I am frequently asked – by frustrated photographers – what materials they should be using to accomplish a crisp, spotless, pure white photography background.
Regrettably, that often is the incorrect question to raise! It in fact, isn’t the backdrop material that will give you the sparkling white you are looking for.
It is the source of the light!
Here is the situationyou put up a spotless white bed sheet or a roll of white paper – and you place your model in front of it.
You set up a light source or two and light your model. All is appearing good. You think you have got a correctly lit model and a pleasant white set.
Now, you take the shot.
Apprehensively, you run to the photo lab if you’re shooting film or to your computer if you’re shooting digital. You check the completed photo and ta daaa!
Your model is perfectly lit, but the backdrop is really a dull gray color. Not the sparkling, untainted white you saw in the viewfinder!
Seem familiar? If you have been having a tough time creating high key photographsAnd you have been creating that dingy gray color (no matter what materials you employ) here’s the way to fix the situation!
All light has a certain drop off aspect.
By that I mean the further the light is from a subject matter, the dimmer it is. As a result, meaning when you’ve got a specific amount of light hitting your model, and you’re using that SAME illumination to light your backdrop, your light is further from the set than from your subject. Hence, it will be a little less bright when it gets to your background substance.
Whew! That’s a mouthful. In other words…
The reason you are shooting that gray color is because there is more light hitting your subject than is hitting the photography background.
To get your background be an absolute, flawless whitejust hit it with MORE illumination than you will be using for the model!
Appears obvious as soon as you comprehend it, but this is a major sticking point for a lot of shooters.
The amount of “over-exposure” you should have on the background is dependent upon the color of the backdrop material. If it is already white, you could get by with using an adequate amount of additional illumination to have an over-exposure around half an f-stop. Possibly even one full f-stop.
If the material you are starting with is graythat’s okay too! Just strike it with roughly 2 stops (give or take) more illumination than you will be using for the model.
Here is one which will blow a number of mindsimagine if your photography background material is really a pure black piece of material – or black roll of paper?
It does not make any difference! Zap it with 5, 6 or perhaps even 7 additional stops worth of light (over what you happen to be using on the main subject matter) and you will again have a pleasant sterile white set.
This is a LOT of illumination and I wouldn’t advocate starting out with a black background. When you begin closer to white initially, it is a lot easier. Nevertheless, attempt it! It’s a fun experiment and can educate you quite a bit regarding light!
The point being – with an adequate amount of illumination, you can get a nice white photography background no matter what type or color fabric you start with.