Blog and photos courtesy of Devaun Lennox
Are you tired of struggling to achieve a pure white seamless backdrop in your images? Even if you are shooting with Savage’s Pure White Seamless Paper sometimes it can seem dull in your shots. Today we say goodbye to that undesirable off white seamless and hello to the pure white seamless. Okay, so there are many ways to achieve this kind of result. The biggest factors are going to be the following: How many lights do you own and then how large is your studio space? Today, we’re going to focus on achieving a pure white seamless with the least amount of gear possible. In this case, that’ll be (2) studio strobes and a reflector. If you’re anything like me, I shoot at home in the living room and with that, apartment DIY-ers are completely crippled to 8 ft ceilings and limited space, making lighting a pure white seamless for full body a challenge. Have no fear, here’s a setup you can mimic to achieve high quality results. It will take a bit of finagling in Lightroom (or your editing software of choice) to get the backdrop to the ideal tone in our final image. Let’s get to business. How do we do this? Below is the lighting diagram with approximate distances, camera settings, heights and output settings for the lights used.
(1) Photostudio F500 250W strobe (1) Neweer SK300 150W strobe (1) Impact 7’ White Umbrella (1) Fotodiox 5’ White umbrella (1) Flashpoint Glow reflector
1/160 Shutter Speed
White balance set to flash
Shot on Savage Pure White backdrop paper. The total length from start of the roll to backdrop stands was 9 Feet. And the model is position centered at 7 feet from the backdrop. The Photostudio F500 had the 7’ white umbrella with a 7’ diffusion cover (also from impact) over top that was positioned roughly 30 degrees to the models left side, and literally jammed into the ceiling as far as it can go (approximately 6 feet high from ground to the bottom of the strobe head). This main light is in a loop lighting position. From there, I used the Flashpoint Glow reflector mounted to a light stand and positioned it so that it would fill in the shadows caused by the main light. At this point using the modeling light on the strobe helps to see which angle and how far forward the reflector should be placed. A change of a few inches here makes a huge difference so watch the lighting on the models face which positioning the reflector.
The next step is to place the background light. The background was light with the Neewer SK300 with the fotodiox 5’ white umbrella installed. This light was placed approximately at shoulder height (5 feet) and aimed towards the middle of the backdrop. A couple of key with this light is: make sure it’s out of the frame and that it is slightly feathered away from the model’s shoulders so that the light doesn’t spill and cause a highlight on the models right. Also, if this light is aimed too far right, you will get flaring into your lens from the light spill and it’ll significantly decrease the contrast of the image.
Once the light is initially set, take a few test shots to make sure it is only hitting the background and not the model.
The next major thing is to MAKE SURE this light is set to a stronger output than your main light. The rule of thumb is 1 stop over. The issue people normally have with obtaining pure white is that the background isn’t overexposed enough. If it’s not, then the background will not be pure white. This light was set at 70% power, while the main light was 60%. This is the raw image straight out of camera once this is setup: Notice in the raw image that the background still has this warm moldy looking color to it. Well, let’s fix that. The next steps are to take this into Lightroom or editing software of your choice. What we’re doing in whatever software you guys are using is follows: we’re removing the saturation from the backdrop so that it’s completely desaturated (image left), then setting the highlights to 100% which overexposes the highlights so that they become pure white.
A few side notes
If you want to significantly speed up selecting the background in Lightroom, make sure “Auto Mask” is enabled in the brush settings. Auto-mask picks up automatically on the edges of wherever the brush is stroking. This makes selecting certain objects with defined edges (in our case the background) much easier. Total cake. It takes about 1-2 minutes to get a perfect selection. Secondly, since I do shoot in an apartment with only 8 ft ceilings and this was doing using GIGANTIC umbrella’s, which due to the ceiling height can’t be positioned to the height needed to properly expose the face. They’re actually about a foot too low, so the majority of the light is hitting the chest and hips. To fix this, add an adjustment layer to increase the exposure of the face and shoulders by 0.25 to 0.5 stops. BOOM! Great publishable pure white studio images from the comfort of your living room.