When showing a group of photos, be sure the backgrounds are consistent. Practically speaking, if the backgrounds and/or photographic style changes from photo to photo on your web site or portfolio (or even in a juried application), it does NOT look good.
For this post, let's look at the Anthropologie "Cabinet of Curiosities page (shown to the left) since they have a wide range of small scale 3 dimensional items. In the first example, the photographic images have an eclectic, stylized appearance, but notice that every photo has the the same background of bleached, faded wood. The web site works to pull the photos together as a group with identical backgrounds.
While the landing page for each category may be eclectic or have a stylized background, move to any other page of inventory on the Anthropologie web site and you will see that every item is photographed on the same background. While not a solid color, it has a very muted, soft pattern. The background does not distract from the work. Each item is isolated. None of the photos confuse the customer with earrings hanging off of teacups, necklaces draped over plates, or pendants pinned on wrinkled fabric.
Each and every photo conforms to the general style of the web site and clearly portrays the work. The photo portfolio creates a clear identity for the business with a consistent style.
Artists and craftspeople can learn a lot from major retailer web sites and their professional merchandising schemes. Keep backgrounds and the style of photography consistent. Applications for shows, submissions to juried opportunities, or even the appearance of a web site or online marketing should look like one cohesive identity with clear emphasis on the work.
Go to any retail web site, from Tiffany to Crate and Barrel. While they may have initial landing pages with multiple items offering mood, "warmth" or connection with their customer, when it comes to showing the merchandise, they don't confuse the customer.
Each item is shown without additional mood or clutter. Clarity about what they are "selling" is a top priority.
The same principle should apply for artists and makers. Mood, "warmth" and connection with your customer should be separated from representation of the item.
I am not saying that you must adopt the retailers' style completely. What I am asking is ....... Have you separated your merchandising from the photographic representation of your work? Do your backgrounds present a cohesive body of work?
Stay tuned to see more backgrounds issues! Are there ways to break the rules of the graduated background with style and perfection?
Previous posts in the series Side by Side Comparisons of Different Photos: