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Category: New Questions

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Photography Question 
Jessica Johnston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2007
 

Getting a White Backdrop


 
 
I have a white backdrop and am having trouble getting absolutely white results. I have tried to take a blank white photo and set the custom white balance, but it still turns out kinda gray. I want a bright portrait with a stark white background. My photos are in my gallery so you can see what I'm talking about. I have a canon 20D, and two softboxes right now that I've been using. Any help??

4/26/2007 3:48:34 AM

 
Debby A. Tabb
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/4/2004
  Jess,
Are you using a backlight? You will still need one for that High Key look. I hope this helps,
Debby

4/26/2007 5:36:30 AM

 
W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
  I [want] a bright portrait with a stark white background.Then you need about 2.5 stops more light on the background than on the subject.
Oh, and FYI: The background has got nothing to do with "white balance"!

4/26/2007 6:46:14 AM

 
Jessica Johnston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2007
  How do I get 2,5 stops more light on the background than on the subject?

4/26/2007 7:42:09 AM

 
W. 

member since: 9/25/2006
 
"How do I get 2,5 stops more light on the background than on the subject?"

By pointing more wattseconds i.o.w. more light, more power at the background than onto the subject (you meter and expose for the subject, of course).

4/26/2007 1:00:10 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
 
 
 
Jessica,
Most of the responses are correct here. You need more light on your backdrop. One light is rarely enough.
What caught my eye was your subject-to-backdrop distance. Too close. You will throw shadows and never get a white backdrop.
The shadows need to fall outside the image frame. Some will argue, and will be correct in saying a blown-out white background will override shadows falling on the background. Try to avoid this, as it will bring on more problems - blue casting, etc.
Get your subject at least 5 feet in front of the backdrop. You will probably need both softboxes to light the backdrop ... OR ... Just one that is hidden low or blocked by your subject that faces up, fired at full power.
This method, when on a budget, has the added effect of bouncing some light from the ceiling back down to the subject's hair and shoulders, helping to separate them from the backdrop.
Final note Jessica: It looks like you might have some dust on your sensor. Nothing to do with your exposure, just thought you might want to know. :)

Oh, one more idea if you know how to use editing programs. You can always mask off your subject and use levels to "bring up" the back drop.
Here's a sample shot demonstrating the last method.
All the best,
Pete

4/26/2007 6:56:05 PM

 
Michael McCullough

member since: 6/11/2002
  I might simply expose for the white like you would when shooting a snow scene +1/2+1 1/2 of overexposure might be a help.

5/1/2007 12:28:34 PM

 
Jamie~Lynn Klesmith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/15/2006
 
 
  Anamarie Rose, 4 years old
Anamarie Rose, 4 years old
Side lighting only
© Jamie~Lynn Klesmith
Canon EOS 20D Digi...
 
 
I went into Jessica's gallery to view the pics she was referring to, (which are very nice btw :) ) and I have had similar experiences... I found that lighting the backdrop with a third light really does make a difference! Altho, sometimes by mishap, some beautiful portraits can come out of not lighting it too...like this one I took (and that was a white seamless backdrop-with only side lighting on the subject).

PETE~ I also have a canon 20D...any recommendations on cleaning that sensor? I've recently noticed a similar effect on a few pics of mine, and think it is probably the same things..dust!

5/1/2007 3:59:44 PM

 
Jessica Johnston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/23/2007
  Pete and Jamie-Lynn -- how can you tell there is dust on the sensor? I think I am missing the "effect" you're referring to and I'd love to know! Thanks for the tips also, I love the photo, Jamie - so cute. And great to see what can be done with a white backdrop!

5/1/2007 4:29:38 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Jessica,

The third pic labled "Increased Saturation." Look to the right just off the ear..and then below that off the arm and to the left side of the pic about midway to the left of the other arm.

Sensor dirt is not always visible, much depends on f/stop and a bright background..sky etc...

Personally I like "sensor swabs" and medical grade methanol. There are many instructions on the net how to clean the sensor.
I've done mine at least 6 times in a year. Preventative maintainance is really the key here which is why I took a good hard look at the Nikkor 18-200mm VR but have decided to pass on it.

It is not difficult to clean a sensor, but does require patience, and usually more than one attempt.

DO NOT..repeat, DO NOT touch the sensor with anyting except STERILE swabs. NO Q-Tips! My warning is as you will see on any web site teaching how to clean a sensor.

Oh, BTW Jessica, I don't think your dirt on the sensor is bad enough to warrent a cleaning yet; however, the longer you leave it on, it will begin to transition from a light adhesion to welded dirt; the latter is a pain to get off.

All the best,

Pete

5/1/2007 6:30:48 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  PS on sensor dust.
A good way to see how much dust, dirt and debris you have is to simply shoot a pic of the clear blue sky..no clouds.
In any editing program, raise the white point very high so the pic is VERY bright. If you have dust, you will see it.

Pete

5/1/2007 6:37:15 PM

 
Jamie~Lynn Klesmith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/15/2006
  Thanks for the advice Pete :)

Regards,
jamie~lynn

5/1/2007 7:39:22 PM

 
Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  I too use the Canon 20D. Love it. Wish I had the 5D though. Ah well. I believe the new Canons have a self cleaning sensor. Great.
Regarding the lighting. I too have only 2 large Softboxes (saving for my 3rd). When I want to make the background very "white" (no shadows etc) I train one light on the background (at full power), plus I sometimes add home strobes just to give it a bit more punch... and also some hanging white sheets to one side to bounce the light more... then I position the subject away from the background (say 8 feet) and then train my remaining Softbox on the subject at "half power" plus a reflector on the other side for fill light ... and expose accordingly. Any stray bits of light I do not want I just edit out in Photoshop.
They say your background should be at least 2 f stops brighter than your foreground. If it's too bright you wil get ghost edges on your subject.
As with every situation like this, trial-and-error and shoot various frames at different settings until you are happy - then write it all down for future reference.
PS: The lighting task above can be a lot easier if you are looking steeply down at your subject with a wide angle... sort of like a modern distorted look (ie: large head, small feet etc). Great for rock bands, crawling kids, and unusual angles generally. No good for classic portraits though.

5/1/2007 10:23:42 PM

 
Angie Ray
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/24/2006
  Pete..
"Oh, one more idea if you know how to use editing programs. You can always mask off your subject and use levels to "bring up" the back drop.
Here's a sample shot demonstrating the last method."

Where's that sample shot you're talking about? I'm soo looking for a better way to 'bring up' backgrounds in photoshop but can't seem to find something I'm happy with.. :)

5/2/2007 1:43:24 PM

 
Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Angie,

I had the sample up for several days.
Took it off just recently.

I can email it to you if you wish.


Pete

5/2/2007 3:07:44 PM

 
Angie Ray
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/24/2006
  That would be great! I'll IM you my email address.. and would you mind giving me a brief description of what exactly you did? Thank you so so much!

5/2/2007 4:07:41 PM

 

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