A simple white seamless background is a very versatile tool for you to have whether you are doing photography or video. In this video I walk you through the space considerations, gear needed, and how exposure and light works when taking a white seamless from black to white. For this first part we use hot lights to show all of this in real time. It’s also useful if you are wanting to set this up for video. In part two I walk you through the same process but with strobes for still photography.
This sort of thing requires a bit of space. My current studio has an area that is 16 feet wide by 30 feet long and that’s about as small of a space as I’d want to work in for full length white seamless shoots. I’ve set this up in a variety of locations from board rooms to parking decks to 5,000 square foot studios and I can say that the more room you have and the wider of a white background you have (read cyc wall) then the easier all of this is to do. As your space shrinks challenges to this are introduced. When you light up that big white background it becomes a huge light source that starts lighting up everything around it. The smaller the space you have the more light you will have bouncing and wrapping around, and it can sometimes be difficult to get it under control.
You’ll see in the video above that I’m not using white seamless paper right now. Instead I use a Photo Basics 9′ x 20′ High Key background made by Westcott. I love this background. I call it a cyc-in-a-sac. It’s basically a machine washable roll of seamless that is far easier to transport than a roll of seamless. This is also FAR better than just a white muslin background since the material stretches and that means wrinkles are instantly gone. With muslin you need to stretch it, then steam it, then stretch it some more, and if you need to do a full sweep you can’t get the floor area completely flat and wrinkle free with muslin. You can with this Photo Basics background and a few sandbags to stretch it flat on the floor.
For gear I highly suggest no fewer than three lights. You need two for the background and one for your subject. You can cheat it with two lights but you’ll either be stuck with doing 3/4 body to headshots by hiding that background light behind your subject or you’ll have more work to do in post to clean up the background and floor area if you are doing full length. There are ways of doing full length with two lights and two lights only but it’s a compromise or it requires a big ass stand and a big ass boom to fly that background light out over your set. If you have that big of a stand, and that big of a boom, I’m going to guess you probably have more than two lights because… reasons.
Strobes make this whole process easier but this look can be achieved with hotshoe flashes. If you have three hotshoe flashes you can pull this off. I have done it many many times, but I’ll choose strobes for this application over hotshoe flashes if I have that option. For the video we used three simple 750w Lowel Tota lights. Two on the background and one shot through a diffusion panel for the subject.
Tomorrow part two will be posted and we’ll get more into exposure and changing the background from white to black along with the post production process I do on these images.
If you have any questions about space and gear or the specific topics covered in the video above just drop them in the comments below!