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white background portrait shoot

derek bradley , Jul 10, 2005; 12:23 a.m.

Hello:

I am planning a portrait (headshot) photo shoot of people tomorrow and I wanted to know how I can get the background to evenly appear really white and bright. I have a white background (paper) and two speedotron (800Ws total) lights that I will be using. Is the trick to use one of the lights to light the background? If so, how do i get the light to appear even? I will be shooting on film, so I wouldnt be able instantaneously see the image after it is taken. Any advice would be helpful. Thanks.

-d

Responses

Patrick F , Jul 10, 2005; 01:58 a.m.

Keep the backround lights even and 1 - 1.3 stops over the main light. Thats all you need to do. Any brighter and you will get lens flare. Try this - use both lights on your backround, and use two (very large) white reflectors angled at your subject, one on each side of your camera angled 45 degrees toward the subject. Should work. Good luck!

Ron Wurzer , Jul 10, 2005; 03:27 a.m.

You can try the above method or try the following if you wanted to use one of the lights for the subject. Put the second light behind the subject, low, out of view, and point it up towards the background. And as the previous poster suggested, make it 1 to 1 1/3 stop brighter than the light on the subject. And, if possible have the subject ten feet or more from the background, otherwise you could get lens flare.

derek bradley , Jul 10, 2005; 05:35 a.m.

Thanks for the response! So, to get the light behind the subject to be one stop higher than the light in front of the subject, I would have to have twice as much light behind the subject as I would in front of the subject? So, since I have 800Ws of light, I should set my light behind the subject to 400Ws and the one in front to 200Ws? Is this correct? Also, shouls the like behind the subject be point directly at the background, at an angle or straight up? Thanks for the help; I'm a novice at studio lighting!

Gary Ferguson , Jul 10, 2005; 09:08 a.m.

Derek, sound like you've all the equipment you need, the only constraint might be your studio space.

Imagine your subject is seated in front of you, and the background paper is 8-10 feet behind them, with the wall say 2 feet behind the paper. Then you'll probably be 8 to 10 feet in front of your subject (with a 135 to 200mm lens for a head and shoulders shot), and you'll need a 4-6 feet minimum space in which to work. In other words you'll need a minimum 22 feet clear space, with 28 or 30 feet being more comfortable.

In terms of background lighting you'll need a fairly low lighting stand that can be positioned directly behind your subject, as high as possible without appearing in shot (so at about the the height of your subject's lower back or chest) and angled so that it's pointing at a point on the background paper that's directly level with your subject's jaw.

You'll need a reasonably wide reflector on the background strobe (the one you use with umbrellas will be fine) to evenly light the background, and a reasobaly long lens (135 to 200mm) to avoid including too much background. Use an umbrella or soft box on your main light, level with or slightly above eye height, and a reflector to fill the shadows.

With this set up you can't go far wrong. The results won't be particularly original, but they'll be very professional and will replicate the great majority of commercial shots that you see published

Patrick F , Jul 12, 2005; 01:58 a.m.

Derek, It sounds like you REALLY need to invest in a hand held light meter (Minolta IVf is my reccomendation) rather than trust watt second ratings, because it is alot more complicated than simply how much power is coming through the lights! If you do not have a hand held light meter, it should be at the top of your next purchase list!

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