White background

Started 6 months ago | Discussions
Hopeful_Beginner Junior Member • Posts: 26
White background

Hey all!

I am having a difficult time lighting my background an even white, I have read article after article, watched various adorama videos and tried for myself different techniques.  I cannot light it enough, and certainly not evenly.

Here is a picture of my two Neewer tt560 speedlights at full power, pointed to last 1/3 of area to light. The diffusers are on, so the flash heads are zoomed out.

Are my speedlights too weak? I have a 300 w strobe lighting me for full body portrait, maybe I should use the strobe to light the background (with a standard reflector which I have) and use the speedlights bounced off v flats for the full length portrait lighting (catalogue photography).

Are my speedlights just useless or is it my technique?

ps. keep in mind that I am working with 3 metres of depth, I know that ideally my speedlights should be 6 ft from the backdrop (i have a seamless in my studio now) but when I will be shooting on my seamless in my basement studio, I will have, at best 5 ft for lights, and not much left between me and lights, and then between me and the camera.

Richard Hopkins
Richard Hopkins Regular Member • Posts: 185
Re: White background

Unfortunately, you need quite a lot of space to do that properly. It makes everything so much easier and you can get a good result SOOC. The alternative is hot-spots and gray bits and hours of post-processing to achieve a below par result.

There is an alternative, made for tight spaces - the Lastolite HiLite. There are a few different sizes and this is the middle one I think: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/478588-REG/Lastolite_LL_LB8857_HiLite_Chromakey_Background.html

MOD Kelvin L Regular Member • Posts: 404
Re: White background

Set your speedlight zoom at its widest, to avoid hotspots. A diffuser dome might help as well.

Shoot some test shots with the background speedlights only, and widen your aperture just enough to reach white on preview (almost clipping to the right on histogram). Then set your key light power to match this aperture.

Try placing a stronger diffuser in front of the key light to reduce its intensity.

At some point you'll hit limitations with the power output of your speedlights. Try increasing your ISO to compensate.

I've successfully used speedlights for a white background in product shots, but it's difficult to achieve for full length portrait.

Addendum: you could also try evening out the speedlights by indirectly lighting the wall with a scrim bounce. That will suck up more power though, so you'll probably have to pump up ISO to get a useable aperture.

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Krav Maga
Krav Maga Senior Member • Posts: 3,426
Re: White background

Considering the space you're working with, it would probably be easier to do it in post production. Get it as close as you can in camera, but once in post finish it there.

If you're using PS, you can use the dodge tool set to Range highlights, Exposure around 8 or 10, and deselect Protect Tones.

A quick and sloppy example on a cropped version of your image:

Original:

And after about 3 minutes of work:

Of course it depends on the subject, etc., but If you shoot it with the intention of a clean, pure white BG, this technique works great. I've done it a lot even when I pretty much get the white BG down with my lighting. It's never pure white.

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MOD Kelvin L Regular Member • Posts: 404
Also try monobloc as background light

Another option is to use your 300Ws mono as the background light, and the speedlights as key & fill.

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GodSpeaks
GodSpeaks Forum Pro • Posts: 14,231
Re: White background

It would seem the biggest problem you have is that of space.

What I do:

I use a white seamless backdrop (not muslin) and I light it from behind.  I place two AB1600 strobes about 3 to 4 feet behind the backdrop.  Then I adjust their position and aim for as complete coverage of the backdrop as possible.  I also have the strobes set to 3/4 or slightly higher power output.

My subjects are then placed 3 to 4 feet in front of the backdrop, and lighted separately, of course.

Using a flash meter measured at the subject position, I try to set the background lights to read 1.5 to 2 stops over exposed, relative to the subject.

I will try to find a photo or two to show the result and post it later.

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GodSpeaks
GodSpeaks Forum Pro • Posts: 14,231
Samples

These photos may be considered by some to be NSFW, so fair warning.

This first shot is from the garbage pile, but gives a better overview of the setup.

First sample

The second shot shows what the results can look like.

Second sample

In case the links don't work, the photos are in my gallery.

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phedge Regular Member • Posts: 239
Re: White background

You could try placing the speedlights directly behind your subject and removing whatever bits of stand show in post. A lot depends how active your model will be, but this gives you the brightest output directly behind your model then you can correct the edges in post. Use one stand and rig both lights at differing heights while trying to blend them together. You could screw a threaded flange into the floor and use a single rod rigged with both lights, but that may jeopardize domestic bliss.

Currantos Senior Member • Posts: 1,158
Learn to "LIE" with photoshop

The small space and the limited lights/diffusers will make it difficult and probably next to impossible. It would take an Ansel Adams to make it work, and even then he would heavily post process the image in the dark room.

You should absolutely optimize your lighting and settings and everything and you would still likely not have a good white background outcome.

That's when you go into LR/PS and "cook the magic in" to make the image like you want. LR/PS is not a substitution for good lighting but it is essential to give that 'final product touch'.

The easiest advice is worry about "white background" around the subject/model. Dark gray corners and sides can be easily cleaned up after. If you don't get the white behind the subject that's when photoshopping would be difficult and make things more frustrating.

Good luck

Krav Maga
Krav Maga Senior Member • Posts: 3,426
Re: Learn to "LIE" with photoshop
1

Currantos wrote:

f you don't get the white behind the subject that's when photoshopping would be difficult and make things more frustrating.

Good luck

Using the steps I talk about in my post above, it's pretty easy in PS.

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Southern Gent
Southern Gent Regular Member • Posts: 144
Re: White background

It's more a case of working with what you have.

To get a pure white background, in camera you need to raise the reflective reading of the background in relation to the subject aperture setting. By using a method made notable by Dean Collins you can literally change a black background to white, and a white background to black. Google Dean Collins Chormozones. It only takes a 2 1/3 stop increase in the reflective reading to raise an 18% gray background to pure white. I have 3 backgrounds that I use the most one black, one gray and one white. With gels I can make any color or saturation I want. However depending on your location and the availability of lights that may or may not be a problem. The Inverse Square Law, comes into play with your background as the smaller the light source coupled with distances results in rapid falloff or decrease in intensity. You can increase the size of your light by adding a reflector, like an umbrellas, or firing the speedlight at a large white reflector, or a shovel reflector like these if you're only lighting a small area behind your subject.

The other thing is depending on the subject it's possible to shoot your subject right up against a white background and clean it up post. There's a ton of different ways, in both Lr and Ps. For example here's a 10 second way in Ps, using a white fill layer, set to overlay, and adjusting the blending If. I'ts easy to mask out the effect on the subject.

Or another quick seconds method in Lr using a radial filter and adjustment brush to clean up.

Since you're cramped on space the up close method might well be the best, then correct post.

Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 15,527
Re: White background
2

You can get a fairly even pure white background with hot-shoe flash units but you need to do it right.

Position the lights even with the edges of the background but about 6' from the background. Just move the lights out away from the wall in your image.

Use the wide angle adapter (light diffuser panel) and aim the lights 1/3 of the way in from the opposite edge of the background area. This way the lights will overlap at the center to even out the lighting over most of the background area. You can adjust the aim of the lights to get the area more evenly lit.

The lights should be at about 1/2 the height of the largest area of the subject being photographed. Higher for a head shot, lower for a waist up shot.

Have the subject 6' from the wall/background.

Set the subject exposure without the background lights. It is okay if there is some light on the background from the subject lighting.

Turn on the camera's Highlight Alert to show you the area of the background that is overexposed.

Turn on the background lights, keeping them at the same power settings, and start at a low enough power that the background is a light grey.

Increase the power of the two background lights in 1/3 stop increments until the background just starts to blink, indicating that is is being overexposed for JPGs straight out of your camera with the current camera settings for Style, Contrast, and WB settings.

This JPG clipping point should also be close to or slightly less than your RAW clipping point.

If there is only a halo around the subject that is acceptable. You only need the halo around the subject pure white straight out of camera. You can paint the edges and corners of the image pure white in only a few seconds during post.

You do not want the background lights to be any brighter than necessary or light reflecting from the background can cause the edges of the subject to be overexposed and "bleed" into the background. An overly bright background can also cause lens flare, which from broad area light source causes a loss of image contrast, not the line and bubbles type of lens flare you see from a bright light source.

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john isaacs Veteran Member • Posts: 4,409
Re: White background
1

You need to diffuse the light a lot more than you are.  And you can't point the light directly at the background.

Ideally, you would use a large strip light and a reflector on each flash, and then aim the flashes at the opposite corners.  Light on the near corner would be reflected from the scrim, and also from the direct light of the opposite flash.

For portable use, I take a similar approach.  You need to mount the flashes so the flash head is vertical, not horizontal.  This gives a better vertical spread.  Use the diffuser on the flash head.  And then mount a reflector on the flash head.  Aim at the far corner, adjust to even the lighting out as much as possible.  The refletors I use are just white poster board, cut so there is a tab that allows mounting to the flash head with a rubber band or strap.  Bigger is better, but I get decent results with 6" x 8" size.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,853
Re: White background

Hopeful_Beginner wrote:

Hey all!

I am having a difficult time lighting my background an even white, I have read article after article, watched various adorama videos and tried for myself different techniques. I cannot light it enough, and certainly not evenly.

Here is a picture of my two Neewer tt560 speedlights at full power, pointed to last 1/3 of area to light. The diffusers are on, so the flash heads are zoomed out.

Adjust the aim on your speedlights to get the most even illumination you can -- as others have suggested, turning them on the side may help, aim them across the background, and add a simple "bounce card" type reflector. You may not be able to get it perfect, but if you can get a clean white around the edges of your subject it's not too hard to clean up the corners and edges in processing.

Are my speedlights too weak? I have a 300 w strobe lighting me for full body portrait, maybe I should use the strobe to light the background (with a standard reflector which I have) and use the speedlights bounced off v flats for the full length portrait lighting (catalogue photography).

More power would make it easier, but you should be able to do it. It's a matter of proportion -- you may need to dial down the power on your main light. Just as a guess, try with your main light around 1/4 or 1/8 power and adjust your camera settings for a good exposure on your subject -- you may need to bump up the ISO a bit.

Or another approach: Set your speedlights and adjust your camera for the minimum exposure to get a white background, then bring in your subject and main light and adjust the power on the main to get good exposure on the subject.

Are my speedlights just useless or is it my technique?

I used to do this with 4 speedlights on the background, but it can be done with 2.

ps. keep in mind that I am working with 3 metres of depth, I know that ideally my speedlights should be 6 ft from the backdrop (i have a seamless in my studio now) but when I will be shooting on my seamless in my basement studio, I will have, at best 5 ft for lights, and not much left between me and lights, and then between me and the camera.

A bigger room makes it easier, but it can be done in a small space, with possibly a little help from Photoshop.

Gato

Ellis Vener
MOD Ellis Vener Forum Pro • Posts: 13,727
Re: White background
2

Hopeful_Beginner wrote:

Hey all!

I am having a difficult time lighting my background an even white, I have read article after article, watched various adorama videos and tried for myself different techniques. I cannot light it enough, and certainly not evenly.

Here is a picture of my two Neewer tt560 speedlights at full power, pointed to last 1/3 of area to light. The diffusers are on, so the flash heads are zoomed out.

Are my speedlights too weak? I have a 300 w strobe lighting me for full body portrait, maybe I should use the strobe to light the background (with a standard reflector which I have) and use the speedlights bounced off v flats for the full length portrait lighting (catalogue photography).

Are my speedlights just useless or is it my technique?

ps. keep in mind that I am working with 3 metres of depth, I know that ideally my speedlights should be 6 ft from the backdrop (i have a seamless in my studio now) but when I will be shooting on my seamless in my basement studio, I will have, at best 5 ft for lights, and not much left between me and lights, and then between me and the camera.

1) add some diffusion to your lights. This can be tracing paper or even a Kleenex tissue.
2) back the lights away from the wall. Ideally, they should be far enough that when you point the lights at the center of the area you want to light, the area is evenly lit.

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jlafferty Senior Member • Posts: 1,031
Re: White background

You can, as an alternative to diffusion, get some efficient silver umbrellas and bounce the light - you’ll get fairly efficient and broad coverage.

My “trick” to dealing with this scenario in a tight space is to make the key and fill lights do a lot of heavy lifting, bring the model about 4ft from the background. If the model is lit optimally, the background will already be fairly well lit. Then you just need a kiss of light to get it the rest of the way there. Any inconsistencies can be remedied in post pretty easily. CaptureOne’s luminosity masking really shines here, as does selecting by color range in PS.

Ellis Vener wrote:

1) add some diffusion to your lights. This can be tracing paper or even a Kleenex tissue.

2) back the lights away from the wall. Ideally, they should be far enough that when you point the lights at the center of the area you want to light, the area is evenly lit.

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Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 15,527
Re: White background

jlafferty wrote:

You can, as an alternative to diffusion, get some efficient silver umbrellas and bounce the light - you’ll get fairly efficient and broad coverage.

Good point about using umbrellas to spread the light out more on the background.

I have used white reflection umbrellas with black backings for a more even spread than you get from silver, but silver should work fine too.

One thing that is very important that you don't get light from the background light source going directly to the subject or to the camera.

If you use umbrellas they should have a black backing to block the light from the back of the umbrella.  If you use strobes or flash units use flags or add some black paper or plastic cardboard to the light to block light from the strobe/flash reaching the subject or camera.  You may even need to flag softboxes.

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Donald B
Donald B Forum Pro • Posts: 16,919
Re: White background

Its very easy. just shoot your subject using a single mono light 300 watt is plenty using a white shoot through umbrella. and use photoshop replace colour tool to make it 95% white never make it pure white. just click on the areas to lighten and slide the brighten slider. i like to leave some shadows other wise the subject looks like they are floating .

Don

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Sailor Blue
Sailor Blue Forum Pro • Posts: 15,527
Re: White background

Donald B wrote:

Its very easy. just shoot your subject using a single mono light 300 watt is plenty using a white shoot through umbrella. and use photoshop replace colour tool to make it 95% white never make it pure white. just click on the areas to lighten and slide the brighten slider. i like to leave some shadows other wise the subject looks like they are floating .

Don

That is a very nice image and your shades of light gray are nice.

The point about seamless white is that it is pure white. That doesn't mean that the background should always be seamless white.

Nice reflection off the acrylic plastic sheet. I love that and use it for almost all background colors if the background extends to the floor. It looks great and, if desired, isn't any harder to remove than a shadow on the floor. You might, however, want to blur the line where the acrylic sheet meets the background to make it less obvious.

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Donald B
Donald B Forum Pro • Posts: 16,919
Re: White background

Sailor Blue wrote:

Donald B wrote:

Its very easy. just shoot your subject using a single mono light 300 watt is plenty using a white shoot through umbrella. and use photoshop replace colour tool to make it 95% white never make it pure white. just click on the areas to lighten and slide the brighten slider. i like to leave some shadows other wise the subject looks like they are floating .

Don

That is a very nice image and your shades of light gray are nice.

The point about seamless white is that it is pure white. That doesn't mean that the background should always be seamless white.

Nice reflection off the acrylic plastic sheet. I love that and use it for almost all background colors if the background extends to the floor. It looks great and, if desired, isn't any harder to remove than a shadow on the floor. You might, however, want to blur the line where the acrylic sheet meets the background to make it less obvious.

on some shots i blur the line out between the acrylic and backdrop but these shots are my mass shoots so i dont spend to much time. on others i love the line and throw even more shadows.

this was my biggest seller last year . the dancers and parents loved the shadow detail and so did I.

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