Some comments during this series of "Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos" prompted me to add comparisons of photos with colored backgrounds.
For this post, I will only use photos of my work to illustrate solid colored backgrounds (so no one else feels like a guinea pig in this public critique). Feel free to respond however you want about my examples.
[Note: A couple of future posts will discuss backgrounds with texture or other extra content. Stay tuned.]
The photos immediately below are from a pre-digital era. Yes, the left photo was actually photographed on a yellow background paper at my request by my photographer Philip Cohen. The photos were taken in 1990 -- before digital manipulation could easily replace a background with a different color.
The yellow background photograph was used for the cover of a summer issue of Metalsmith Magazine in the early 1990's. It was my idea to photograph on yellow and a very scary idea. A bright yellow background breaks completely with the established standard of gray-to-graduated backgrounds, then and now. I used the yellow background that one time and have never used it again in 20 years.
I felt then and still feel that the yellow background really makes the work POP! But let's get really honest! -- the vast majority of the art and craft community do not view work on bright yellow backgrounds as serious work. The general consensus seems to be that a brightly colored background is perceived as decorative, overly dramatic or superficial. Or am I mistaken? What do you think?
A key consideration is your audience. The yellow cover of a summer issue of a magazine might work one time, but it definitely doesn't fit my audience every time. A stimulating image to one group may be too much for another group.
Here is another example of colored backgrounds. The same necklace is in every photo. The background is not Photoshoped, each is an original photo.
This comparison is striking. The necklace and the reflection are eye catching. Every photo is lit perfectly. If you could submit one photo of this necklace, which photo would you use? What happens when your career depends on the decision?
Here is my appraisal of each photo.
The subdued gray of this photo is well within a standard photographic background and a fabulous photo, but lacking the drama of the black and colored options. Do you think this is as good a photo as the black background or blue?
I've never used the graduated light gray background because I thought it was boring. Indeed, one of the previous comments suggested that white, gray, or graduated black backgrounds are boring.
The turquoise blue background is a really dramatic image. The blue is a contrasting color to the orange spacer beads. The combination of the necklace, reflection, and striking background make the entire image very attractive.
I've submitted the brilliant blue background photo to several books and shows but it has never been accepted. The blue background seems to break too many unofficial rules.
This photo seems to capture a high level of drama within the image yet focuses attention on the work.
The goal of your photograph is to have the viewer focus on your art or craft work, not on the image itself. Which background enhances the viewer's perception of the work without stealing the spotlight? Does the background become overly dramatic? Is there a prejudice against colorful backgrounds as not serious enough?
How do you interpret the issues presented here?Harriete Estel Berman
Previous posts in the series Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos:
More posts in the series are coming....
The book images and links are from Amazon as affiliate links.
The world of photography is changing rapidly. Is your photography up to date? Is it an effective tool?
• Are you being judged by the style of your images?
• How much post production is acceptable and who should do the work?
• Current trends in background and composition.
• The model or the pedestal?
• and much more……
These issues were discussed at the Professional Development Seminar titled, Photography in Flux. There are five SlideShare presentations with the recorded audio online for free. Watch them all and listen to the podcast of the lunch discussion.
PHOTOGRAPHER CONTACT INFORMATION LISTED BELOW.
Philip Cohen, Photographer
email: phil [at]lmi.net