Programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, and GIMP have made post-processing your images incredibly easy. With the tools they provide, there is virtually no end to your creativity and the way you manipulate features like color, contrast, saturation, and the like.
But relying on post-processing to make your photos what you want can become somewhat of a crutch. Instead of taking the time to get it right in-camera, many of us simply shrug it off as unnecessary. After all, why spend time making sure you have a vibrant, colorful photo in-camera when you can make a few adjustments in post-processing to get the same result?
The answer is simple: getting it right in-camera takes more knowledge and understanding of things like color. You’ll be a better photographer for making the effort. Plus, it takes virtually no time!
Neutral Backgrounds Help Tame Wild Wardrobes
It goes without saying that placing your subject in front of a neutral background - something monotone and nondescript like gray, beige, or other earth tones - will ensure that the colors they are wearing will really stand out. Clients that arrive wearing bright clothing, multicolored clothing, or clothing that has fairly wild prints will need to be placed on a neutral background. It will help provide balance to the shot, draw attention to your subject, and prevent the image from becoming overwhelmed by too much visual stimuli.
Part of using a neutral background is simply keeping an eye on what’s in the background to begin with. Are there people or animals, cars or buildings that add too much color or texture to the background? If so, endeavor to recompose the shot to eliminate those distractions, or if possible, manipulate the depth of field such that those distractions become a nice, blurry bokeh.
On the Other Hand, Colorful Backgrounds Provide More Interest
Some clients will show up for their portrait session wearing clothing that’s pretty boring. White and black garments are classic, but obviously don’t offer much visual interest. To counteract this, utilize a colorful background that gives the viewer’s eye what it needs to be pulled into the photo. A brightly colored wall, a field of flowers, a sunset, or even a vehicle in the shot will ramp up the interest and give your image the colors it needs to have that dynamic look and feel you want in a portrait.
Use Colors that Complement the Subject
In case you haven’t had a color theory course in awhile, complementary colors are those that are opposite one another on the color wheel: purple-yellow, red-green, and orange-blue. By incorporating these color combinations into your portraits, you will immediately have a portrait that has more pop and more interest.
When preparing for a photo shoot, you’ll need to know what colors are prevalent at the shoot location. If it’s at a park full of green foliage, have your client wear red tones. If it’s at the beach where there’s a lot of golden sand, have them wear purple tones. By customizing your client’s wardrobe to complement the background, you will really make your photo stand out. And the best part is that there is virtually no work to achieve that effect - just a little research and some wardrobe suggestions!
As we’ve discussed, creating portraits that are vibrant and colorful doesn’t necessarily have to include a ton of time in post-processing. Pairing a dull wardrobe with a colorful background, a vibrant wardrobe with a neutral background, and using complementary colors are all easy solutions. Sure, you can still post-process all you want, but if you take these steps beforehand, you might find that at least on the color front, your images no longer need post-processing.