Turn a white background black

On Saturday I taught a seminar on lighting at my home studio. At the end of the day I did this exercise to show how a photographer can totally change the mood of an image using lighting, and also how the same background can be lit differently to support the mood we want.

Picture #1 - white background illuminated with two bounce umbrellas, one on each side. The model is being lit by a very large softbox to camera left, with the fill being a large white reflector to camera light. The ratio between key and fill was 2/3 of a f-stop. Note how the white background, the open, diffuse lighting and the dress all convey an upbeat mood.

Picture #2 – same WHITE background, but with no light on it. I propped a 4×8 black foam core board on top of two folding doors to prevent the light from bouncing from the white ceiling and giving me a medium gray tone above her head – I wanted a dark, low key image with a certain monumentality created by the position of the camera and the wide ange of the lens. Almost mystical. The key light was a beauty dish with a 40 degree grid on it very close to her face. The fill was a strobe with a 7 in reflector right next to the camera, in front of her – to open the shadows on the black garment. There was also another strobe behind her, low, pointing up to her back, to create a little separation between her and the background.

The exercise shows how to turn a white background into black - simply remove light from falling on it. In order for the beauty dish to not throw light onto the background, I had to position it very close to the model so that I would expose correctly for the light falling on her face, while at the same time, the light falloff was very rapid and hence light didn’t reach the white.

Category: Technical


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