Shooting on a white seamless background can be tricky. It gets easier with better gear and a lot of room, but if you’ve got neither, shooting on white can be a real pain. I experimented a bit with a quick 2-light setup today, trying to put together something I could use when I have to pull off a quick portrait on white without turning it into a big production.
One of the main difficulties in shooting on white is to shield your lens from your strobes. With a usual 3-light setup you have 2 lights hitting the background from the sides creating an evenly lit background. With the strobes coming in from the sides, you have to shield them from your lens, which means you need room. And, obviously, you need 3 lights. But what about the times you got neither? If all you want to do is a decent head-shot portrait, you can get by with 2 flashes and a white or light colored wall.
Basic idea is to use your subject as a screen for the background light. Put a speedlight on a lightstand and aim it at an upward angle against the wall behind the subject. Position your subject directly in front of the strobe and use your second flash to light it.
In case you’re new to this, this video is a good start to get to know the different styles of lighting you can achieve with one light:
Now it’s time to start making testshots until the background is blown out to white but without “wrap” around your subject, meaning your subject keeps seperation from the background without any background light spilling onto it. Shooting ISO 200 at f 2.8, I had to dial down my strobes almost to the minimum, running on 1/100th power with an SB-600(!) Most SLRS offer a blinking highlight warning feature which is supposed to warn you of parts of your picture blowing out to white. In this case this is what we want, so if the background is nice and blinking, you’re good to go. Once the background is taken care of, you only need to bring up your subject with your second strobe and you’re done. (For the examples on this page I used an SB900 through a Sambesi Softbox as the main light and a bare SB600 for the background. You don’t need much power, the SB600 was running on 1/100th power, the SB900 on 1/40th power!)
Obviously, this setup only works with rather tight portraits, you don’t want to try and light a full body shot with it. But for quick portraits, this can be a quick and simple solution which you can pull off pretty much anywhere.
For (much) more in depth advice concerning shooting on white, I’d suggest you make the jump over to Zack Arias’ blog. He’s done a couple of great posts on that subject, check them out here.
2 comments » | bruno axhausen, camera, commercial photography, digital camera, DSLR, flash, how to, lighting, off camera flash, photography, portrait, portrait on white, Uncategorized, white background