White backdrop looks grey - any tips?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by HK, Oct 2, 2005.

  1. HK

    HK Guest

    I want a bright white background like at:

    http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)

    So I'm shooting my D70 for the first time, with kids in front of a white
    velour backdrop. The kids are about 4 feet in front the backdrop, and I'm
    using a single softbox.

    1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?

    2) There are wrinkles in the backdrop because of shipping, but also because
    of the way it hangs when little fit sometimes move it when I'm not looking.
    Am I supposed to prevent all wrinkles? I thought I would take the pic at
    F2.8 and blur it a bit, but that's not always quite possible. Should I buy
    a different backdrop? Would paper make a difference?
    HK, Oct 2, 2005
    #1
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  2. HK

    Ken Weitzel Guest

    HK wrote:
    > I want a bright white background like at:
    >
    > http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    > (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)
    >
    > So I'm shooting my D70 for the first time, with kids in front of a white
    > velour backdrop. The kids are about 4 feet in front the backdrop, and I'm
    > using a single softbox.
    >
    > 1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    > light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    > without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?
    >
    > 2) There are wrinkles in the backdrop because of shipping, but also because
    > of the way it hangs when little fit sometimes move it when I'm not looking.
    > Am I supposed to prevent all wrinkles? I thought I would take the pic at
    > F2.8 and blur it a bit, but that's not always quite possible. Should I buy
    > a different backdrop? Would paper make a difference?


    Hi...

    You must be awfully hard to please! Those are fantastic!!! The day I
    can take just _one_ like any of those I'll be overjoyed. Amazing!

    Anyway, if you really must brighten the backdrop, the trick is to
    light it with floor level wide floods between the kids and the
    backdrop. Right beside the backdrop.

    Post more pics :)

    Ken
    Ken Weitzel, Oct 2, 2005
    #2
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  3. In article <n6H%e.9077$>, HK
    <> wrote:

    > I want a bright white background like at:
    >
    > http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    > (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)


    To do high key like the examples, the background needs to be 2 stops
    brighter than your subject. Anything less and it will be some shade of
    grey - more, and you'll blow it out.
    Randall Ainsworth, Oct 2, 2005
    #3
  4. I do a lot of product photography for my site and I use a white paper
    backdrop. A recent example is here:

    http://dpnow.com/2145a.html

    I aim to expose for the subject rather than the background, even slightly
    under-exposing, which does result in grey backgrounds and use post process
    masking on Photoshop to make the background pure white without affecting the
    main subject. The dynamic range required to get a pure white background and
    preserve your subject is quite extreme - more than a digital camera can
    really achieve in my opinion.

    Ian

    Digital Photography Now
    http://dpnow.com
    Visit our discussion forum at http://dpnow.com/Forums.html

    "HK" <> wrote in message
    news:n6H%e.9077$...
    >I want a bright white background like at:
    >
    > http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    > (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)
    >
    > So I'm shooting my D70 for the first time, with kids in front of a white
    > velour backdrop. The kids are about 4 feet in front the backdrop, and I'm
    > using a single softbox.
    >
    > 1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    > light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    > without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?
    >
    > 2) There are wrinkles in the backdrop because of shipping, but also
    > because
    > of the way it hangs when little fit sometimes move it when I'm not
    > looking.
    > Am I supposed to prevent all wrinkles? I thought I would take the pic at
    > F2.8 and blur it a bit, but that's not always quite possible. Should I
    > buy
    > a different backdrop? Would paper make a difference?
    >
    >
    Digital Photography Now, Oct 2, 2005
    #4
  5. HK

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    >I want a bright white background like at:
    >
    > http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    > (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)
    >
    > So I'm shooting my D70 for the first time, with kids in front of a white
    > velour backdrop. The kids are about 4 feet in front the backdrop, and I'm
    > using a single softbox.
    >
    > 1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    > light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    > without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?


    The backdrop is grey because it's not receiving as much light as your
    subject. As the distance increases, the light level falls off very rapidly.
    Yes, you'll need to put another light source on the background. You could
    do it in Photoshop, but that gets to be more work than it's worth,
    especially if you're doing more than just one or two photos. In order to
    get the background really pure, even white like in the examples you mention,
    you need enough light on the background to completely blow it out.

    > 2) There are wrinkles in the backdrop because of shipping, but also
    > because
    > of the way it hangs when little fit sometimes move it when I'm not
    > looking.
    > Am I supposed to prevent all wrinkles? I thought I would take the pic at
    > F2.8 and blur it a bit, but that's not always quite possible. Should I
    > buy
    > a different backdrop? Would paper make a difference?


    As you put more light on the backdrop, the wrinkles will be less evident.
    You can probably steam out any that still need it.

    steve
    Steve Wolfe, Oct 2, 2005
    #5
  6. HK

    Roy Guest

    "HK" <> wrote in message
    news:n6H%e.9077$...
    >I want a bright white background like at:
    >
    > http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    > (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)
    >
    > So I'm shooting my D70 for the first time, with kids in front of a white
    > velour backdrop. The kids are about 4 feet in front the backdrop, and I'm
    > using a single softbox.
    >
    > 1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    > light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    > without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?
    >
    > 2) There are wrinkles in the backdrop because of shipping, but also
    > because
    > of the way it hangs when little fit sometimes move it when I'm not
    > looking.
    > Am I supposed to prevent all wrinkles? I thought I would take the pic at
    > F2.8 and blur it a bit, but that's not always quite possible. Should I
    > buy
    > a different backdrop? Would paper make a difference?
    >

    Hi.

    Paper also wrinkles and the rolls it comes in are very heavy. So with active
    Kids around, I would be very wary, unless it is mounted on sturdy
    Professional Hangers.

    The whole point of distancing the subject from the background is to put the
    BG out of focus, and to allow it to be lit differently from the subject.

    If you want it white, put a lot of light onto it from another flash or
    flashes. You can also put patterns onto it by putting "Shapes" between the
    flashes and it, or try putting coloured filters on those flashes.

    Roy G
    Roy, Oct 2, 2005
    #6
  7. >I want a bright white background like at:
    >[...]
    >
    >1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    >light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    >without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?


    Set to its default settings, the camera will make the picture
    generally gray, because this is usually what you want. If you really
    want large portions of the picture to be white (the most common reason
    is if snow forms the background), you have to "overexpose," which in
    this case will be properly exposing. So yes, you need more light.

    If you're overexposing properly, the subject should not be
    overexposed, but properly exposed.

    If you have digital files and still end up with a gray background, you
    can usually adjust the exposure curve digitally and fix things.

    -Joel

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Free 35mm lens & digital camera reviews: http://www.exc.com/photography
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Oct 2, 2005
    #7
  8. HK

    HK Guest

    "Randall Ainsworth" <> wrote in message
    news:011020052119205896%...
    > In article <n6H%e.9077$>, HK
    > <> wrote:
    >
    > > I want a bright white background like at:
    > >
    > > http://www.picturepeople.com/portrait_showcase/children.aspx?sm=5_2
    > > (I believe they use some pulldown thick paper backdrops)

    >
    > To do high key like the examples, the background needs to be 2 stops
    > brighter than your subject. Anything less and it will be some shade of
    > grey - more, and you'll blow it out.


    I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that I
    don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I can't
    take pics of kids with blond hair :)
    HK, Oct 2, 2005
    #8
  9. >I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that I
    >don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I can't
    >take pics of kids with blond hair :)


    Does your camera offer exposure compensation? If not, does it offer
    full manual control?

    -Joel

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Free Bible and Mishna printouts in Hebrew: http://liturgy.exc.com/
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman, Oct 2, 2005
    #9
  10. In article <EoS%e.9364$>, HK
    <> wrote:

    > I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that I
    > don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I can't
    > take pics of kids with blond hair :)


    The background needs to have 2 more stops of light on it than the
    subject. That means that you have to light the background separately
    (as you should anyway).
    Randall Ainsworth, Oct 2, 2005
    #10
  11. HK

    kctan Guest

    The solution is to throw additional lighting onto the background paper 50%
    to 100% more than the subject lighting. Expose for the subject lighting
    meter reading.

    "Dr. Joel M. Hoffman" <> wrote in message
    news:cnS%e.6959$...
    > >I want a bright white background like at:
    >>[...]
    >>
    >>1) The backdrop looks grey in the final output. Why? Maybe I need more
    >>light, but then the kids look overexposed. Must I point a second flash,
    >>without a softbox, behind the subject and directly at the backdrop?

    >
    > Set to its default settings, the camera will make the picture
    > generally gray, because this is usually what you want. If you really
    > want large portions of the picture to be white (the most common reason
    > is if snow forms the background), you have to "overexpose," which in
    > this case will be properly exposing. So yes, you need more light.
    >
    > If you're overexposing properly, the subject should not be
    > overexposed, but properly exposed.
    >
    > If you have digital files and still end up with a gray background, you
    > can usually adjust the exposure curve digitally and fix things.
    >
    > -Joel
    >
    > ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Free 35mm lens & digital camera reviews: http://www.exc.com/photography
    > ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    >
    >
    >
    >
    kctan, Oct 2, 2005
    #11
  12. Randall Ainsworth <> wrote:
    >In article <EoS%e.9364$>, HK
    ><> wrote:
    >
    >> I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that I
    >> don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I can't
    >> take pics of kids with blond hair :)

    >
    >The background needs to have 2 more stops of light on it than the
    >subject. That means that you have to light the background separately
    >(as you should anyway).


    That is easy to understand *if* one can think in terms of
    incident light measurements, but might not be so obvious for a
    person only barely versed in reflective light metering.

    If you "meter off the subject", which /I/ assume means with a
    through the lense spot meter, and /you/ assume the subject is
    roughly 12 to 18 percent gray, then a "white" background should
    meter at roughly 5.5 to 8 times as much light (or something
    between just over 2 stops to 3 stops difference).

    A typical kid probably isn't an 18% grey card though... so a bit
    less than 2 stops might be right if your subject has platinum
    blond hair, and it might be 3 or 4 stops if the subject has very
    dark skin complexion.

    A better way might be to actually *use* an 18% grey card to
    meter, instead of the subject. If the backdrop doesn't meter at
    2 stops more than the 18% gray card, it needs more light to make
    it appear "white". (Try metering both the 18% gray side and the
    white side, using the same light, and see what the difference
    is! That is the same difference needed between an 18% gray
    subject and a "white" background.)

    --
    FloydL. Davidson http://www.apaflo.com/floyd_davidson
    Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
    #12
  13. In article <dhoukq$6cn$>, kctan
    <> wrote:

    > The solution is to throw additional lighting onto the background paper 50%
    > to 100% more than the subject lighting. Expose for the subject lighting
    > meter reading.


    One more time...*two* stops additional for the background. Less and it
    will be some shade of gray, more and it will get blown out.
    Randall Ainsworth, Oct 2, 2005
    #13
  14. HK

    Steve Wolfe Guest

    >> To do high key like the examples, the background needs to be 2 stops
    >> brighter than your subject. Anything less and it will be some shade of
    >> grey - more, and you'll blow it out.

    >
    > I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that I
    > don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I can't
    > take pics of kids with blond hair :)


    Well, you haven't told us what type of metering you're using. Are you
    using TTL metering, a flash meter, calculating via the guide number of the
    flash, or just winging it and watching the histogram?

    If you're doing the calculations with the guide number, do them for the
    main flash and subjects, then use that exposure. Adjust the back light as
    desired.

    If you're using a flash meter, place it where your subject will be, fire
    the main lights, and use that exposure. Adjust the back light as desired.

    If you're winging it and using the histogram, fire only the main flashes
    until you see that your subject is properly exposed, and use those settings.
    Adjust the back light as desired.

    If you're using TTL metering, then it's a bit tougher, as the camera is
    automatically choosing settings for you. You can either use exposure
    compensation, or if you're more intrepid, turn off the back lights, use your
    flash exposure lock to meter and lock the settings for the main light, then
    turn on your back lights again for the shot.

    steve
    Steve Wolfe, Oct 2, 2005
    #14
  15. HK

    HK Guest

    "Dr. Joel M. Hoffman" <> wrote in message
    news:juS%e.6965$...
    > >I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that

    I
    > >don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I can't
    > >take pics of kids with blond hair :)

    >
    > Does your camera offer exposure compensation? If not, does it offer
    > full manual control?
    >
    > -Joel
    >
    > --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    --
    > Free Bible and Mishna printouts in Hebrew: http://liturgy.exc.com/
    > --------------------------------------------------------------------------

    --


    I'm using full manual control with an external light (soft box). That's my
    point, really. I can't go much brighter else the subject gets overexposed.
    HK, Oct 2, 2005
    #15
  16. HK

    HK Guest

    "Steve Wolfe" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > >> To do high key like the examples, the background needs to be 2 stops
    > >> brighter than your subject. Anything less and it will be some shade of
    > >> grey - more, and you'll blow it out.

    > >
    > > I appreciate the reply, but could you give me an example? It seems that

    I
    > > don't have a choice but to meter off the subject. Are you saying I

    can't
    > > take pics of kids with blond hair :)

    >
    > Well, you haven't told us what type of metering you're using. Are you
    > using TTL metering, a flash meter, calculating via the guide number of the
    > flash, or just winging it and watching the histogram?
    >
    > If you're doing the calculations with the guide number, do them for the
    > main flash and subjects, then use that exposure. Adjust the back light as
    > desired.
    >
    > If you're using a flash meter, place it where your subject will be, fire
    > the main lights, and use that exposure. Adjust the back light as desired.
    >
    > If you're winging it and using the histogram, fire only the main

    flashes
    > until you see that your subject is properly exposed, and use those

    settings.
    > Adjust the back light as desired.
    >
    > If you're using TTL metering, then it's a bit tougher, as the camera is
    > automatically choosing settings for you. You can either use exposure
    > compensation, or if you're more intrepid, turn off the back lights, use

    your
    > flash exposure lock to meter and lock the settings for the main light,

    then
    > turn on your back lights again for the shot.
    >
    > steve
    >
    >


    I'm doing manual everything with a Nikon D70. Maybe I'm missing something,
    but the method of metering doesn't matter if the end result is the subject
    being overexposed and the background not white enough. I can play around
    with the aperture and shutter speed and flash strength, without a meter
    (trying all possibilities) and instantly look at the result on the back of
    the camera. When the subject is just right, the background is always grey.
    No doubt, a meter on the subject takes out some trial and error, but I'm
    just making a point that I can't just keep exposing the subject more and
    more because by the time the background is almost white, the subject is way
    overexposed.
    HK, Oct 2, 2005
    #16
  17. HK

    Steve Wolfe Guest


    > I'm doing manual everything with a Nikon D70. Maybe I'm missing
    > something,
    > but the method of metering doesn't matter if the end result is the subject
    > being overexposed and the background not white enough. I can play around
    > with the aperture and shutter speed and flash strength, without a meter
    > (trying all possibilities) and instantly look at the result on the back of
    > the camera. When the subject is just right, the background is always
    > grey.


    Then perform that process, flashing only the subject. When you find the
    aperture and flash strength that works, keep your camera there. Now add
    flashes that will hit the white background. Your subject will be properly
    exposed, your background will be washed out white.

    Note that shutter speed is, unless you're setting it obscenely long,
    irrelevant in this case. Unless you've got some very strong ambient light
    and a very weak flash, the flash will completely overpower ambient light -
    and the flash duration is much, much faster than your camera's sync speed
    (usually 1/200th to 1/500th). Leave your shutter speed at your camera's
    max sync speed (or just 1/200th if you don't know that the sync speed is),
    and adjust flash power and aperture.

    Note that you can do the opposite if you're careful - because the flash is
    much more powerful than ambient, and because light falls off quickly with
    distance (as you've seen), if your flash is concentrated on your subject,
    and your subject is relatively far from the background, the background will
    come out black.

    steve
    Steve Wolfe, Oct 2, 2005
    #17
  18. "HK" <> wrote:
    >I'm doing manual everything with a Nikon D70. Maybe I'm missing something,
    >but the method of metering doesn't matter if the end result is the subject
    >being overexposed and the background not white enough. I can play around
    >with the aperture and shutter speed and flash strength, without a meter
    >(trying all possibilities) and instantly look at the result on the back of
    >the camera. When the subject is just right, the background is always grey.


    Then you need a separate light on the background. If the
    background is coming out 50% gray for example, then an equal
    amount of added light will give it a 1 stop "overexposure"
    compared to what it is getting now. Twice as much light would
    be 2 stops. It's just a matter of how "white" do you want it to
    be...

    If your main light is a studio flood light you can use a flash
    on the background and then actually do some fine tuning of the
    light balance by adjusting shutter speed and lens aperture. In
    essense, the shutter speed is much slower than the flash, so
    changing it does not affect the amount of light from the flash.
    But changing the aperture does. So if you close the aperture
    one stop and double the exposure time, the flood light exposure
    does not change but the background will get only half as much
    light from the flash. And going in the opposite direction would
    double the background light from the flash.

    Hence there can be some adjustment with even the simplest of
    flash units. And fine control (fractional f/stops, for example)
    with a flash that provides only full stop power adjustment.

    Experimenting with it is easy, given how cheap the film is these
    days.

    >No doubt, a meter on the subject takes out some trial and error, but I'm
    >just making a point that I can't just keep exposing the subject more and
    >more because by the time the background is almost white, the subject is way
    >overexposed.


    --
    FloydL. Davidson http://www.apaflo.com/floyd_davidson
    Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
    #18
  19. "Steve Wolfe" <> wrote:
    > Note that you can do the opposite if you're careful - because the flash is
    >much more powerful than ambient, and because light falls off quickly with
    >distance (as you've seen), if your flash is concentrated on your subject,
    >and your subject is relatively far from the background, the background will
    >come out black.


    It might be worth noting that the fall off from distance with a
    flash is because the flash is essentially a "point source". If
    a sufficiently large reflector (or other diffuser) is used, that
    can be significantly reduced... which is precisely the effect
    of "bounce flash" where the ceiling and/or walls are used as a
    reflector.

    --
    FloydL. Davidson http://www.apaflo.com/floyd_davidson
    Ukpeagvik (Barrow, Alaska)
    Floyd Davidson, Oct 2, 2005
    #19
  20. In article <>, Floyd Davidson
    <> wrote:

    > Then you need a separate light on the background. If the
    > background is coming out 50% gray for example, then an equal
    > amount of added light will give it a 1 stop "overexposure"
    > compared to what it is getting now. Twice as much light would
    > be 2 stops. It's just a matter of how "white" do you want it to
    > be...


    OK, *ONE* more time. Two stops...no more, no less. It ain't rocket
    science.
    Randall Ainsworth, Oct 3, 2005
    #20
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