Photography Lighting – White on White
In photography, we the photographers are often asked to shoot on a white seamless background (or a cove). One of the most challenging shots in fashion, advertising, and catalog photography is to photograph a subject wearing white clothing on a white cove with perfect separation. In images I have seen by others, there is often no separation between the white clothing or material and the white background. Over the years, I have heard so many photographers explain how they are able to achieve this in such a clean manner leaving no spill of light on the clothes or subject.
Some have said they have to be a certain distance from the background so their is no flair or wrap around of light. Rubbish! Some have these complex equations that I think require the photographer to have a doctorate to even comprehend. For instance some believe that if the background meters at F32 and the main light reads F11, and they are 16.5 feet away, they will get the perfect separation. Rubbish!
Now remember, to keep this consistent, they keep running to the wall to take a meter reading then back the subject to take another meter reading until that formula has been achieved. Okay, well what if you don’t have 16.5 feet or 20 feet or what ever your magic formula thinks it has to be? Some photographers have a studio, others a garage, the formula works under conditions. But nobody wants to run back and forth and you are not going to call Home Makeover just so that you can shoot white on white images.
Here is a simple tip to make you life easy, your white background photos consistent and flawless with no wrap, spill or flair of studio strobe lighting.
Light the white background (however you like, preferably with studio strobes). I happen to use two Profoto umbrellas stacked on each side, so you have four lights total facing the white seamless background (or cove). Then light the subject however you prefer. This brings us to the one stop rule. Take a reading of your subject, place the meter under the chin, point it at the camera and pop the flash. Let’s say the light on the face and body reads F11. Simply place the meter on the persons backside now facing the white seamless or cove and pop the flash again. You want the light traveling back to the subject to be no more than one stop less than the previous main reading on the key (front) lights. So therefore in this case, your reading on the face as I said earlier was F11 and the reading on the persons back should read F8 giving you a perfect separation between subject and and background!
Reading one stop under whatever the main light reads is the key to a consistent clean white background image. Even if the subject is wearing white clothes!
Voila, the one stop rule! And no more Rubbish!
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