how do I get crisp white backgrounds?

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Foxtrot_01, Jun 25, 2010.

  1. Foxtrot_01

    Foxtrot_01 TPF Noob!

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    Hello all,
    I had a questions involving backgrounds, I have seen some great shots were the background is crisp white, are these digital backgrounds done with PP or are they just paper backdrops?
    I recently did my first photoshoot and going thru the pictures I noticed the my white muslin looked gray and I forgot to notice some wrinkles on it. what is the best solution to deal with this?
    any iceas?

    thanks
     
  2. Moe

    Moe TPF Noob!

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  3. Foxtrot_01

    Foxtrot_01 TPF Noob!

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    anyway to fix the pics on PP? specially the wrinkles?
     
  4. Johnboy2978

    Johnboy2978 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Sounds like you aren't adequately lighting and therefore underexposing the background. In order to get a nice white BG w/o the wrinkles you want the BG to be about 2 stops brighter than the lighting for the subject. You can achieve something similar in PP however, you are going to lose detail around the hair. This is really a pain to make it look right in that area (unless you have a bald subject). It's far easier to light it correctly and get it right in the camera than fix later. (That's true of many other issues as well).

    The converse is true of getting a nice dark background w/ a black BG. You want the BG to be about 1.5 - 2 stops darker than the subject.
     
  5. Moe

    Moe TPF Noob!

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    You'd have to post the photos in order for someone to tell if it's doable. Just about anything is doable in photoshop, it just depends on one's skill level and desire to spend the time.

    I can almost...no, I can definitely guarantee it'll be easier to get it right in-camera than to spend the time in photoshop. What gear/setup do you have? I used a very wrinkly white curtain and got this shot (forgive the weird subject):

    [​IMG]

    Ignore the composition. It was handheld by me. I used a Nikon SB-600 in a shoot through umbrella to light me, and a Canon 580EX to light the very wrinkly background. I brought the 580 up to where it was just blowing white (blinkies on the LCD is how I knew). If you blow the whole thing white, you don't have to worry about the wrinkles.

    How familiar are you with the inverse square law? The further you get from that white background, the more grey it's gonna get if you don't have a light for it. If you're gonna do any kind of off-camera lighting, you need the reference site of champions: strobist.com. Specifically, check this entry:

    Strobist: Lighting 102: 1.2 - Position | Distance

    The second shot of the guy in the middle of the post explains the law.
     
  6. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    :thumbsup:
     
  7. Foxtrot_01

    Foxtrot_01 TPF Noob!

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    thanks, I will try to post one.
     
  8. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I often set up using Thunder Gray background paper, and then use a pretty high amount of light on the paper, and a very small amount of light of the subject. Gray prevents what Zack Arias refers to as "wrap" or "wrap around",and I think gray paper reflects less light back toward the lens, reducing chances of ghosting or flaring the lens in a darkened studio. Here's a quickie shot I did in 2006, using Thunder Gray seamless paper (an old, kind of wrinkly roll, too,not a virgin,new one),along with the shooting information from my pBase gallery. This is un-retouched. It is much easier and faster to get it right in-camera than to fix shots in post production. As you can see, there is still a very slight bit of natural fall-off at the upper left and lower left of this image...knocking that out would take about 10 seconds, but I prefer to have the corners just a little tiny bit darker on shots like this,most of the time.
    [​IMG]

    I tried to create a light,spring-like atmosphere and made sure there was a little bit of light on the edge of the cheek and temple area by making sure the barn doors allowed about a 2-foot wide swatch of softened rim lighting coming through a 20 degree honeycomb grid. The slight dimensional clue that the rim light gives makes the hands also pick up the small,but visible,highlights that help delineate his fingers. The EXIF information shows that this was shot using My Custom Curve #1,which is a pretty steep tone curve adjustment that makes things really "pop".This is a straight out of the camera,unmanipulated white backdrop made from gray seamless paper. There is no need to lighten the background in post. The background is lighted by two flash heads aimed in from the sides of the 9 foot wide roll of gray paper. Main light is from a single Lastolite 40 inch umbrella camera right. I positioned a LightForm 4x6 foot on a rolling stand to the left of the camera,close to the subject. Hair/separation light is a Speedotron light with an 11.5 inch reflector fitted with a honeycomb grid. This is a four-light setup, with a lot of light on the backdrop and very,very little light on the subject. This is in fact my "standard",four-light lighting scenario for quickie portra
     
  9. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Great example Derrel.

    The key points are that he had more light on the background than on the subject and also that he had two lights (from the sides) on the background. If you use only one light on the background, it can tend to show up any wrinkles or imperfections, but when you cross light it, it's much easier to get a clean BG.
     
  10. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Thanks Mike. Everything you say is correct. The gray paper was lit by two lights, one on each side of the seamless paper about eight feet away from the background,and aimed at about 35-40 degree angle to the background paper. The lights were Speedotron M11 flash heads with the "old" standard 65 degree 11.5 inch reflectors; newer 11.5's have a 50 degree beam spread,and are not as good in a cramped garage like this shot was set up in).

    One light is aimed from the back, left side of the set; It was an 11.5 inch 50 degree grid sttyle reflector with a 20 degree honeycomb grid and 2-door barndoors, aimed at the kid's forehead and left side area, and set at 8 feet high.

    There is only one main light, camera right, a 40 inch Lastolite Umbrella Box. A 42x72 inch white fabric reflector is camera left, just outside the frame.

    The two background lights had the most power. The main light and rim light were much lower-powered. Using speedlights, it would be like two Full-power flashes set to 35 or 50mm zoom cross-lighted on GRAY paper, and a main light and a rim light with diffuser or grid set to 1/4 power. A look at the power distribution from a similar old power pack tells me that this would have been lit with 240 watt-sec through each background light, and 60 watt-seconds through the main light and 60 through the rim light with grid. Rim light was roughly 2x the distance from the subject as the main light was.

    If you start with pure white or cream-colored paper, you need much less light on the background to make sure it is fully white in the final shot than if you are lifting gray up to pure white.
     
  11. Retro_10s

    Retro_10s TPF Noob!

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    Derrell - Ye knows tooo much!
     

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