Strong background colours bring subjects forward and create drama

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Basic colour theory says that warm colours approach and cool, blue colours recede in an image. That's why a pale blue or mottled white and pale blue background has been a staple of portrait photography for years. It makes the warmer tones of your subjects skin come forward in the image and lets the background recede away.

I have this really strong blue in my studio which I delight in because while it performs part of that colour theory well it is also so rich and dramatic that it adds a whole sense of rich depth all of its own and it makes a perfect foil for a modern looking image.

In this first image I've left quite a lot of negative space in the image to really exaggerate the blue. You can easily see this as a fashion magazine shot with plenty of space above the image for text.

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In this image I've come in for a much tighter crop, this requires a strong look from your subject. It's no good if she looks all soft and fey because that would not support the impact of the colours.

For this reason the shades have to come off the face, otherwise the eyes would be lost. While they are useful in creating a more anonymous image (and hence one the viewer can place themselves in) that would not work here.

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And in this image with the light skimming across the body doesn't it look warm? You can almost see this as Carla sunning herself in some hot Mediterranean country.

Even though her skin tones are captured as a neutral, English pale flesh tone, the contrast against the strong blue makes the skin tones appear much warmer.


key points

The eyes make a portrait. Losing direct eye contact is very commonly used in fashion and art photography to prevent the image being a personalised portrait.

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