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.
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.
Building on this setup, you can place another light with a Stofen Omnibounce pointed at the background to get a gradient effect.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
What tricks do you have for seamless backdrops? share with us in the comments.