Tips & Tricks: How to make your photos look better! Backgrounds!

So how did I start out in photography?  It’s a rather long story.  The short of it goes like this.  I didn’t come from a family that took many photos.  The few photos that we did take we rarely saw as we usually never got around to developing the film.  Rolls would sit gathering dust forever.  There aren’t many photos of me growing up displaying and documenting the things I did.  Then I grew up and sadly people I loved or would have wanted my children to know started to pass away.  My husband and I lost 2 grandparents, an aunt, and a father is the space of just a couple of years.  I mourned the fact that my yet to be born children would never get the chance to know these people and that I had nothing of them to share.

That’s when scrapbooking came into my life.  Up until then, even if I had taken the photos and went so far as to have them developed or printed what exactly was I ever going to do with them?  Now I had a plan, and a creative outlet to boot!  Loved it!  STILL do!  As time went on I began to realize that my FAVORITE pages were often those with the most beautiful photos.  So I wanted to get MORE beautiful photos, with purpose.  I didn’t want to rely on luck any longer.  I wanted to learn how to make it happen.  So I learned, I practiced, I studied, I practiced, I took courses online, I practiced, I took a distance course through the New York Institute of Photography, I practiced, I went to workshops, I practiced.  Ok… so you get the point.  I am certainly not done learning or practicing for that matter.

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to share a series of posts aimed to help budding photographer’s get better pictures.  They were the suggestions that got me started!  I shared these suggestions recently at a workshop scrapbookers.  I hope you enjoy them and if you have any questions be sure to ask!


TIP ONE!  Making Backgrounds Just Right!

Check your background before hitting the shutter release!

It might be stating the obvious but even the most experienced pros forget this from time to time.  Look through your view find or at your LCD.  Is there anything that is distracting, ugly, out of place, etc?  Are there any funny objects (like a tree, a pole, a lamp shade, or something similar sticking out from your behind your subjects head?)  If so, what can you do about it?  Most of the time the fix will take five seconds, just do a quick sweep away for the clutter and then move on.  Other times you might have to be more creative.  You just aren’t going to be able to move that ridiculous cell phone tower over your friend’s shoulder.

Move your subject

Some backgrounds just aren’t going to work and you’ll need to move on.  But often times the fix is just a quick shimmy to the left or the right.

Place subjects in front of open spaces

Putting some distance between your subject and the clutter can often help tremendously.  The clutter becomes smaller in the frame and less obvious.

The bench I chose for these 3 cuties is in front of a busy road and some not so glamorous houses.  Luckily the bench is a good distance from those distractions and therefore they are not as noticeable.  I also squat down and changed my camera angle so that I could use the bench to block out some of the mess (more on that below).

Fill your frame with your subject

Get in close and fill in the camera frame with your subject.  If all we see is your subject then we won’t be able to see any of the yuckiness behind them.

Change your shooting angle

What if you scoot way down and point your camera up, can your camera still see the unsightliness you are trying to avoid?  What if you grab a chair or jump up on a nearby wall and point your camera down at your subject.  Does that make your background more pleasing?

Can you believe the photo on the right was taken just inches away from the two chairs on the left?  I just asked my couple to sit on the ground while I stood on a little box.  You’d never know they were in the middle of thrift shop.  I filled my frame with them AND I shot from a higher angle to cut out all the clutter.

Make your own background

Backgrounds can be easy to make.  A simple blanket close pinned between two chairs can work fabulously for a child.  Some shear fabric tacked artfully to the wall can be very pretty.  Get creative!

This photo was actually taken in a pretty tiny living room in a typical condo.  I simply tacked a large brown blanket behind her and I had an instant backdrop.

Post processing

You always want to strive to make the photo as great as it can be in camera.  Occasionally though, you’re just going to have to do the dirty work on the computer after the photo is taken.  There are many programs that have adequate clone tools that can quite efficiently erase away that thing you just wish would disappear.

Sometimes the computer can be your best friend.  After the fact I decided this gorgeous Momma to be looked far better without the bridge  behind her (or the strange stick sticking out of her head).  It took some time and effort but I was eventually able to remove everything.  Ah… much better!

A great background really truly can make or break what should be a great photo.  I hope you find this post helpful!  Sometime next week I’ll do another one on finding great light!

Enjoy your Thursday!


  1. Crystal…your website looks great! Really nice job and I like how it all flows. Thanks for sending over the group photo, too!

  2. Wow! This could be one particular of the most beneficial blogs We have ever arrive across on this subject. Basically Wonderful. I’m also a specialist in this topic therefore I can understand your hard work.

  3. Your a good writer.. keep it up, your going to go far.

  4. Great photography tips. Simple tricks with impact. And I love your photos!

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