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Photography Question 
Megan McKenzie
 

white backdrop/background


Hi, I hope someone can help me because where I bought my studio lighting equipment from no one seem's to be able to help me. I have set up a little photography studio in my house to photograph babies and children. the room is 12ft. by 12ft. ceiling is about 9ft. high. Anyways my dilema is that my paper roll white backdrop looks very dark grey in every picture no matter what I try. The lighting kit that I bought was only 2 light kit with an umbrella and a soft box. I then went back and bought a hair/back light thinking this would eliminate all shadows and darkness. The guys at the photo store told me that my bakgroung would be BRIGHT WHITE. Well it is still just as dark if not darker. I have tried situating my lights all around and still no luck. I am so frustrated I am ready to give up. And to make matters worse I no nothing about lighting. The room that I am using for the studio is painted dark red and dark blue on the walls and dark blue on the ceiling. I didn;t do this it was a media room for the previous owners. I didn't repaint it and I asked at the photo store if this could be the problem and they said it wouldn't make a huge difference in the pictures. I am going to try and hang a white sheet across the ceiling and see if this help because I don't want to repaint if this is not the problem. Do I need another light? Someone please help me. My black backdrop pictures look excellent.
thanks, Megan.


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10/9/2005 4:25:04 PM

 
Michelle Ross
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/1/2004
  Hi Megan . . I'm not an expert on lighting and struggle myself to always have a white and not grayish background .. . but if your ceiling and walls are painting in that small of a room you will most likely get some reflection from it . . . Also . .. 12 x 12 is workable but doesn't give you alot of room to bring the subject away from the backdrop so you may be getting shadows as a result of that as well . .. the 3rd light will help with shadows if you have it placed well . .. I have two lights and have my main to the right of me, the fill behind me and the background light on the left side. If I have the subject sitting I can put hte background light behind them but if they are sitting I have to kind of angle it towards the backdrop but do it so it doesn't spill onto the subject. . . to get the backdrop truly white you need to have it brighter than your subject by about 1 1/2 stops I think . .. maybe even 2. . . and if you haven't white balanced you might try that as well. . . Again I'm not an expert but these things might be causing your frustration!


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10/9/2005 4:50:55 PM

 
Melissa  L. Zavadil
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/26/2005
  Megan all that white or black is going to throw your in camera sensor off. Are you using manual? If not you need to adjust the manual settings so it is not picking up so much of the white/black. It is trying to get the 18% grey and it is not getting it so your camera is trying to adjust to force the 18% grey. I am by no means an expert at this. There is a really large link in the questions and answers; debbie has some great suggestions for manual settings that are great to start off with.
I think the settings she recommends is something like f22 100 try that and also read that large link!! :o)


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10/9/2005 4:55:56 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member
  Megan,

thought I'd offer my .02 although, again, not an expert as others have stated.

In order to acheive my white backgrounds, I have to have my backdrop at least 1 stop brighter than my subject. In order to do this I have to have my subject placed AT LEAST 4 feet from my backdrop and more like 6 or they will get spill over from the backlights.

This has worked really well for me, but you may not have room to do that.

At minimum, you need to be lighting your backdrop somehow or it won't ever be white.

I remember how much I struggled with this and a good solution until you get the hang of your lights, is to get a colored backdrop. Tan is nice for babies too.

Good luck!

amber


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10/9/2005 5:09:52 PM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Wanna cheats way?

In PS, edit your photo and make sure the portrait (not background etc) is perfect, layer the photo. On the top layer select your levels and the right slider, move it left, until all the white is really white, don't worry about what it does with the people etc.

Then select your eraser and erase out the poorly looking portrait to show the correctly edited one underneath. Make sure you use a soft eraser around the edges to blend it easily. Then flatten.

This is what I did with a photo in my gallery.

I hope this helps, cause for the life of me, I can't get white to be white either!


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10/9/2005 11:41:35 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Dear Megan,
I would love to help you - lets start here.I am a professional Photographers Trainer and have set up so many studios!!!
please set the camera to manuel-200/f22-iso 200.
set the studio lighting in a clock- subject and BACKLIGHT at the 12:00 hour-Main at the 3-4 o'clock hour,the camera at 6:00- the fill at between the 6:00and 7:00 hour-doesn't matter if it's AM or PM........Just kidding,
did I wake ya up there??lol,lol,
I have to get my kicks somehow this early.:-)
TEST!! and then post so I can see what is happening ok. If you truly try these settings it should be much better, and I can tell better what may be going on.
If you read parts 1,2,3,and 4 of the thread "Studio Photography" you will see that several people have used this set up successfuly and posted- those who had problems, we worked untill we found the issue-and then there were others that refussed to try the settings until they ran out of options,upon doing that they tryed the settings of 200/f22 and were successful! yeah!
Ok have at it-use a human, doll or stuffed toy makes no difference-just give it a shot and post .
Wishing you the very best in this venture,
Debby
if you are really having a time e-mail me and I'll walk you through it.or Laura-I'll have her post here since I will be out for most of the day.
** most basic studio shots in my gallery are with these settings-the couples collage gives you many backrounds including white.
also remamber to have it go background, backlight, subject working toward you.


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10/10/2005 7:27:26 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  HI! I'll help out, too, if I can! Looks like jsut about everyone from our Studio Photography thread is already here! Post some shots and we'll go from there.


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10/10/2005 7:36:50 AM

 
Lili E. Miller   Hi Megan,
I found this website really helpful for different lighting techniques.
http://www.webphotoschool.com/Lesson_Library/Free_Lessons/index.html
But I agree that have to practice before your clients are in front of you.


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10/10/2005 7:41:37 AM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  OK...that's strange! My post above is showing as Debby as the poster... I said:

HI! I'll help out, too, if I can! Looks like jsut about everyone from our Studio Photography thread is already here! Post some shots and we'll go from there.


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10/11/2005 6:25:36 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  aahhhaaa, the Post Bandit strikes again!!!
Liza told me how that happens but I don't remember-lot of help I am.lol


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10/11/2005 6:27:35 AM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  LOL!!!

I thought Deb was loosing it.....

It is all explained......


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10/11/2005 4:06:36 PM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  LOL! Nope just me...I didn't even correct my poor spelling the second time, either! Not sure how it happened, but oh well...the sentiment was there! LOL!


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10/11/2005 4:16:57 PM

 
anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  That is freaky knowing things like that could/can happen....


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10/11/2005 5:29:23 PM

 
Megan McKenzie  
 
 
I have tried your suggestions with my lighting and I am getting a bit better lit background but horrible shadows and they are impossible to get rid of with photo shop. Do I need another backlight or does anyone have any more suggestions. I have tried moving my backlight in many different spots even right behind my subject and still I get shadows. HELP. I really appreciate all the help I have gotten from you all so far.


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10/18/2005 8:21:39 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  pLEASE POST A EXAMPLE-IT IS REALLY HARD TO HELP MUCH FURTHER WITH OUT SEEING WHERE THEY MAY BE COMING FROM.
IF YOU POST I WILL BE ABLE TO SEE WHATS UP.
THANKS,
DEBBY


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10/19/2005 6:45:53 AM

 
Michelle Ross
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/1/2004
  Megan . . . where is your subject. . . try moving the subject further away from the backdrop . . that will make a huge difference. . .


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10/19/2005 7:01:43 AM

 
Megan McKenzie   Hi Debbie,
I have posted 2 horrible pictures in my gallary. Take a peek.
Thanks,


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10/19/2005 9:46:27 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Megan,
you need a back light-the backlight goes between the backdrop an dthe subject-pointing towards the backdrop.
this will light up the backdrop and eliminate the shadows.
this WILL help,
Debby


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10/19/2005 9:51:49 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  Again, the lighting set up is like a clock- backdrop then backlight then subject in that order as seen coming towards the camera
-backdrop-
-backlight-
-subject-
at the 12:00 hour of a imagined clock,you camera is at 6:00
**3 light system: main light is between 3-4 o'clock and fill is between 6-7 o 'clock
**2 light system:
1 light is a backlight and the other is your main.
I hope this will clear things up a bit.


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10/19/2005 9:58:23 AM

 
Megan McKenzie   Hi Debbie,
I am using a backlight and I have followed your suggestion with the clock but still I have shadows. My fill and my main light are both 100w and my backlight is only 40w, could this be the problem? My back light also does not have a continous light like the other two it only flashes with the other light when I take a picture. The store I bought it from said that it wouldnt matter. They said with the back light my backdrop would be bright white with no shadows and it is not that way at all.
Thanks,


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10/19/2005 2:07:21 PM

 
Laura E. OConnor
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/12/2005
  Hi, Megan! Is shouldn't matter if it has a modeling lamp. Where/how is your backlight positioned?? Is it really close to the backdrop pointed up at at least a 45 degree angle? Are you SURE it's firing? You may need a sensor to plug into the PC connection for it to catch the signal if it's behind your subject. This is an external sensor on a chord that you can stretch out from behind so it's exposed when the camera sends the lights a signal to flash. Did that make any sense? Try to press the shutter, but instead of looking through the camera, watch the backlight to see if it fires.


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10/19/2005 2:14:39 PM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/4/2004
  YES LAURA IS RIGHT- YOUR BACKLIGHT MAY NOT BE CATCHING THE FLASH THAT TRIGGERS IT TO FLASH-THE SENSOR SHE'S REFERING TOO IS THE CHEAPEST WAY TO START-IF THIS DOES NOT WORK FOR YOU ,YOU MAY NEED TO GO TO RADIO CONTROLLERS.


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10/19/2005 2:34:45 PM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Megan- were you able to figure this problem out? I'm getting ready to do a shoot against white & I'm getting nervous with everyone's gray-troubles!

Does anyone else have suggestions for what to use as a white background? I'm thinking white velvet??

(Debby & Natalie, if you haven't seen my post today "Magician & fatter face" I could use your help!!)


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1/20/2006 9:39:42 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Megan !! You're fighting several problems here and judging from the work in your gallery, the first one is a space problem, followed by a wall color problem, and then backgrounds and THEN the adequacy or inadequacy of your lights.

First, contrary to what you've been told, you need to move your subject away from the background, 6-8 feet, at least, probably more. I prefer 9 or 10. I'd also forget about the lighting set-ups here for two reasons: You ain't got enough horsepower in your lights and you need to figure out a lighting ratio, how much the main light is to the fill light. In terms of brighteness, say you make your main light at level 3 or at full power, it's 2 times brighter than your fill light at level 2, and if you use a hair light, that should be at about a 1 or 3:2:1. You can get those ratios positioning your lights anywhere and taking meter readings using an incident meter at your subject pointed back to your camera lens.

Instead of a fill light, try bouncing your main light into a fill card placed 3-5 feet from your subject to boost some light into the shadow areas. Try not using a background light unless you're trying to purposely brighten it.

Are your lights strobes or hot lights like incandescent bulbs? 100 Watts of light into an umbrella gives you an effective light output of about half that, or 50 watts. That's like a table or desk lamp. 40 Watts, you're now moving into the night light area.

Oh, and to get your subject off the background, you'll need to back the camera up as the subject moves toward you. Try shooting into the room through a doorway from a hallway. You'll also get better appearing depth of field that way, I think.

Also, while it's nice to have your own shooting space, and 9 foot ceilings aren't bad, think about moving the operation to another part of your house, like a livingroom where you can have more space even if you need to move furniture around when you work. If you really need to stay in that space, paint the walls and ceiling flat bright white. You're probably making yourself nuts with color casts from light reflected off the walls onto your subjects.

Hope this helps ya out.
Take it light.
Mark


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1/20/2006 12:20:49 PM

 
Megan McKenzie  
 
 
Hi Mark and Denyse,

Well I have had some luck with my lighting. I found out that I needed a AS 15 Hot shoot to plug my lights into. I was not told this when I bought my kit. Now I am getting much brighter pictures. I would still like one more light, but in time. Thank you for your inquireries and your advice, I am always eager to have help.
I will post a picture of my recent practice.

Does anyone know much about natural light portrait photography. I would likt to try this since I have a HUGE area for this and some HUGE windows. Any good books or advice would be great. Camera setting etc anything that would help.


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1/20/2006 10:52:40 PM

 
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