Backgrounds with additional items or content are said by advocates to be more interesting, offering mood, style, warmth, or appeal to the viewer and potential customers. In the photo to the right, the jewelry is displayed on a marble table with a jar, shell dish, and other objects all in a warm brown color group. The photo was scanned from a recent Departures magazine.
As a photograph, it is very well done. The exposure is balanced with no strong highlights or dark shadows obscuring the work. Focus at all levels and distances throughout the focal plain is perfect. The circular arc of the table is a very effective device for framing the work. So, is this a good photo to represent the work? Does the viewer know where to focus attention? Is this photo appropriate for all situations?
This is a really important aspect to consider. A number of artists and makers are showing their work with similarly styled backgrounds and groupings. This may draw a particular audience in a particular scenario, but is it an effective representation of the work?
Photos like these are an editorial style. They can be used effectively in certain situations.
The style of these photos adds information that shifts the viewer's evaluation of the work. The image in its entirety establishes a narrative that may detract from or obfuscate the work. The photo now demonstrates the creativity of the stylist and the photographer as much or more than the work of the maker.
If you submitted any one of these photos to a jury for a book or retail craft show (as just two examples), the risk of REJECTION is significantly elevated. The photos are not a clear and accurate representation of your work.
A juror wants to see the art or craft clearly without editorial or extraneous styling. A photo for a jury evaluation should fill the frame without complex backgrounds, marble texture, water-washed stones, grids, any other distraction.
Jurors typically must make snap decisions. Don't give them any superficial reason to pass you over. There is just too much competition.
What do you think? Do you take photos like this? What is your intent? Are complex photo backgrounds effective merchandising? Do they accurately represent the work? Are you consciously selecting your backgrounds to reach different audiences?
Previous posts in the series Side-By-Side Comparisons of Different Photos:
Side-By-Side Photo Comparisons - Backgrounds with Texture or Pattern?
More posts in the series are coming....including images on your website, and "breaking all the rules with style and perfection."
This post was updated on January 26, 2022.