Allen's Hummingbird, Female, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

Photo Backgrounds Matter

Photo Backgrounds Matter


Allen's Hummingbird, Female, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye, in Photo Backgrounds Matter

Allen’s Hummingbird, Female


Photo Tip: Why Photo Backgrounds Matter.

1) Graphic Design

Art consists of positive space (the subject) and negative space (the background).

Both work together in making a photo effective.

For example, notice how the plain green background in the above photo isolates the flying hummingbird.

Also, I’ve left room (negative space) in front of the bird, which creates a sense of dynamic movement.


Allen's Hummingbird, Male, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

Allen’s Hummingbird, Male


2) Dramatic Impact

Sometimes vivid color enhances a photo.

Here, a background of red Bougainvillea flowers helps make this a unique view of the hummingbird.


Allen's Hummingbird, Juvenile Male, (c) Photo by Steve Kaye

Allen’s Hummingbird, Juvenile Male


3) Artistic Expression

Unexpected colors can add enchantment to a photo.

This photo, taken in the shade against a bright floral background, conveys a different story.


What’s Next?

If you take photos of birds, experiment with different backgrounds. For example, you might:

a) Try different views that offer different colors, patterns, or types of light.

b) Experiment with small adjustments. Sometimes a small step will improve a background. This might, for example, eliminate a dark spot caused by a shadow.

c) Take photos of the same subject using different types of backgrounds. Then compare how the background changes the story told by the photo.

Much success,

Steve Kaye


Help Birds Tip

Keep Cats Indoors

Why: Cats are one of the few predators that can catch a hummingbird.

Here’s an article that tells how you, your cat, and birds all benefit: See Keep Your Cat Safe


Birding Resources

George West has created a fantastic book about Hummingbirds. See: North American Hummingbirds

Mark your calendars for the Sedona Hummingbird Festival, July 29 – 31, 2016. Find info at: Sedona Hummingbird Festival

I show ideas like this in my talk about Hummingbird Photography. See: Catch Me If You Can.


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4 Comments
  • Lynda Curtin
    Posted at 16:52h, 26 May

    These are stunning photos, Steve! Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Kristin Risley
    Posted at 19:32h, 26 May

    Absolutely gorgeous! Thank you for sharing these hummers with me, Steve. How do you get the backgrounds so “smooth”? Mine are usually just blurry shapes or grainy.

  • Steve Kaye
    Posted at 20:09h, 26 May

    Thank you for your questions about these backgrounds. Those are real, natural backgrounds. They appear blurred because they’re relatively far, about 10 ft (3 m), from the hummingbird and because the depth of field is very small, about half an inch (1 cm).

  • Susan Bulger
    Posted at 20:37h, 26 May

    Cats are excellent non-native predators and letting them outside is unfair to native wildlife squeezed in ever smaller places between our homes. Catch, spay and release is a terrible cat program. They will kill hundreds of native species in their miserable lifetimes.

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