The importance of backgrounds for the non-photographer

I go on and on about having a clean, non-distracting background in your photos. From a photographer’s standpoint it’s something that we look for to make our pictures better. But what about those who aren’t photographers? What can an uncluttered background do for them?

If you’re having an event such as a groundbreaking or wedding, it will behoove anyone planning said happening to make sure that the background is clean and tidy.

First of all, even if you’re not taking any photos yourself, almost invariably someone will be. And even if you’re sure that there won’t be any pictures taken, a non-distracting background may be a small detail, but it will make your event much more professional-looking and better for your audience.

A few months ago I covered a kickoff event for Supportive Services for Veterans and their Families. The event was held at the Catholic Charities office in Stockton. In a conference room that was probably two or three times as long as it was wide, a couple of dozen chairs were set up in front of a table. Curiously, the whole setup was situated width-wise rather than length-wise in the room. Nor was it centered in the room, instead everything was sequestered in the western end. But the table was situated right in front of what looked like a fuse box door and a thermostat. When the speakers rose to give speeches, they all stood in front of those two things. There was no amount of maneuvering that could be done to get rid of them in the background. I just had to grin and bear it. Had the whole setup been in an east/west position instead if north/south or just moved 12 feet to the right, the background distractions would have been avoided.

Now, I’m not singling out the organization, because I’ve been to many events like this where the backgrounds have been as bad or worse. It just happens to be one of the most recent that I’ve covered. Nor is this a comment about the organizations involved or the admirable and worthy program that helps veterans and their families who are at risk of becoming homeless.

It’s about appearances. It’s easy to think that appearances don’t count, but they do. If you take the time to look competent, then you will be perceived as such. Even if the event wasn’t covered by any news outlets or even wasn’t photographed by anyone, it can look professional and orderly with just a little bit if thought.

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