How would you like to have an infinite number of different backgrounds for your portraits? What if I told you that you can? In fact, it’s very likely that you already have this “infinite background machine” at home? Any ideas what it might be?
If you thought of a TV, you were right. In this video, Joe Edelman will tell you all the benefits of using a TV screen as your backdrop, and he’ll also teach you how to use it to make the most of it.
Joe uses a 4K TV to create a vast number of backgrounds. But note that this technique will work with a 1080p TV as well. Basically, you can create your own backgrounds in Photoshop any way you like: make them from scratch, or photograph random textures, designs, and scenes and edit them to your liking. You can use your camera or smartphone images or download photos from stock photography sites. And you can edit them as many times as you like and create a different background from the same image multiple times. The possibilities are endless.
As for the setup, Joe connects his laptop to a 65” 4K LED TV so he can switch between different backgrounds. The TV is mounted onto an adjustable stand with wheels so that it can easily be moved around. Since the TV screen is bright, there’s no need to light the background. As for the models, they should sit 3-5 feet in front of the TV screen.
This setup works best with longer lenses so you get a background compression. For example, Joe’s go-to lens is Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 (150mm equivalent). For full-frame shooters, a 100mm lens will work, as well as longer lenses. If you want to use something like 85mm, it will work, but keep in mind that you should move your subject closer to the TV.
In case you’re wondering what about any reflections on the screen, it’s an easy fix. The TV can be tilted slightly downwards or to the side, thereby avoiding reflections. If you shoot with speedlights, you can use slower shutter speeds so you don’t encounter banding from the TV’s refresh rate. Try 1/50s, or go even slower.
Here are a few example photos Joe took with this setup:
Now, if you don’t have a large flat-screen TV, it can sound like a crazy idea to buy one just for portrait photography. But Joe claims that it has a higher return on investment than printed or painted backgrounds. I’ll give you the prices and you do the math.
A 65” 4K TV (Joe uses this one) costs around $600. You can likely find it for even less if you buy used. The TV stand with wheels is $60, so let’s say that the maximum total price of the setup is $660, and you get an unlimited number of backgrounds.
Now for the standard backdrops. A 53” seamless paper backdrop costs around $30. 53” printed backdrops are around $70, and hand-painted backdrops start at $80 and go all the way to $270. You can add different colors to them with gelled speedlights, but you will always have the same pattern on them. So in the long run, it pays off.
The only downside to this approach is that it doesn’t work for full body shots or wide-angle portraits. You’re pretty much limited to only taking headshots. But still, it’s headshots with an unlimited number of backgrounds. And if you shoot at home, this “backdrop machine” will be in the center of attention at family movie nights. Also, you can use it for pretty cool neon-themed portraits.
So, what do you think of this technique? Do you think it’s worth investing in? And have you ever tried it?