There are many times when your choices for locations are very limited. You may be meeting a client at a park you’ve never visited, or you may be photographing an event or wedding at a specific spot. The trouble with places you’ve never shot before is that the backgrounds are often messy and distracting.

Everything is at head height

At parks and wedding venues the landscapers — bless their hearts — are on a mission to trim the trees high enough that people can walk under them. That means there is no greenery behind your subjects, and all you see are cars with the sun reflecting off the windshields making bright distracting spots everywhere. That’s happened to you, too, right? ;)

At graduation the other day, cars were parked in every direction I turned. If there weren’t cars, then there were other people taking pictures. No good backgrounds anywhere.

Well, there are two easy steps to get a great background in almost any situation.

1. Zoom in

The first thing to do is zoom in as much as you can and step back. Zooming in reduces the width of the background and makes it easier to find enough background for your subjects. And it’s imperative for the second step.

2. Get low

Now just get down on your knee. When you shoot upward, all those background distractions disappear. You’re now pointing your lens over the cars and the heads of everyone else walking around.

Normally, you wouldn’t want to point your camera upward at people because you’d be looking up their noses. But, since you zoomed in and backed up, the angle is shallow and it just ends up looking good.

So, when you’re out of options for backdrops, and there are distracting elements all over, remember this little tip in your pocket. Zoom in and drop to a knee and you’ll find a decent backdrop almost anywhere.

Portrait Tips come out each week, and you can see them all right here.