Yet Another Backdrop Query

Started Nov 4, 2011 | Discussions thread
Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 11,716
Re: Yet Another Backdrop Query

The background cloths in the stands is too short at only 15'. You need to be able to shoot from knee hight upward at a subject that is standing on the cloth, and that means raising the cloth to about 10' and still have enough to extend out 8'-10' from the stands. Get background cloths that are an absolute minimum of 18' in length, and longer is better. Personally I would chose the kit from B&H with the 20' long cloths.

Realize that all the stands will be light weight ones and as hotdog321 said, there can be stability problems with stands. If you have a sewing machine you can sew up some simple cloth bags from a single strip of cloth - two open bags with a couple of inches of fabric between the open ends. Fill some zip lock bags with cat litter and slip them into the pockets. Budget sand bags, even cheaper than ankle weights. Add some ties if you want to be able to tie them to the central pole of the stand and lay them over the legs without then slipping down the legs.

With black muslin you can run into a problem of the background not being 100% black, especially on the floor with standing portraits. That is very simple to fix in Lightroom if you use the Adjustment Brush with Edge detection enabled. In Photoshop you can mask around the subject on a separate layer and paint the background pure black.

With both white and black backgrounds wrinkles in the fabric on the floor are a major problem. The answer to both these problems is to buy sheets of black and white tileboard. Using these on top of the fabric will eliminate wrinkles and produce a nice reflection of your subject so they don't look like they are floating is space.

Here is Zack Arieas' tutorial on the seamless white background technique where tileboard is used.

Be careful about one thing if you shoot seamless white. Don't do as Zack Arias says and overexpose the background by 2 or more stops. That was fine with film but with digital cameras you will see a lot of light from the background bleeding around the back edges of your subject and you will get a subtle type of lens flare that causes a loss of contrast. Stick to an absolute maximum overexposure of 1.5 stops, and a maximum overexposure of 1 stop is even better.

Put a good quality flash meter on your X'mas gift list. I recommend the Sekonic L-358 or the Gossen DigiPro F. Both these meters will work indoors or out in aperture priority or shutter priority and can be recalibrated when they eventually drift or to match your actual camera exposure - camera exposures are never exactly what the camera says they are.

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