Create 4 Different Background Styles Using Only 1 White Seamless Paper

I only have two backgrounds in my (home)studio, a white seamless paper and a black wall. I use my seamless white paper for almost every shoot that I do, unless of course, I need to shoot on a black background (in that case I use the black wall). I always tell my students how important it is to have a a seamless white in your arsenal. It costs around $35, and while it is just one piece of equipment, it can be used to create many different looks and styles.  Here are some examples and lighting setups you can use that utilize a seamless white.

feature image white seamless
Of course, you can also use a canvas, a woven background, vinyl or any other “big white thing”.

Grey Background

The closer your subject is to the background, the more light it gets from spillage, and the lighter the background becomes. You can actually make your background Black if you just move your subject away from the background and make sure no light is hitting it.

This is a one light setup. The light is 45 degrees upper left of the model, and she is about 7 feet away from the background turning it completely dark.

One light Grey
Building on this setup, you can place another light with a Stofen Omnibounce pointed at the background to get a gradient effect.

grey with stofen

Same lighting but the subject is 1 feet away from the background. I used the shadow of the softbox and shadow of the subject to create a strip of light in the middle of the background



On White

Now to make your white background White. Normally I would go with the 3 light setup.

Depending on the way you are lighting the subject, you can place your main light 45 degrees to the left or right of the subject or you can boom it 45 degrees coming from above. Then place two lights at the back-left and back-right pointing at the background (you can use a strip light or just point a bare bulb at it, and flag any spillage). Normally the background light should be two stops brighter  than your main light.

In my studio I don’t roll my white seamless paper up to the floor when shooting a full body on white shot, I place a 4×8 sheet of white tile board to get a reflection on the floor.

On white with formica



On White full body


If you’re only planning to shoot half body shots and have only two lights, you can place your background light directly behind your model pointing in the background and still get the same effect.

On White

Colored Background

Another option to use a seamless white is color it using gels. The most important thing when doing so, is to make sure no light is hitting your background other than the gelled flash. For this Setup place your main light on top of the subject and place an illustration board below the subject for fill. Behind her is an SB-600 with a gel (you can use different colored gels) and a Sstofen Omnibounce to create a gradient colored backdrop.

Colored BG

Gobo For The Win!

To add extra spunk to your background, you can always put a GOBO in your flash to get another different effect for the background. Check the article here on how it’s done.

Feature ImageYour Turn!

What tricks do you have for seamless backdrops? share with us in the comments.


  • Daniel

    Laya should post more often!

    • LSG

      I post weekly :) cheers! :)

  • Steven

    Brilliant post, frankly. The only change I’d make is to add lighting diagrams for those people less au fait with the equipment i.e… me :-(

  • Tyler

    Laya, what a great post. This is what DIY Photography should be all about: photography hacks* that actually work and would be used by real working photographers, not useless, limited hacks “just for fun” like the flashdrive RAID system posted a few months back. There’s nothing wrong with tinkering just for the sake of it, but useful solutions are so much better!

    *hack in this context meaning something besides the obvious use. I’ve always used a white background this way, but it may not be so obvious to a new photographer.

    • LSG

      Thanks for the comment! :)

  • Precious Moments Bristol


  • sircracked

    Quick question: On the white tile board suggestion, the substance pictured up there seems to be a kind of seamless vinyl or linoleum, or at least I can’t see the regular seams I’d expect when I imagine something like tile board. Is the lighting such that those aren’t visible? Am I completely thinking of the wrong substance entirely? Or, is that not precisely tile board, rather some related flooring substance?

    Very interested in trying that setup, but, would be interested in suggestions/clarifications…

    • LSG

      Actually, what I use is a white formica(i think it’s used in whiteboards and kitchen table top

      • bram

        Oh, formica. It really gives a seamless glossy “picture perfect” appearance. But it has to Be permanently pasted on a hard surface otherwise it breaks like hell! It’s ideal for studio. But for outdoor/off studio, i dont think so.

  • Ashley dellinger photography

    On the one using the stophen omnibounce to make the gradient…is it on the ground behind the model pointed up and at background or it on a stand behind the model pointing straight back at it? Second question is the chinese star war cutie…..what modifier did you use in front & how did you get the reflection on the ground is that in post or plexiglass?

  • yakir

    Hi, can i use this method of turning white to grey background on a full body photoshoot?

  • bram

    Great post!! Thanks for sharing your tips. Anyway, where did you find your $35 seamless white paper backdrop?? And what is its measurements?
    It’s sooooo cheap. I’ve been to hidalgo st. at quiapo recently but it’s almost double that price like P 3,000++.