Your website visitors should be drawn to your site because they love your images. So rather than distracting them with your site’s design, just let it highlight your work.
When taking a great photo, you always pay attention to what’s in the background of your composition, making sure it’s not a distraction. So why not apply the same mindset to the website background?
Full-screen slideshows are sometimes boring, but they can be OK for portfolio sites. But using background images for the entire site is not recommend, it just looks distracting/messy.
Here are a few examples to see what I mean:
What background images are saying is this: “Here are some images/thumbnails, but, at the same time, here is another one of my images as the background.”
Have you ever seen an art gallery where paintings are hung on a colorful wall? Or would you make someone listen to a song while also playing another song in the background? Probably not, because attention is a finite resource.
And even if we’re just talking about a text-only page, a background image can make things hard to read:
Depending on the type of photography you do, you can sometimes get a little more creative…
… but most of the times, a neutral solid-color background is better.
So, when in doubt, stick with a white background.
What about black backgrounds? Don’t they make images “pop out” more?
You might be technically right. If the surrounding area is black, your iris will open up slightly to accommodate the lack of light. You will perceive the image as brighter than it actually is because your iris is a little more open.
But white text on a black background is usually less readable, hurting the eyes, so it might not be worth it.