The chosen background should not over power the person in it. After all, the goal is to flatter the person and make them stand out. This can be done in a number of ways, each one has its benefits.
The simplest is to choose a solid background. This can be black, white or any color in between. Key here is to keep the background muted. Neon green will most likely not be effective at keeping the focus on the person in front of it. When choosing a color, a color wheel can be your friend. It can help you select colors to contrast the clothes that are being worn, by selecting a color from the opposite side of the wheel.
Another way to keep the focus off the background is to shoot with a shallow depth of field, open that lens up - 2.8 is great I always say. The wide open lens creates that softness in the image, while allowing you to keep the key portion in focus. In general it is usually the eyes, but in glamour and boudoir it may be a hand on a strap of the lingerie. The photographer’s artistic eye will guide the selection of the focal point of a given image, and in turn guide the viewer’s eye.
And of course good boudoir and glamour photography is all about lighting. And lighting can be used very effectively to place the focus on the person and not the background. Your eye is naturally drawn to the brightest part of the image, or in very bright images the darkest part is sometimes the focal area. To see what is the focal point of an image based on light values, blur it until you can’t tell what it is. Now look at it, and your eye will be drawn to something. Sometimes I use Photoshop to do this, other times I just step back and squint my eyes.
So by controlling how an image is lit, you can drive the focus of the viewer to the proper portion of the image. Ideally you should keep your focus and light together, but rules can be broken.
So why don’t I just shoot in studio on a solid background, since we are just trying to hide it anyway? Because even a non-focal background can add value to an image. For instance, if a woman is in a swimsuit I want to know why. So I prefer there to be water to explain why she is the swimsuit. Lingerie looks great in a bedroom, but maybe not as good in a garage (ok, who am I kidding – lingerie looks great everywhere, but you get the idea).
Location boudoir and glamour provide the photographer a whole collection of choices of backgrounds. They can be used to bring out the personality of the client. How about a bubble bath, which can be shy and innocent, or sexy and sultry. I will talk more about location boudoir and glamour photography in a future entry.