Sally Jane Photographic Art

Fact Sheet 3


Pet Photography - Backgrounds

When photographing your pet it is easy to forget the background. Often, it is not until you view the final image, either printed or on your PC screen, that you realise the background is distracting or just plain awful. Giving some attention to the background is a vital part of setting up for your pet portrait even if you are thinking of removing the background from the final image.

Backgrounds can distract from the subject. By that I mean, if, when you are looking at the final image, your eye is constantly drawn to anything in the background, then the background is classed as distracting. Brightly coloured objects in the background should be avoided at all costs and this will certainly distract from the subject of your. Cluttered backgrounds are also bad news. Keep the background as simple and neutral coloured as possible in order for your pet to really stand out.

A good background should enhance the subject not compete with it. The background should also be relevant to the subject. For instance, if you were photographing your horse and the background consisted of the local high street shops it would not look good even if you regularly rode your horse down the High Street. Far better to take it with fields behind or even the stable.

Many painters would insert a landscape into the background of a portrait painting. Partly this was to show off the estate the client possessed and partly because the pale and relaxed countryside imagery provided an ideal foil for the portrait. It is not always so easy when taking a photograph to imitate the grand master painters but we can certainly try to take a leaf out of their book with regards to the backgrounds in our

I mentioned the possibility of removing the background completely in the final image and the mechanics of this I will discuss later. For now though, if this is your intent, you still need to give careful thought to the background. Keep the background colour as even as possible and try to have it in a contrasting colour to your pet. You do not need to use studio background equipment, a plain wall or solid fence could do the trick or simply an uncluttered view of fields. It is no use photographing a brown dog against a similar coloured fence if you are later going to try to use software to remove the background. But if you were to photograph him against pale green fields it would be much easier. You must have a clear view of your pet, and by that I mean every inch. If you photograph your pet sitting on grass some of the grass is going to poke up over his feet. You won't necessarily notice this until you try to remove the background and grass foreground from the image and then you will see that by doing so you lose part of the feet. Better to have your pet sitting on a firm surface even if it is a piece of old carpet or a mat brought out especially for the purpose. Make sure, however, that the mat contrasts with your pets feet or you will have difficulty separating them out when you remove the background.