you can read Skylum`s blog. 

What kind of backdrops there are?

Approaching the question of the background, you can choose anything. But below is a list of the most frequent portrait backdrops.

  1. Soft natural backdrop. A soft blurred background contrasts beautifully with the clear features of the object. 
  2. Detailed natural backdrop. A clear background can accentuate the subject if everything looks balanced.
  3. Green backdrop. If you have not yet decided on the background, this view will help you make a photo, and then the right one for the photo.
  4. Black backdrop. It is ideal for black & white portraits. Especially if you carefully work with the lighting.
  5. Textured backdrop. Textured tissue can advantageously accentuate the subject, but without drawing all the attention to itself.
  6. White backdrop. With the right lighting, it’s your best asset in classic portrait or product photography.
  7. Neutral backdrop. Classic neutral colors like gray and brown are good for portraits because of their simplicity and easy post-processing.

Now you’re familiar with classic portrait backdrops. But sometimes there is a desire or need to make a similar backup with your own hands.

Backdrop ideas by hand

Not all of us have the opportunity to hire a studio to take photos, but we have the passion to do so. In this case, you can try to make backdrops with your own hands.

  1. Beads, ribbons, or garlands. First of all, it will lift the mood of the person being photographed. And secondly, the portraits will be bright and cheerful.
  2. Curtains with lace. When properly lit and wearing the right clothes, lace can make pictures look soft and pretty.
  3. Small lighting lamps. This type of lighting will add mystery and aesthetics to the photo.
  4. White smooth bedsheets. White smooth bedsheets can safely replace a regular white background, but a wrinkled bed sheet will easily replace a textured background. So you can try both options.
  5. Simple material. For example, ordinary paper or wooden structures can accentuate the object nearby.

Now you know that you can easily replace the backdrop at home. The main thing is to choose a backdrop that suits your model.

Tips for picking the perfect backdrop

You have already found out that the backup plays one of the most important roles. And you understand that you need to learn how to choose the background for the model. And the tips below will help you with that.

1. Choose simplicity

The background should be simple and laconic. After all, its main task is not to distract attention from the model. Often the ideal background is white or black, but look closely, you’ll find that the walls of many buildings are excellent backgrounds. The main thing is that the background doesn’t have to compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention.

2. The sky is the best background 

The sky is perfect for any model. It’s smooth, almost monochromatic. And with the right angle, you can hide unnecessary moments from the viewer’s eye. But even when the sky is painted in different colors, you can easily work with it and make the photo even brighter.

3. Watch the color combination

Bright colors are beautiful, but it is important that they match the background. Something bright on something dull looks perfect, assuming that the bright is the object and the dull is the background. Follow the rule of contrasts, but remember who is in the lead in this photo.

4. Textured backdrop

Textures are perfect for portraits, especially if the colors are identical to the model’s clothing. These can be trees, bushes, building walls, ruins, or fences. Anything that would accentuate the beauty of the model. Such backgrounds add variety and emotionality to the overall picture. 

5. Symmetry is the key to holding the view

Symmetry gives a sense of balance and harmony. It’s the kind of photo that attracts. You want to look at it again and again. Bridges, arches, water, mirrors, fences – they all help you show symmetry and catch the viewer’s eye. 

6. Choose the right lighting

The light must interact not only with the subject but also with the background. Sun glare and shadows give an unusual and harmonious composition. Doors and windows are ideal to help with lighting, such as when light streams through a window. Experiment and you’ll see how light affects the result of the photo.

7. Use reflective surfaces as a backup

When you see glass, a mirror, or water, think about the possibility that this might be a good background for your photo. The reflection of the trees and sky in the water, for example, is a great addition to the picture. And buildings with glass walls are a great backdrop. But you can’t forget about an interesting technique: the model is standing behind a window or glass, looking into the distance, and the glass reflects the landscape or buildings. It turns out a very beautiful effect in any of the techniques with these materials.

Use these tips while walking, each time looking for such places that could serve as a backup for you. Very often such places are right under your nose. And don’t forget about balance. Balance of color, lighting, and surroundings.


The ways and variants of creating backdrops are constantly being updated. Always inventing something new. But the main thing remains – the harmony between the background and the model. You can easily achieve this harmony by following the rules above. But no one forbids you to create new and convenient methods for yourself.

You may be interested in: Why You Need Photography Backdrops