The use of Background Colour

In my last feedback session with Matt and Caroline, one of the things that they pointed out in my images that didn’t work at all was the use of the background colour. I had decided to use blue as how watches are photographed today, but in the end it was too distracting.

So to help me think about how I should shoot my next lot of images, I was told to look at some artists who purposely use a background colour to help their images.

David Balhuizen:

In his work Assistants, Balhuizen took a series of portraits of young photographers that had just come out of college and those that are exploring a new area from a different career.

David-Assistants(Vue, 2009)

Wehn paying attention to the background, the first thing I noticed is the how Balhuizen uses a very simplistic pastel colour (one that isn’t very distracting) for us to fully concentrate on the main focus, which is the person. There is a certain casualness being shown from the subject as there isn’t a rigidness. However, in the facial expressions there is some sort of mystery as they look almost quizzical. And that causes the viewer to fully focus onto them to examine them fully.
I feel that having the light background compliments the whole image, as it separates the people. This allows us to investigate them fully without having to look around the whole image for anything else.

Steve Pyke:

I have already looked at Pyke’s work before, but that was more on the details in his shoes over his every day life that he was aiming to show off. However, after re-looking at his work, I started to notice on how the use of his white background really helps compliment his work.

soles_01(Pyke, n.d.)

What is interesting to note is that I feel that any other colour of background would not have had the same impact on the images at all. The plain white background isolates the shoes completely, making them their own entity. If it had been done on a coloured background, it wouldn’t look that serious. To isolate the image on itself is a difficult task, so it requires a lot of thought and continuity.
This was one of the problems in the last set of images, as the blue background kept on changing so none of the images had the same flow to them. The blue was very distracting and took our eye away from the watch, so we couldn’t focus on the main area.

Henrik Duncker:

Duncker used his background colour in a completely different method to the other two artists; here in his work, he uses the background colour in order compliment the object he is photographing.


What is interesting in his project is that each individual picture has different colours, so there is no consistent pattern. However, we don’t notice the change as much due to how it blends in as a whole. So in this aspect, it is also appropriate to think about how the background colour fits in with the object your photographing. It is better to help and add to the image (Like Duncker with his objects) rather then putting in something that detracts from the image.

So overall, there have been some key points to take from all of this is:

  • Help isolate the key focus
  • Don’t make the background too distracting
  • Make it compliment the object
  • Keep it simple

Balhuizen, D. (n.d.). David Balhuizen. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

Duncker, H. (2012). henrik duncker photography / series / Studio Kapsede. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].

Pyke, S. (n.d.). Soles #1. [image] Available at: [Accessed 2 Nov. 2014].

Vue, (2009). Behind The Image – Portraits from David Balhuizen. [online] Available at:—Portraits-from-David-Balhuizen [Accessed 23 Nov. 2014].


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