When photographing people, much emphasis is rightly placed on lighting, pose, makeup, camera position, exposure, focus point and directing the subject. But an important part of any portrait, formal or casual, is what's behind the subject: the background. An effective background should complement the subject and enhance the image without being overly distracting.
Photographic backdrops let you control what will appear behind your subject, indoors or out. While many people think of studio work when they think backdrops, a number of easy-to-carry backgrounds and a portable background support can be very useful on location—you can have an attractive backdrop anywhere, regardless of the actual surroundings. Outdoors, you can sometimes work with the natural surroundings, but portable backdrops give you much better control.o
There are many backdrops on the market, from plain paper rolls in various colors and shades of gray to hand-painted canvas units with exotic custom designs. The former are relatively inexpensive, but not terribly exciting, while the latter are costly and fragile.
White House Custom Color offers a wide range of affordable backgrounds printed using the latest technologies in latex ink on long-lasting 100% polyester fabric. These backgrounds are wrinkle-free (and should a wrinkle or crease occur, steaming will remove it) and fire-retardant, and even can be machine-washed (in cold water on gentle cycle; don't dry clean) should the need arise. They're available in more than 30 styles, with more than 100 colors and variations, in 6x8- and 10x8-foot sizes (for $175 and $240, respectively, including ground shipping in the U.S.). Orders generally ship within two to three days of purchase. Each background has a pole pocket for easy hanging.
One benefit of the WHCC backdrop collection is that you can get a variety of colors in a given style so you can choose an appropriate color or mood to suit each subject. If you're doing portraits of a number of subjects in a short time period, you can switch backgrounds for variety while retaining the same basic style for continuity. Or you can choose one style for one group of portraits and another style for another group to give each group its own "look." You can choose among backdrops ideal for female subjects or for male subjects, as well as for kids. Of course, you also can vary the "look" of any specific backdrop by changing the distance between it and the subject, altering the lighting on the backdrop and adjusting the lens aperture.
Recent additions to the WHCC backdrop line include Candy Shop (Blue, Bubble Gum, Cotton Candy, Cream), Marble, Midsummer Dream, Parliament, Reflection (Sunset, Watercolor), Venetian (Breeze, Lazy, Temper), Wall Paint (Lavender, Pearl) and Whirlybird (Black and Blue, Black and Blush, Black and Green, Black and Purple, Black and White, Cool, Salmon, Sunshine). See all of the backdrops on the WHCC website at backdrops.whcc.com.