April 7, 2017

Shifting Perspectives: A Case for Backgrounds

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 9.57.28 AM

What is more important: the subject or the background of a composition? Yes, both are integral elements of creating any piece of art, but if you had to pick a favorite, which would it be?

If you said the subject, this blog is for you.

Being the daughter of a sculptor/art teacher, art has always been a big part of my life and upbringing. One of my biggest downfalls with creating a composition, however, was my hyper-focus on the subject. In high school, my art teacher would scold me again and again for neglecting to give the background of a painting or drawing enough attention to detail. I would spend so much time making sure my subject was perfect, that the composition would ultimately fall flat because the background was under-developed.

What does background have to do with creating an appealing asset for social media marketing? A lot more than you might think.

When planning content strategy, it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture (see what I did there?). Far too often, visual assets become centered around the subject and we forget to give the background of our visual composition some TLC. The background of an image is arguably just as important as the subject when it comes to content creation for social media – but how can we keep this in mind when creating content for social media? Here are a few tips and suggestions to utilize for your next product or client shoot:


photo by @danielwellington

Think of the Background First

Creating visual content for social media often starts with creating and positioning the subject, leaving the background as an afterthought during the creation process. In order to avoid forgetting to develop the background, visualize the background first! By making this your first priority, you can create the perfect canvas for your subject, ultimately leading to a well-rounded and well-executed image. Plus, switching perspectives might inspire some groundbreaking original content.


photo by @danielwellington


Some of my favorite Instagram posts and social media images have texturized backgrounds, making for great juxtaposition next to the subject. When planning your social media content, try using a variety of textured backgrounds before shooting the final image. Wood, marble, sand, denim and brick are just a few textured (and recognizable) backgrounds that make for aesthetically pleasing images when put behind an interesting subject. Better yet, if your subject is a little vanilla, experiment with busy and bold patterns – just don’t go too overboard, so as not to overstimulate your audience.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 10.23.15 AM

photo by @danielwellington

Use of White (or Colored) Space 

As minimalism continues to rise in popularity, it’s not a bad idea to observe how influencers and content strategists utilize white space in their compositions. Yes, this kind of contradicts my previous paragraph, but hear me out. Creating a great composition is all about experimenting and seeing what works and what does not. Sometimes less is more, and if your brand is one that airs on the side of simplicity, experimenting with white space or even solid colors might make for a great background.

Long story short, the background should be part of your brainstorming and creative processes making images or social media assets. When the background is lacking, your composition is lacking, which means your content is not as great as it could be. Change up your perspective and try putting the background first, unless you want your content strategy to be boring. Or unless your content subject is a puppy, because no matter what the background is, a puppy will always create winning content.