How To Photograph On A White Background Using Two Lights; Plus A Useful Bonus Editing Tip

Oct 3, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

How To Photograph On A White Background Using Two Lights; Plus A Useful Bonus Editing Tip

Oct 3, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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Gavin Hoey explains how he keeps white backgrounds bright with two lights.
Gavin Hoey explains how he keeps white backgrounds bright with two lights.

In the video tutorial below, Gavin Hoey tackles an issue many photographers new to shooting on white backgrounds are faced with–white backgrounds that look grey in photographs.

As you may already know, this is caused by the inverse square law, which you can learn all about here. But for now, let’s focus on the solution which, as Hoey explains, can be as simple as adding a second light into the mix. Take a look:

Something To Consider When Setting Up Your Lights

One of the keys things to remember when lighting the background is to ensure the light bouncing off the background and onto your subject is not brighter than your key light. When this happens, the light begins to overpower the subject resulting in the fine hairs around the subjects head to overexpose, in addition to light bleeding over the shoulders, etc. To ensure this doesn’t happen, always meter the back of your subject (in this case, Hoey metered the back of the model’s head).

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Hoey’s lighting setup for the shoot.

Essential Post Processing Tip

Now that you have a perfectly exposed white background, it’s time to bring your images into Photoshop to do any typical edits you may wish to do to your photos such as white balance, curve adjustments, etc. Once you are done with that, however, there’s one last thing you’re going to want to do to your image–add a shadow or a reflection to give your image a more realistic feel. Without having a shadow or reflection, your subject will look like she is just floating around in space. It will also give the image a sense of depth and dimension.

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If needed, flatten your image layers so are working with only one layer. Duplicate that layer, then change the Blending Mode to Dissolve. Now, click Edit > Transform > Flip Vertical. Holding the Shift key on your keyboard, drag the duplicated and flipped layer to an area of the image where it makes sense for there to be a shadow or reflection–typically below the subject. Drop the opacity of the reflection layer fairly low, Hoey set his to 34%. At this point, you can paint over part of the reflection layer using a white paint brush and a new blank layer as you see fit.

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As you can see in Hoey’s finished image, he removed a little more than half of the reflection, but this will be dependent on your photograph, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different possibilities.

[ Gavin Hoey via AdoramaTV ]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer based in Hawi, Hawaii. You can follow her Twitter here and her personal life here.

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2 responses to “How To Photograph On A White Background Using Two Lights; Plus A Useful Bonus Editing Tip”

  1. Marius Budu Avatar
    Marius Budu

    This is a nice trick that every beginner can use so well done there :)

    The composite part however leaves a lot to be desired. Once the hexagons are placed next to each other, the lighting and perspective inconsistencies become painfully obvious.

    When doing tutorials of any kind, it’s really important to pay attention to each step of the way so that people don’t learn poor techniques.

    1. Shifty303 Avatar
      Shifty303

      I was thinking that as well but in the end I like the perspective issues. It adds depth in a new way.