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All Photos Courtesy of Clay Cook

On my daily scroll through social media and the world-wide-web, I see a lot of photographs and a lot of the same style of photographs. Many of those compositions are shot in a studio with a white, black or gray seamless backdrop. Some photographers use hand-painted canvas, others use cloth muslins. But, it’s rare to see a photographer or creative team use seamless color as the backdrop. I suppose strong, bright colors could be considered a distraction and clash with the clothing or makeup. Also, many photographers are afraid to experiment outside their own boundaries and try something different; lighting color isn’t easy.

Recently, I stumbled upon a stream of advertising, in which they used a slew of muted colors as the backdrop for a winter campaign. The photography caught my eye, but really it was unlike anything I had ever seen from a major designer marketing push. The color complimented the clothing and really molded the model’s delivery. Inspired by the campaign I set out to create my own editorial using shades of color that aren’t on the “bestseller” list. My goal was to create a moody series with top notch high fashion styling and an experienced model that could compete with the model seen in the colorful marketing campaign.

Savage Universal offers over 60 various shades of colored seamless paper and I spent several hours deliberating over the 4 colors I would use for this editorial. I wanted the colors that weren’t obvious and the colors that didn’t pop. It felt similar to choosing the “nerd” from a lineup in a grade school game of kick ball. I didn’t want the shining all-star, but more the off-color underdog.

Olive Green

I learned that the off-color shades are very versatile, but they don’t necessarily photograph how they are pictured. The first set was lit with several lights and I experimented with several different forms of background lights. Although, the key handled a lot of the background light, I still needed to bring up the ambient darkness without sacrificing my shutter speed. I eventually found that feathering light and placing two lights on either side of the drop looked the most natural.


This muted shade of warm brown is quite close to Beige, but with a deeper and stronger yellow hue. It lit naturally and was quite easy to photograph. Just like the others, it proved to light much darker than what is seen in the standard stock sample. Nevertheless, it did retain color and did not sway easily.

*#55 Autumn has been discontinued. We recommend substituting #79 Almond.


At first glance, the seamless is a strong pink. But, I learned it can take on several different shades of color when lit. The Coral tends to lean towards violet when light is taken off the paper, but when light is added the paper takes on a hot pink shade. A large soft light source or natural light would look gorgeous with this paper, but using it for fashion editorial created an extra challenge. I decided to remove the background lights and let the key and fill light the scene, creating a darker shade of pink. Coral is a color that looks harmless, but can really test the lighting skills of a photographer.


Same light, same setup, although this color seemed to light more naturally than the Olive Green or Autumn. It was straightforward and my favorite color to work with. The two background lights filled the paper with light naturally. While it took on a darker shade of Beige, this color remained quite true to the original color.

#25 Beige is discontinued. We recommend substituting #19 Egg Nog.

Before mounting your standard white seamless paper, think about the concept of your shoot and consider adding a subtle color. An eccentric shade could add that much-needed flavor to the photograph or that final piece to the puzzle. But, be prepared to work hard and explore outside your normal territory. Again, lighting color dramatically is no easy feat.

Throughout the entire “Full Blooded Flush” editorial, we made sure to style the model to compliment the background color. Everything has its place and everything was there for a reason. So, when working with the eccentric shades of Savage seamless paper, make sure your subject is briefed on the concept and you have complimentary props, makeup & wardrobe. It’s easy to travel down the wrong path when working with subtle shades of color, but the proper subject matter can go a long way to make the overall project stand out from the overpopulated mass of white, gray and black.

Clay Cook

Clay Cook began his creative career in the music industry, and after 10 years, his passion had leaned towards photography, cinematography and graphic design. Constantly collaborating with designers, national models, filmmakers and other photographers, Clay has built a reputable name as an award-winning internationally published photographer and filmmaker, specializing in fashion editorial and advertising photography. Clay’s work is featured frequently on world-wide photography blogs including Fstoppers, B&H Photo & Video, PetaPixel, SLRLounge, ISO1200 and BorrowLenses among others. Clay has been published in USA Today, First For Women, ProSales Magazine, Modern Salon, American Salon Magazine, Louisville Magazine, The Voice of Louisville, NFocus Magazine, STORY Magazine and Dark Beauty Magazine. Check out his website here.
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