January 25, 2016  •  2 Comments

One of the hazards but also one of the great joys of being a photographer is an obsession with everything visual.  I cannot open a magazine or book without my eyes settling on an advertisement or photograph - where it was taken, the set-up, the objects or people used, the light, the backdrop.  It is fascinating.  The number of people wondering around in the snow on the United States eastern seaboard and parts south with cameras this weekend is going to result in an abundance of incredible examples of photo journalism.

Perhaps because of the snow and my interest in environmental portraits, I have been thinking a lot lately about backdrops - how the background of a photograph accentuates or detracts from the image.  Black as well as white backdrops have been used in art for centuries because they set off the object or person without clutter.  Rock and adobe walls are very nearly perfect for portraits of almost everything from people and animals to human or nature-made objects.  But what exactly makes a good and exciting backdrop depends on the photograph's primary subject, the light, and theme.  For example, there are some killer photographs of wedding dresses on Etsy, of all places, and most of them are from eastern European countries.  Foggy woods, stone bridges, ancient trees, grassy fields, and cobblestone streets seem to render the most stunning images.

I am including some shots that could make good backdrops.  The first is a little bright and focused for my taste, but the texture and color provide possibilities for shooting objects.


 The banana leaf below is soft in focus, and the subtle shades take me into the depths of what could be.

banana leafbanana leaf

I can see a hand or foot or part of a face in this, but one would need to be careful of placement because the depth of field is so varied. 


The image below of the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado is very "painterly", literally screaming for an environmental portrait, but when doesn't a sand dune do that?

Great Sand Dunes painterlyGreat Sand Dunes painterly Finally, the scene I stumbled onto years ago, when the snow and rain had plastered aspen bark with moisture, is something I call "Aspen Rain Shadows".  It is the stuff of fantasy illustration.  If I were to do an environmental portrait here, I would mute the color a bit.

aspen rain shadowsaspen rain shadowsKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA I will talk about backdrops more in future blogs as I keep them in mind while I photograph late winter, early spring scenes.

until next Monday,


a passion for the [email protected]


Lawrence Jones(non-registered)
Daryl, the aspens are indeed stunning, but you already know how much we love the Colorado Sand Dunes image. We have it displayed in a prominent spot in our home!
Steve Immel(non-registered)
What range! What an eye! Backdrops or focal points all are wonderful. Yet my fancy is captured by the very vertical aspens, They have been photographed about a million times and yours is one of the best I've seen. That seemingly infinite depth of field works wonders in this image. It leads me all the way to the back of the picture.
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