Free and Paid Photography Backgrounds: Where To Find Them and How To Use Them

Written by
September 29, 2023

If you’re unsure how to start using custom digital backgrounds in your volume photography gallery, you’ve found the perfect article. We will discuss the basics, like why you would use custom graphics, where to find them, how to use them, and how to incorporate them into your galleries to drive orders and increase sales while delighting your customers.

PhotoDay makes several free backgrounds available to users within our volume photography platform. Your chosen print lab will probably have graphics available for free or a small fee that you can mix and match with our collection of backgrounds or even create and use your own custom backgrounds.

Why Use Digital Backgrounds?

Custom background graphics add visual consistency to your images and provide options for your buyers to encourage them to purchase more. With online selling, your photos are your inventory—so the more you can offer, the more you can sell. There is a time-saving benefit on picture day because you can set up one backdrop and add imagery in post-production. With PhotoDay Knockouts, you don’t even need a backdrop! You can quickly extract the background from photos taken against a traditional backdrop or a natural environment.

There are many other benefits, too. Incorporating creative backgrounds demonstrates your studio’s commitment to a thematic approach that adds value and enhances the memories your photos capture.

As you prepare for a photo session, think about how background graphics can enhance the finished product. If you’re photographing a youth sports league, search for or create backgrounds that align with the nature of the game and represent team colors and the spirit of the organization and its athletes. 

You can easily apply this approach to dance studios, as well. Consider the theme of the studio’s upcoming recital and utilize backgrounds that reflect the elegance and power of the dancers within that theme. You could even consider adding visual elements that represent the dancers’ styles.

School pictures create unlimited opportunities for creativity. Beyond school colors and mascots, you have options to include scholarly themes. Be mindful of the seasons as well—offering a fall or holiday theme may get family members thinking of gifts and keepsakes they might not consider if they were buying just another school picture.

A traditional portrait might get framed or posted on social media, but a graphically enhanced image could become a grandparent’s coffee mug, an aunt’s keychain, and a dad’s yearly calendar. There is no limit to your upsell opportunities.

It is also important to consider that nostalgia is huge right now. Remember those laser backgrounds you got with your pictures as a kid? So do today’s parents. They love seeing them and appreciate the old-school twist on school pictures. Don’t ignore whimsy when selecting what backgrounds to offer. Fun things like space cats, taco dinosaurs, and other retro themes can generate surprising sales.

Where to Get Backgrounds

Free Ready-to-Use Backgrounds

PhotoDay offers four customizable background collections you can add to your galleries if you connect to Miller’s Professional Imaging, Reedy Photo, Richmond Pro Lab, or White House Custom Color and have one of their price sheets attached to your job.

Creating Free Custom Backgrounds

Want to show off your creativity by making your own digital backgrounds? You can create and upload your own or even mix and match with a combination of PhotoDay's backgrounds and your own! When you design them, start with a 2400px x 3000px (reverse for horizontal) canvas using an RGB colorspace. Save your completed design as a JPG up to 15MB and 8000px or less in either height or width. Before you start designing, check out this article for valuable tips and tricks.

Using AI: Artificial Intelligence is a buzzy technology, and it will only become increasingly prevalent in the years to come. Multiple AI background generators that create eye-catching designs based on word prompts are already available. Some tools, like Canva, have a free version available that you can try. Note that you will need the Pro version to unlock its full potential.  Fotor is another popular choice. On top of high-quality graphics, you can also prompt for solid backgrounds. Like Canva, Fotor also offers a free and a Pro version.

Paid Backgrounds

Another option is purchasing premade backgrounds. Many websites have huge collections available for download, and there are also several private sellers in online marketplaces like Etsy. Ensure that any graphics you purchase meet PhotoDay’s specifications. Also, be sure that you clearly understand your purchase's licensing and usage rights so you are not subject to legal action in the future.

When searching for backgrounds, remember there is a difference between composite graphics and a more traditional background. Composites are generally more complex graphics and designs combined with your portrait during post-processing and can require manual adjustment to work correctly with your images. Backgrounds are much simpler and have a high concentration of workable space, allowing for proper photo composition with minimal effort in your photo editing software.

Composite graphics are often used in youth sports photography, while traditional backgrounds are more commonly utilized in school pictures.

These partners have provided great results for real PhotoDay users:

Traditional Backgrounds

  • Squijoo: Squijoo offers a wide range of creative and attractive digital backgrounds. Photographers love their customer support team and the availability of unlimited graphic downloads for $10 per month.
  • PERC Photography SchoolPERC offers valuable educational opportunities for photographers and great digital background options. Their variety of color and texture options could provide the ultimate complement to any photo setting.
  • EtsyThis online marketplace provides seemingly unlimited options for backgrounds. Tapping into the creativity of so many different designers is bound to inspire. Enter “digital backgrounds for school pictures” into the search bar and prepare to be amazed at all the options. Ensure your downloads include appropriate licenses and are compatible with your photo editing software.

Composite Graphics

  • 3rd Creative: This Texas photography studio creates versatile Photoshop templates and bundles of compelling background graphics for their local clients and makes them available for purchase so you can impress your customers, too.
  • JHphotodesign: Sports photographers particularly enjoy Joshua Hanna Photography’s collections of designs, layered Photoshop templates, and other editing tools. View his large selection and let your creativity run wild.
  • Pixnub: This site offers templates, digital backgrounds, and excellent tools and plugins for Photoshop, as well as helpful tutorials and resources. 
  • Shirk Designs: Ben Shirk is renowned for his creative imagery and Photoshop skills. Extensive backgrounds are available for youth sports, dance, and more. Most templates also include lighting diagrams and video tutorials.

Consider Your Backgrounds When Photographing and Processing

It’s essential to ensure your subjects look natural against the digital backgrounds you are offering. When photographing, set your lighting to match the designed background lighting so the finished product looks authentic. You should also crop full-body images to avoid floating feet. Softening your background can also help add dimension to the final image. 

How to Use Backgrounds

Now that you have taken your photos and selected or created the perfect backgrounds, how do you get them into your galleries for your customers to use?

It’s as simple as adding your background collections to your PhotoDay account. Studios can upload up to 12 background images into each collection. They can all be custom background images or mixed and matched with PhotoDay’s complimentary backgrounds. If you’re a PhotoDay user, sign into your account and check out our support articles for step-by-step instructions and tips for creating optimal backgrounds.

How Do Backgrounds Work For Your Customer?

Providing customers with multiple background options increases their chances of ordering various products. Many customers will buy the same pose with multiple different backgrounds as prints, digital downloads, and more!

PhotoDay’s intuitive gallery interface puts your customers in control. They can preview their photos on all the backgrounds available in the collection you created for the gallery. With a simple swipe and preview, customers can mix and match poses and backgrounds on various products. They can also rotate, zoom, crop, and choose horizontal and vertical images for ordering.

Once your customers have found their favorite combinations of poses, backgrounds, and products, they can proceed to their shopping cart to complete the order.

Digital backgrounds are a valuable tool for volume photographers. Using graphics improves the photograph's impact, increases your revenue per order, and can simplify your next school, dance, sports, or event picture day.

PhotoDay makes it easy to utilize backgrounds in your online galleries. Whether you want to use the ones we have provided or bring your own, our user-friendly studio tools will empower you to build your customizable galleries and sell your dynamic photos in a flash.

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