Another recent user question:

How do you determine the background you use for portraits?

That’s a tough one, because there is no one answer. What’s better? Look at these three “Autumn” and “Hollywood” series Honl gels:

Or this?

Or this?

Of course as usual, the answer is “it depends”.

  • For business, white is good, as is a very light blue.
  • For women, more elegant colours can be used (the purple above, for instance, is not usually considered a male colour).
  • Black is possible for dramatic low-key portraits.
  • Colours depend on hair colour, skin colour and suit colour.
  • You may, for instance, want to contrast with the suit.
  • You certainly want to contrast with the hair – avoid blending your subject into the background. (Or you use a hair light).
  • And sometimes, you may want to match the background to, say, a bright red suit, again in order to make the face stand out.

In general, the most important concerns I have are:

  1. It has to match the mood (conservative is blue, etc)
  2. Ideally, it go with the person’s clothing. That means either complementary colours (yellow and blue, say) or identical colours (A suit with purple in it? Then I can use purple in the background).
  3. Above all, I try to make the face stand out and avoid blending it into the background.

The basic rule: have fun, and keep it simple if you can. Try different colours but avoid very bright colours except for special effect. Have some very subtle blues and yellows and greens available just in case you want to add a splash of tint.

Tint is a good thing. Colour is more difficult!

I hope this gives those of you who use colour gels some ideas to try.

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