Portrait Photography On White Background

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For consequent white background illumination, identify two lights behind a subject on each side of the frame. This ensures even lighting without hotspots.

1 of the most popular requests I become from portrait clients is to photo them in front of a white groundwork. It’due south for good reason, too. The look has a timeless quality, plus it’s make clean and elementary.

White background portraits tin besides be easily clipped and dropped into other scenes equally needed. And while the look is simple and doesn’t require much specialized equipment, getting information technology just right takes some know-how.

How can photographing someone on a white groundwork be difficult? If yous simply put a person in front end of a white wall, won’t y’all go a white background by default?

Actually, no. When yous photograph someone in front of a white groundwork without proper illumination, the white background turns from white to light grayness.


In response, photographers besides often creepo up the groundwork light and overpower the background, forcing information technology and everything in the vicinity to turn bright white. The outcome is that this approach too frequently causes lens flare and impacts the subject in unappealing ways. At best, it makes your subject’southward edges undefined and blurry. At worst, lite spills onto them and creates ugly lighting and disastrous loss of detail.

To avoid these pitfalls, here are a few techniques to ensure white backgrounds remain nice and bright and the discipline looks their best.

With Christy standing but 4 feet from the white wall, and the lite 12 feet from her, the groundwork is lite and brilliant, though not as bright as if we had used a second light to illuminate the background. This would also eliminate the shadow she casts on the wall to her right.
Lighting For White Background Portraits
Here, Christy stands 8 anxiety from the wall with the light 8 anxiety from her. The falloff between discipline and background turns the white wall light gray.
Lighting For White Background Portraits
Standing 12 feet from the wall, with the keylight four feet away, Christy is beautifully illuminated, but the falloff from her to the background makes the white wall turn dark. From here, a dissever background light tin can be used to turn the background bright white.

Method #i: One Low-cal With Subject Positioned Nigh The Groundwork

This approach is different from the typical low-cal-background look because it doesn’t rely on a groundwork light. In fact, it can be achieved with just one light placed fairly far from the subject field—and then long as the subject stands close to the background.

This do-it-all keylight works to light the discipline and keep a bright groundwork vivid because of the “depth of light” principle: Because light falls off in intensity equally information technology travels farther from the source, the altitude from the subject field to the background greatly impacts the luminosity of the background:

  • So, if the bailiwick is far from the background, the light falls off as it travels by the subject and on to the background.
  • But if the discipline is close to the background, the lite doesn’t have the opportunity to fall off as much.

This event is amplified as the keylight is moved farther from the subject because it requires fifty-fifty more than distance from subject to background for any falloff to be visible.

Take a look at the three examples from the first two pages of this story: The keylight is placed xvi feet from the background. In each of the three shots, the subject is positioned 4 feet, then 8 feet and finally 12 feet from the background.

The exposure is adjusted to compensate for the subject’s position relative to the keylight, but the output of the light is non contradistinct. You tin see how, with the lite’southward position unchanged relative to the background, cycling through apertures from ƒ/2.8 to ƒ/iv and ƒ/v.six to keep the discipline correctly exposed would alter the brightness of the background.

If you want to keep the groundwork as brilliant as possible without using a second light, place the subject shut to the groundwork and the keylight far away. This arroyo is simple and effective, though information technology doesn’t provide quite the command of lighting the background independent from the subject.

For that, you’ll need a dedicated background light.

Lighting For White Background Portraits
Here, I have two background lights on each side, evenly illuminating the wall behind Christy, plus one primal light illuminating her alone.

Method #2: 2 Lights With Distance Betwixt The Discipline And Background

The ideal fashion to ensure a white background looks white is to put some altitude betwixt subject and background and light the 2 independently. The distance is necessary to ensure that one lite (the background low-cal, in particular) does non spill over and affect the other.

The distance between subject and background determines the correct amount of overexposure necessary to render the white background truly white.

Put but, to make a white background appear bright white in pictures, it has to exist slightly overexposed relative to the subject. But, too much overexposure makes the background light blow out and affect the subject, blurring his or her edges and causing flare that saps contrast and sharpness.

The process begins past metering the lights independently. This is easiest to achieve with a handheld light meter, though information technology can be done with but a camera. By turning lights off to make independent test shots, yous can establish the same exposure information for discipline and background past checking the results on the back of the camera.

If the keylight meters ƒ/5.6 at the subject, the groundwork should meter brighter than that—ideally f/8 or even more. If information technology meters at ƒ/5.half dozen, the background volition likely appear off white, or even gray, in the moving-picture show.

The farther the subject is from the groundwork, the less likely the chances for spill, and so the brighter the background can be. For years, I’ve used the following guidelines as a rule of thumb:

  • With the subject 8 feet from the background, overexpose past one stop.
  • With the subject 12 feet from the background—which is ideal—overexpose by 1.5 stops.
  • Any brighter than that, and information technology won’t appear any brighter, simply lens flare becomes a greater risk.

This rule originated in the film era, when it was even trickier to get a white background vivid white in photographic camera. Add to that the fact that there is greater leeway with digital capture, and this task should be easier than ever. That said, the principle holds true: You’ve got to overexpose a white background to make information technology pure white, and the closer the subject area is to the background, the less you lot tin overexpose.

Bring It All Together

The above principles course the bones premise needed to achieve bright-white portrait backgrounds, but, of class, the devil is in the details. Here are the essential tips and tricks that bring it all together in exercise:

  1. Use two soft lights: Ideally you want the background to be evenly illuminated across the frame. Practise this by diffusing the light sources with umbrellas or softboxes, and using two lights placed on either side of the scene. (See the example shown page 24, where an umbrella is placed behind and on each side of the subject.) To further avoid hot spots and ensure the background is equally fifty-fifty as possible, don’t aim the lights direct at the center of the background. Instead, aim them at reverse sides of the background—the right lite pointed at the left edge of the background and vice versa. With a light meter in hand, meter each corner of the background equally well equally the centre to ensure all are inside one-tertiary of a stop from each other, repositioning the lights every bit needed.
  2. Lite in layers: Rather than turning on all of the lights and trying to fine-tune them together, my preferred method for any portrait lighting situation—specially white backgrounds—is to get each light positioned and powered up correctly one past one. This holds truthful whether I’m lighting with hot lights, strobes or LEDs, or fifty-fifty if I’m using daylight modified by scrims, flags and reflectors. By lighting each element independently, I can ensure I run across exactly what a given source is doing. In this way, I can ameliorate control all the nuances of the lighting in the scene.
Lighting For White Background Portraits
To light in layers, I showtime with the background lights. I work to create bright, even background illumination that doesn’t spill onto the subject or crusade flare. This silhouette shows well-defined edges and minimal bear on on the discipline from the background lights.
Lighting For White Background Portraits
Hither’s the silhouette with the addition of a keylight to simply illuminate the field of study.

For white backgrounds, I start by turning on the background lights and establishing their evenness and exposure earlier turning on the keylight. I similar to ensure I’ve got a good silhouette going, with the field of study having well-defined edges and the groundwork appearing evenly and brightly illuminated. And then I’m set up to turn off the background lights and work solely on the keylight. If I’ve established the background light is already at ƒ/viii, I know I’ll likely demand the keylight to meter approximately ƒ/v.6 to ensure the background is sufficiently overexposed. I can so gear up the exposure accordingly (to ƒ/v.6) and and so reposition and accommodate the output of the keylight until it matches the predetermined setting. Finally, I tin plough on both the background lights and the keylight to check that they exercise, in fact, piece of work together as expected.

Lighting For White Background Portraits
How background lights can spill onto the subject: The first image (to a higher place) shows mild spill, overexposing the subject at the edges and sapping contrast. The second example (below) shows catastrophic spill and overexposure from background lights onto the field of study. This tin be prevented past placing flags between background sources and the subject.

Lighting For White Background Portraits

  1. Foreclose spill: With the subject and background separately illuminated according to the guidelines above, y’all might remember the procedure is complete. But, in fact, there’south a crucial step to ensure the lights remain in isolation, and that’s called flagging the background lights. While whatsoever calorie-free from the key source spilling onto the white background isn’t a big deal, the contrary is non true. If background lights accidentally illuminate the subject area, they can create unattractive hot spots, shadows or, worst of all, dramatic overexposure and loss of detail.

See the instance to a higher place for evidence of ugly overexposure caused by spill from background lights. To remedy this, flags are positioned between the groundwork lights and the subject field. Movie productions apply material flags on metal frames held in place past c-stands, but really any black or opaque object will do so long as it can foreclose the background lights from spilling onto the discipline.

My favorite flag is a large 4-x-8 canvass of foamcore. These tin be positioned hands between bailiwick and background lights to prevent spill. A white foamcore apartment opposite the keylight can as well be used as an efficient reflector.

Lighting For White Background Portraits
This side view shows how a black flag—in this instance a V-flat—placed betwixt the background low-cal and the subject prevents the background light from spilling onto the model.
Lighting For White Background Portraits
Not simply can black flags prevent spill from the background lights, merely they also serve to create “negative fill” that helps to better define the edges of the subject—especially if she is off-white skinned and wearing light-colored habiliment, as in the examples hither—preventing her from blending into the vivid background.

iv. Define the edges: When photographing a bailiwick on a white background, it helps to create definition by positioning the keylight to create shadows that ascertain the subject’due south shape. If the subject area has light hair and pare and wears white- or light-colored vesture, they will blend in with a vivid background more than easily. To aid define the subject against the brilliant background no matter what they’re wearing, place black flags or v-flats on either side of the subject, as shut as possible simply just out of frame. This creates what’s known as negative fill, which provides ameliorate border definition in social club to keep the subject from blending into the groundwork. The flags that forbid background light spill can often exist positioned to exercise double duty equally negative make full also. It’s for this same edge-definition quality that it’southward rarely a good idea to use a pilus light or edge low-cal when photographing someone on a white background, equally effulgence at their edges further blends the subject with the groundwork rather than helping them to stand up out.




Source: https://www.dpmag.com/how-to/shooting/lighting-for-white-background-portraits/