Photographing Kids Tip 3: The Background

October 18, 2010

When I photograph, I’ve learnt to look at the background as much as I do the subject.  It’s a little like an orchestra: while there are focal instruments, the sound of ”oneness” produced by combining many elements is what makes it so special.  I’ve been working on that same element of ”oneness” in three parts (one step at a time Kelly).  Firstly, in my previous Photographing Kids post I talked about balance.  Secondly, I’ve been working on framing my pictures.  Thirdly, I look for interesting backdrops that are a little out of the ordinary.

1. Balance

Rule of Thirds: read post

2. Framing

Bad framing can ruin a good picture.  Take these images below.  The first image is of my nephew.  I love his expression but the part in the curtain behind always draws my attention away from him.  In the second picture, the sand line is cutting into my son’s head.  If I had angled the camera slightly, his head would come under the line so not to disturb the aesthetics of the subject.

photographing kids the background 2

In contrast, below are two photographs I’ve framed better.  In the first example, on a slightly different angle, the background seat could be coming out of the girl’s neck.  Instead it becomes a complimentary background feature: she’s holding a book so a sitting bench in the background seems — just right.  In the second example, the boy is contained under the fence line so not to interrupt the flow of form.  A large tree forms a border like effect and the rail line curves intriguingly off into the distance.  Instead  the boy’s head could be cut off by the fence and the absence of the framing tree would be a sad loss to the picture.


3. Intrigue

I’m always looking for interesting backgrounds to work with, that are a little out of the ordinary. Below are some of my favourite backdrops so far.

Street art: Know I’m not supporting graffiti and vandalism here. Rather I’m talking about commissioned art developed in a public place. I’ve explained to my children, the difference between graffiti and art.  Using street art as a backdrop can bring a vibrant energy to a photograph.  You can find this sort of commissioned art in parks, some roads and buildings. At one of our local parks, the entire toilet block is a beautiful mural! Another idea is to get the kids to decorate a heap of butchers paper and make your own special colourful wall.  This idea can used in theme photos too.  Say you need a family photo for your Christmas card; make a backdrop of white, red, green and gold.

Grass: I love grass.  If there is a mound or a vast area of grass, it can take up an entire background.


Flowers: A small patch can seem like a field in a photo. I took this picture in a small patch of wild flowers but for all you know, we might have been in a field of flowers.  Wouldn’t that be nice!


Sky: Isn’t the colour of the sky amazing? The graduation of the skyline brings subtle interest to this photograph and the illusion of movement.

Industrial buildings:  Many industrial buildings are unusually coloured.  Have you noticed that? This backdrop brings something very bright and interesting to a photograph.

Texture: I love using texture in photographs, especially in black and white.  Texture adds a special depth without being overbearing.


A photograph is only as good as the backdrop.

External Links

Photography Composition

Amature Snapper: Top 10 Photography Composition Rules

Be A Fun Mum Links

Photographing Kids Tip 1: Capturing a Child’s Essence

Photographing Kids Tip 2: Rule of Thirds 

Photographing Kids Tip 3: The Background

Photographing Kids Tip 4: Setting Up a Shoot

Photographing Kids Tip 5: Perspective

My Camera

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

BookChookNo Gravatar October 19, 2010 at 6:13 am

I love these tips, Kelly. You make it all sound so achievable, but I am still convinced you must have artistic “bones”!


Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

LOL… As long as I inspire someone to try something different, I’m happy.


Kristin (Wanderlust)No Gravatar October 19, 2010 at 7:15 am

Beautiful! Love the field of flowers.


Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Me too Kristin. And the girls in it.


MummylizNo Gravatar October 19, 2010 at 11:31 am

What beautiful photos Kelly! Thankyou for the tips! x


Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Thanks Liz.


ickle KidsNo Gravatar October 20, 2010 at 8:29 pm

ooooohhhh … I love taking photos too! Great tips on here. I especially love the photo with the field of flowers!


Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I KNOW! I LOVE that one too Laine.


AmyNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I’m a learning photographer (if you can even call me that).

I’ve learned a lot from your tips………thank you thank you thank you!

Keep em coming……..I’d love to learn more!


Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar December 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Thanks Amy! I’m so glad! I’m really only a budding photographer myself but as I share with others, I get better! And us bloggers — we take a lot of pictures don’t we. LOL.xx


AndreaNo Gravatar July 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

your like for tip 4 leads to an advent calender, not the tips like i was expecting.


Kelly Be A Fun MumNo Gravatar July 7, 2012 at 11:44 am

Thanks Andrea. I made a mistake with that. I’ll fix it and here is the link to tip 4.



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