How to achieve a pure white backdrop in studio? Please help!

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Thread: How to achieve a pure white backdrop in studio? Please help!

  1. #1
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    How to achieve a pure white backdrop in studio? Please help!

    Hi all!

    I am a mommy hoping to get a couple pictures of my 1 year old for her birthday on a solid white background.
    I have a white vinyl matte backdrop (hung) and am having difficulty achieving true/pure white, instead I am getting more of a gray color tone.
    My light source is: 1 octagon (my guess 40") soft box aimed at the backdrop.
    My camera/lens: Nikon D300/50mm
    Other equipment available if needed/suggested: SB-600, white or silver reflector, and 1 square (my guess 20") soft box.
    *All house lights off and blinds on all windows in the room are closed.

    Suggestions please!


  • #2
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    In a nutshell, you need quite a bit more light on the white background than on your subject. Separate subject and background by as much distance as possible, 12 feet or more would not be unrealistic, and put enough light on the background to overexpose it evenly, which of course means you may need to beg, borrow or steal more lighting equipment.
    Does anyone know of photography forum's that people Actually reply/comment to postings???

  • #3
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    ^^ Kind of... sort of ^^ A common misconception is that you need to blow out the background in order to get a pure white look. That's not really the case; 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop over key is plenty. As an example this [almost] high-key shot was shot with the background light 1/2 stop above key:


    What you do need however are at least two sources of light (You can do it with one, but it gets a bit complicated and you need way more 'oomph' than a single speedlight can supply). Also, to avoid confusion, soft boxes, umbrellas, etc are NOT light sources; they are modifiers. Your SB600 is a light source, your on-camera speedlight is a light source...

    So: Set up your SB600 at a distance from the background sufficient that it's output will paint an area quite a bit larger than the child; since we're talking about an infant, probably 6' should be ample. Next place a marker (a big stuffed toy will work) where you're going to place the child, and set your key light to expose the child correctly (Ideally with a slightly off-axis diffused speedlight, but I'm not sure if you have more than one - if not, diffuse the pop-up flash, set it to manual and adjust as required). Once you've got that done, with the speedlight in position on the floor, just behind where the child will sit, adjust the output 'til it's just above that of your key light, since I'll assume you don't have a flash meter, the easiest way is to set your rear LCD to show highlights (the 'blinkies') and increase flash output 'til you get a large blown area behind the child and then reduce it by one power level (ie, if you get the blown area at 1/2 power, reduce to 1/4 + 1/3 or so). Swap the child for the stuffed toy and shoot away.
    pixmedic likes this.
    Visit my website: John's Photography Comments and critique always appreciated.

  • #4
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    My experience in the studio through the years has shown me over exposing the background by less than one stop is iffy at best. Difused shadows from the main and fill may well be evident. I've always found 1 1/2 to 2 stops to be the sweet spot.
    Does anyone know of photography forum's that people Actually reply/comment to postings???

  • #5
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    Fair enough; I suppose a great deal depends on the light space, equipment, etc.
    Visit my website: John's Photography Comments and critique always appreciated.


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