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Article submitted by guest contributor Katlyn Douek,  j-kphotos.com

We love to use Savage seamless paper colored backdrops in the bulk of our photo shoots, and owning 18 different colors is proof of that! Each color adds to the mood of our photograph. Brighter tones and earthy tones help shape the desired theme. We also enjoy using shaped modifiers and gels to add to the look of our images overall. Though recently we posed the question to ourselves: could we maximize our use of a colored backdrop and photograph it in varied shades, without using gels during the shoot? What kind of lighting setups will produce the best results? How will this impact the mood of our images?

Within 55 colored backdrop hues available from Savage, we have a wide range of options, but we can also dive in even deeper to experiment with varied tones of each hue, just by repositioning our lighting and controlling the amount of light on the background. This expands our world of color more, making colored backgrounds even more useful, convenient and fun!

Creative Challenge

This was quite the creative challenge to help get us out of our Quarantine Funk! It was a reversal from our normal process of shooting. Normally, we start with a subject, and add the backdrop to enhance the image, or accessorize the photo. We love making our images and wardrobe pop against the right colors. Now, we would be using the model as an accessory for the backdrop, and displaying it in its full glory! We got in contact with two of our favorite models, Aubrey Leonard and Emily Perry and also one of our favorite makeup artists, Kelsey Eisenhut, and gave them the basic idea of what we were going to do, and we got to work that following weekend.

The backdrops for this challenge were Savage Seamless Paper colors in Coral and Mocha. Using only our lighting setup, and a couple of different diffusers, we were able to produce a range of beautiful color tones, from light to bold to dark on both seamless backdrops. We shot everything on a mirrorless camera, used a 600 watt strobe light and a beauty dish, as well as a honeycomb grid, ring light, and curved reflector for this session. We decorated our models with lines of bold paint that either complemented or contrasted against the shade that we were going for. Aubrey worked on the Coral, while Emily worked on the Mocha.

Base Tone

The positioning of our lighting played an important part in how it affected the backdrop color. In camera, the settings – especially our aperture & ISO – contributed to the brightness of each backdrop. We also had to adjust the distance of each model from the backdrop, to help bring out certain tones. For instance, if we wanted to get the base tone itself, we had to have the strobe light positioned straight on in front of the model, while she was positioned a medium distance of about 4′ away from the backdrop. In the two examples below, having our aperture set to f/7.1 to allowed for a clear balance in the flow of light to the model & backdrop.

Lighter Tone

For the lighter look in the next three images, we positioned the strobe so that more light was hitting the backdrop, while also hitting the model at a short distance from the backdrop. Placing her 2′ away, and having the lighting hit her from above allowed for an even distribution of light across the backdrop. The brighter tones from the Mocha was especially pleasing. It truly enhanced the richness of Emily’s eyes.


To achieve the rich blend of the bright to dark tones in the next two images, we positioned a flash with a bulb diffuser right behind each model. You can see that the halo of light trailed off before reaching the edges of each backdrop.

Darker Tone

Using the honeycomb grid over a 7″ reflector with our light and model 5′ away from the backdrop, gives us a much more moody feel in these next images.   A grid allows us to control the direction of light more tightly by preventing spread or spill onto surrounding areas.  This helps to focus the viewer’s attention on specific elements of the image, such as the model’s expression versus her wardrobe.

Modify the Mood of Your Images with Varied Color Tones

One of our favorite aspects to this challenge was what bringing in different tones could do to our photo. For instance, very light tones could provide a more editorial feel, while the bold and rich colors made it seem more artsy and fun, and the deeper tones added an almost film noir moody tone to the image, without coming across as overly dark. 

We hope that you enjoy the photos, and if you have any more questions regarding our shooting settings or light positions, please leave a comment below! We love hearing from other photographers and enjoying an interchange of information and ideas. Follow our team too, Aubrey Leonard @aubs_leonard and Emily Perry @ekvpmodel and Kelsey Eisenhut @ironhatmakeup.

Jason and Katlyn Douek have been photographing side by side for nearly six years. Based in Indianapolis, IN, they focus on a variety of genres of photography. They’ve enjoyed working with many local businesses to photograph their dishes, people and products. With two adopted terriers as the mascots of their studio, they’ve been able to help a variety of models add to their portfolios, enjoy sharing in the joy of 50 couples on their wedding day, and just completed photographing 70 redheads for their personal project to capture the beauty of a rare percentage of the population. Their love for traveling has always included a camera in hand, and trying the restaurants locals recommend. By day, she works for the neighborhood camera shop, Robert’s Camera in Downtown Indianapolis, and he’s in accounting. Find out how they #ShootWithSavage by following their social accounts below, and their main website, j-kphotos.com.