If you are photographing a model in front of a brick wall that’s right behind her, then the brick wall will be included in the photograph. This is not bad or wrong but just different than what was imagined. It may look fine depending on your needs, and perhaps this would not require much if any, additional work. However, sometimes it can be not easy to use what is available without some reworking of the background or perhaps even changing everything. Photo experts like Bruce Weber Photographer have advice on using backgrounds to create different looks.
Maybe you are photographing your dog playing on the beach, and there’s lots of sand that appears in the photo (maybe behind him), this may not be an issue, but if there is a beautiful sunset in the background, you may want to remove other background products out of the shot. The same goes for photographing someone standing in front of an attractive mountain range, but all that is included in the photo are clouds above the mountains. You probably don’t want to include that if you can avoid it because you’d rather have a clear shot of your subject and nothing else.
So, What Do I Do?
A good background is flat and plain without distractions, especially anything that doesn’t seem to be part of the scene or belongs or could belong anywhere else other than there or detracts from your subject. There should not be two halves of the photo that are different in color tone. If you have a lot of trees in the background and they are very green, but your subject is wearing a white dress, this may be an issue. Look around and use your imagination.
Sometimes the solution is to re-frame your subject so that you don’t include any of what’s behind her. Sometimes it’s easier to change her location or angle (by moving) than the background (hopefully, there are no power lines). If you’re photographing a model against a city skyline, try changing up where she is in the frame. For example, put her off to one side; you might also try getting lower or higher than your subject. This will change how she is seen in the background.
Changing the background may be difficult, but it’s usually not impossible (though sometimes very expensive). Sometimes moving things around is enough, and other times that isn’t enough, and you’ll need to bring in something else. If all else fails, add the background – at least digitally.
You can always add a new background with Photoshop or other software later. Creating a mask for your subject so that it’s not affected by what’s behind her is easy. You might also choose to replace the background entirely. Different backgrounds create very different effects, so choose based on your vision for the photo.
Finding the perfect background for your photos is not an easy task. You have to consider your subject, how it would interact with the environment around it, and sometimes remove or add elements in post-processing to get what you want. If you can’t change the environment, try re-framing your subject or switching angles until you find one that works.