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Archive 2012 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested
  
 
Hockey_Nut
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Hi Everyone,

I shoot sports as a second job and have never done any sort of studio type photography but I've decided to build a home studio because I have the space (kind of) and because I'd like to learn/experiment in this area. I set up my two Einsteins, two speedlights, a roll of paper, two white tile boards and asked my wonderful girls to model for me. Given that I have never done this before, I think they turned out ok ... but I"m looking to improve.

Any suggestions in terms of how far away from the background the subjects should be (they were about 5 feet away, placement of the lights for lighting the background (parallel to subjects or closer to the background) ... and how can I easily hide the line that sometimes appears where the two tile boards overlap? Any guidance in these areas would be greatly appreciated.

1.







2.







3. Here's one showing the overlap & darker floor area just to the left of the frame.








Thanks for looking & any tips would be welcomed.

Brent



Feb 28, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


I think these look pretty good for a first time out. Although the images are kinda small, I can pick up a bit of blowback from the backdrop on your girls' clothing, so you're backdrop lights may be a bit too hot. If you meter off the back of your subject, it should be about a half-stop under the exposure at the front of the subject. That will prevent blowback. As for metering the backdrop itself, if you don't use a flashmeter, you should try to expose it so as to produce a thin, sharp spike just short of clipping at the right edge of your histogram. The thinner/sharper the spike, the more consistent the lighting is across the entire backdrop. A wider spike means uneven lighting. As for the two pieces of tileboard, if you overlap the front piece over the back piece, the line will be minimized, and anything left is easily cloned out in Photoshop.

Hope this helps.



Feb 28, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Hockey_Nut
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Hi Steve,

Thanks for the feedback. The tile board is overlapping but it seems that I might have to angle the lights down a bit as the lighting in the foreground is a bit dull. I'll try dialing down the power of the speedlights but doing may result in not having enough juice to light the paper ... but I'll play around with it. I'll also take a look at metering using the histogram/spikes.

Take care,

Brent



Feb 28, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Steve Wylie
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Opinions differ on this, but mine is that a good photo on a white set doesn't need to be uniformly white. The tileboard certainly helps to "ground" the subject, but the exposure on the floor also doesn't need to be quite as white as the back. The back does need to be uniformly lit, though.


Feb 28, 2012 at 08:14 AM
BrianO
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Hockey_Nut wrote:
...I might have to angle the lights down a bit as the lighting in the foreground is a bit dull.


Because tile board is smooth and glossy, lights aimed at it from the front will partially reflect away from the camera. If you want to brighten the floor a bit, and if feathering your subject lights down doesn't work, you may need to add a couple of small lights (or reflectors) -- one on either side of the set -- pointing at the floor from behind your subject line, and flagged or shielded so as not to cause flare in the lens.

That can also help eliminate the line where the front (top) sheet overlaps the back (bottom) sheet, by eliminating the shadow cast by the top sheet.

Also, you might find this video interesting; it's a promo for Lastolite's HiLite background, but toward the end there's a section on post-processing that's got some good tips.

http://www.lastoliteschoolofphotography.com/using-the-hilite-with-speedlites




Feb 28, 2012 at 09:22 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


When lighting a white background you need to look beyond the technical considerations and consider the psychological reaction of the brain in defining the overall tonal range of the image and the relative contrasts of foreground and background.

Ask yourself, do you want the background to "pop" or the foreground?

The brain evaluates by comparison. When the background is blown out at 255 EVERYTHINGwill be darker by comparison. For example to get the white clothing to contrast with the 255 background and not disappear it must be rendered darker and by comparison winds up looking duller. Given that the illusion of 3D shape is created by the gradient between highlights and shadows the darker the foreground highlights become the lower the overall gradient becomes diminishing the illusion of 3D shape.

Here's your first image. What I did is duplicate it onto two layers then reduce exposure .3 stops on the top layer. Then using a mask I knocked out the foreground figures on the adjusted layer resulting in exactly the same foreground exposure on a slightly darker shade of white background:







By comparison with the darker background the foreground highlights "pop" more. I got rid of the seam at the bottom between the seamless and panels by using value in for the background similar to the one in the foreground of the original and opening the mask to blend them. It took less than a minute. You can get the same effect at capture by:

1) Cut your background exposure and make it a darker shade of white than the whites in the clothing. In your original the background is 255, the white on the sleeve around 240.

2) Feather your fill light so the there's more fill near the bottom than the top in front. That will help you blend the panels into the seamless, make the faces a bit darker and more saturated which will help them contrast on white, and also put more detail in the dark pants.

I set my lights visually using the clipping warning and a target as explained here:
http:/photo.nova.org/WhiteBackground/

Chuck




Feb 28, 2012 at 02:25 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Sometimes Chuck and I agree, and sometimes we disagree. This is one of those times when we disagree.

If I'm shooting against a white BG, I want it to be white. Not almost white, not nearly white, not sort of white, but pure WHITE.

If I'm going to have a gray background, then I'll have it a nice, rich gray. I might even use black, or saturated colors. But never a dingy sort of "He-must-not-know-how-to-meter-his-BG" pale gray.

Different strokes for different folks.



Feb 28, 2012 at 08:08 PM
BrianO
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Hockey_Nut wrote:
...I've decided to build a home studio because I have the space (kind of) and because I'd like to learn/experiment in this area. ...Any suggestions in terms of how far away from the background the subjects should be ...placement of the lights for lighting the background ...and how can I easily hide the line that sometimes appears where the two tile boards overlap? Any guidance in these areas would be greatly appreciated.


I almost forgot to share this link, which covers this exact topic in five parts:

http://zackarias.com/for-photographers/photo-resources/white-seamless-tutorial-part-1-gear-space/



Feb 28, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Hockey_Nut
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Steve, Brian & Chuck,

Thank you all for providing me with some insight, resources & tips - I appreciate the time you have taken to answer my questions.

Chuck ... an interesting bit of information. I'll read over the contents of your blog when I get home ... certainly something to think about.

Brian ... I too like the pure white background but given I'm soooo new at this I think I'm going to also experiment and see what I learn from it. I've read through Zack's blog multiple times & just finished watching a couple of videos of him.

When I take some additional photos today I'm going to move my key & fill lights closer to the subjects. They were about 4 feet away due to the proximity of the front tile board.

Thanks again!

Brent



Feb 28, 2012 at 09:07 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Here a a couple more illustrations and examples and precedents for my approach to reproducing specular and non-specular whites.

Adams, in creating his Zone System, also created a new vocabulary for tonality based on the appearance of content in scene and print. His system in practice is a process of finding the "Zone 1 - shadow with first detail" and "Zone 9 - solid white" in the scene, then reproducing those same areas in the print with tonal values slightly above solid black and slightly darker than the white paper base of the print, respectively. The "Zones" are tonal values in the print and scene, not f/stop differences (as some erroneously assume today). The "maximum" black the print paper can produce is reserved for reproducing the area with no detail visible by eye, such as the mouth of a cave. The maximum white on the print, the bare paper, is reserved for specular refections on the Zone 9 solid white objects.

Originally focused on print values Adams did not assign a Zone number for specular highlights, stating in the 1968 edition his book "The Negative" I learned from that the white paper base should be reserved for the specular highlights. Thus in a photo of a white ball the solid surface of the ball on the print wouldn't be reproduced by the white paper base, but by a slightly tone of gray silver, with only the specular reflection the sun created on the ball reproduced with the white of the paper. Later, because of confusion on the part of practitioners of his System, Adams added a "Zone 10 to define the specular white which creates 3D shape in solid "Zone 9" whites.

So on a print "white" is always, out of necessity, reproduced one tone darker that the lighting seen by eye. The only way to create a specular highlight brighter than the paper and more similar to what is actually seen by eye to define 3D shape in a solid white object would be to poke a hole in the print and put a light behind it where you wanted specular highlights. That in essence is what you are doing when you expose images so only the specular Zone 10 whites wind up at 255 on screen and printed with the plain paper base.

If you've ever tried to reproduce a white object like a ball on a white background you'll understand the dilemma and the need to have separate definitions specular and non-specular white tones. In the illustrations below the rim-lit circle outline on the ball and the catchlight at 2 o'clock have 255 values (Zone 10 - specular white). The tone of the ball and background change from (Zone 9 - solid white) to (Zone 8 - shaded white).







The "craft" aspect of photography is the ability produce any of those looks at will to meet the artistic goals of the shot by virtue of understanding both the perceptual dynamics and how to precisely control every step of the reproduction process from capture to final JPG. So while you might like the look of a nuked "hot white" Zone 10 background in some photos there will be situations where a Zone 9 or Zone 8 background tone may be more effective in making the foreground content contrast and seem brighter. If you want to become a well rounded photographic craftsman you'll experiment and learn how to create all the looks above with your lighting.

Here's a photographic example. The rationale for using a "hair light" or accent from behind is to separate the subject from the background, as in the illustration of the balls above. To do that the rim lit parts of the foreground must contrast from the background tone. That requires several decisions about "Zone Placement" of the white objects on the photograph when setting exposure.

The first decision is whether or not detail is desired where the rim lighting hits white objects in the foreground. In ZS parlance whether to exposed the rim lit parts as Zone 10 - specular white or Zone 9 - solid white. Since I find blown highlight areas distracting in my portraits I choose to keep everything the lights hit below clipping, except on reflective objects like the catchlights in the eyes, jewelry, buttons, eye glass frames and other similar objects..

When setting my lights I turn the foreground key and fill and back rim lighting on at a level near that I want to wind up at. That's important because spill from all sources affects the amount and character of the fill in the shadows of the image. In the example below I didn't turn on the background light when setting the foreground because I wanted to see how much, if any, change to the appearance of the foreground lighting occurred due to spilled light from the background when added.







I use a target on a stand with a white towel so I can see the 3D wrap and interplay of the rim / key / fill on the foreground in ways a flat target will not show. As others have pointed out in previous threads flat targets create glare. The other objects besides the towel are not used by me to set exposure and ratio so the fact there is some glare off them is irrelevant for this step in my workflow .

I also don't aim for any specific numerical values on the target when setting my lights. I just adjust my brightest light, in this case the rim lighting, so the areas it hit in the image the camera records are below clipping in the camera's clipping warning in the highlights, and have visible separation of shadow detail in the playback on the camera. Yes, the RAW has more detail than seen by eye in the playback, but often the final product in my workflow is a JPG file not much bigger than the one the camera uses for it's playback. So in terms of my entire workflow the camera clipping warning is a very good predictor of how the highlights will be reproduced at the end of it. I allow for processing induced compression of highlights during the post processing steps at capture.

There's no clipping indicator for the shadows in the camera so more recently I've added a black towel to the exposure target.







As the annotations on that shot state the shadow detail in an image is controlled with fill, both the direct fill source and whatever spill is bouncing of walls and ceiling in the shooting environment. The highlights are controlled via the accent and key lights. For me setting fill is pretty much a no brainer because I want to record detail n the darkest objects in the foreground and usually also in the background when using dark ones. Looking at the image of the black towel I raise the fill until I can see the black-on-black folds of the towel.

Setting the hair light is also pretty much a no-brainer for me (YMMV) because I have a very simple criteria for setting it keeping the area it hits on the white towel below clipping in the playback on the camera. I use that "under clipping" criteria in part because its the only one I can check continually while shooting. The can only control a process to the degree you can measure it. I might be able to measure exposure to the nearest 1/10th stop with an incident meter, but if the subject moves closer to the key light that meter reading will no longer be valid. By setting the exposure of the highlights per the clipping warning I'll know from the change in the warning if that type of problem has occurred and fix it by move the subject, avoiding clipped highlights.

The decision on how to expose the rim lit areas is a subjective one. If the subject is a hot babe in bikini with body glistening with baby oil then the equally "hot / hard" look of specular rim lighting would be appropriate. But for my conventional portraits I like a softer look created by keeping detail in the rim lit areas of skin and clothing. Thus I choose to expose the rim lighting on the target as "Zone 9 - solid" white, not "Zone 10 - specular".







The first decision to render the rim light at Zone 9 has downstream implications in the workflow on adjustment of the frontal "key" lighting and background level. Again YMMV here as to goals, but the reason I use rim lighting is to define shape via separation with the background. So if I peg my rim light at Zone 9 - around 250, out of necessity I need to reproduce the background darker, around Zone 8, if I want to see the effect of the rim lighting. That the same dilemma Adams recognized and addressed when creating the system of zones to explain this situations more clearly. So after setting the foreground lighting around the baseline criteria of keeping detail in the rim lit parts of the foreground and filling for detail in the darkest areas I adjust my background lighting not based on making 255, but based on retaining the ambience of the rim lighting...







The reaction to tonal ranges in photographs is both adaptive and comparative. In person we perceive white as a range of tone. For example if your foreground subject was holding a piece of the white seamless paper next to their face would you want to expose it for 255 white? Probably not because that would also blow the highlights in their skin. To get correct exposure on the skin you'd need to reproduce the white paper in their hand at its accurate 250 value. Then you just need to decide when setting the background lighting on the same paper whether you want the paper in hand to look brighter, darker, or seem to disappear. That's an artistic decision. Being able to do all three at will? That requires craftsmanship and learning to control the reproduction medium. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Here's the photo above with a 255 border...







Here's the photo above with about 30 seconds of vignetting with the eraser tool...






Here the subject I was setting the lights to shoot with that target. I use the target on a stand to set my light so my subject doesn't need to stand around while I futz with the setting them. That allows me to focus 100% of my attention on them when shooting and makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere...







If you measure the background with the eye dropper tool you'll find it is a 254, one unit below clipping. I didn't get that level of consistency with my lighting shot-to-shot because it's not that consistent. What I did instead is what I learned to do running printing plants for years. When I want a consistent background shot-to-shot at a specific value I add a duplicate layer, fill it with that value, in this case 254,254,254 then knock out the foreground with a mask. It allows me to retain a full range of detail on the subject without the flare you'll get from nuking a background above clipping and get the background value I want.

When I want it 255 I can make it 255 because I know how to control the process, I just choose not to so my foreground white values are perceived brighter. What I'd suggest to the OP and others learning lighting is to learn to control the process in the same way and you'll find at the end of that experimentation you'll have more creative control over what the final results look like.



Feb 29, 2012 at 02:00 PM
 

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Steve Wylie
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


When I want a consistent background shot-to-shot at a specific value I add a duplicate layer, fill it with that value, in this case 254,254,254 then knock out the foreground with a mask. It allows me to retain a full range of detail on the subject without the flare you'll get from nuking a background above clipping and get the background value I want.

Wish I'd have thought of this a long time ago!



Mar 01, 2012 at 12:01 AM
alohadave
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


cgardner wrote:
If you measure the background with the eye dropper tool you'll find it is a 254, one unit below clipping. I didn't get that level of consistency with my lighting shot-to-shot because it's not that consistent. What I did instead is what I learned to do running printing plants for years. When I want a consistent background shot-to-shot at a specific value I add a duplicate layer, fill it with that value, in this case 254,254,254 then knock out the foreground with a mask. It allows me to retain a full range of detail on the subject without the flare
...Show more

If you do it correctly in the studio, there is no need to mess around with masks in post production.



Mar 01, 2012 at 12:53 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Lets see how consistent ten consecutive frames are with your lights. Can they hold background to exactly 254?

Nuking to 255 is easy. +1/3 stops and + 3 stop both create 255.



Mar 01, 2012 at 01:39 AM
alohadave
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


cgardner wrote:
Lets see how consistent ten consecutive frames are with your lights. Can they hold background to exactly 254?


No one is as anal about one pixel value as you are. When I shoot this style, it's to blow out the background and isolate the subject.

cgardner wrote:
Nuking to 255 is easy. +1/3 stops and + 3 stop both create 255.


Yeah, but +1/3 and +3 stops are a huge difference in how the image looks. A third of a stop will over blow out the background. 3 stops will turn the background into a light source that will wrap and erode the edges of your subject. Both are valid, and neither is wrong if you are getting the look you want.



Mar 01, 2012 at 02:03 AM
RobertLynn
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


I'm chiming in with my limited experience against white, and admittedly, probably worthless advice for any of you, who have forgotten more than I know.

Here are three photographs I've shot against white.

For the one, that white is 255, it was metered that 2 stops brighter than my subject. However, it wasn't me shooting lights at a background, and metering it at the background. My mistake was (it is a giant softbox behind her, aimed at her) metering the 2 stops some where between her and the box.

The effect was still acheived (it's an out take) and the session produced saleable portraits with a white background that reproduced in brilliant white.

The other 2 photographs are of my son in December of 11, and at his 9 month photos. Both were shot against white. One is white seamless, that is lit by the same light that lights my son. The other is a white muslin double thickness, that is lit again, by the same lights.

All three photographs when printed, to a NON photographer, have "white" backgrounds. However, when compared to soemthing such as brilliant white copier paper, the 2 that are of my son have dingy gray backgrounds (I know why they do). They were set up as "photobooths" as the one of my son in the Christmas clothing was a session with several children at their daycare. The other was my son and some friends of ours children.

I don't know the scientific reasoning for it, but the eye sends messages to the brain, and the brain tries to assign associations witht hings. So when you look at something whiter than something else, the "brighter" thing looks white, and the other looks gray...even though you could do this with something that's 230/230/230, and 200/200/200, or 240/240/240 and 230/230/230.

The other thing I have the impression of, is to do a white background and get it nice nice with even whiteness, and not a mask, it takes mroe space than other colors.

For whatever reason the figure 2 stops brighter on the background is what triggers in my head.















There was a little bit of adjustment to contrast to it, and I let his cheek red from his teeth.




Mar 01, 2012 at 03:09 AM
Hockey_Nut
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Hey Guys,

Thanks for all the info ... certainly lots for me to consider. I've played around a bit more with my lights by moving my speedlights further away from the backdrop, pushing the tile board about 6 inches closer to the backdrop and I moved my main & fill lights closer to the subjects. So far so good.

Anyone care to recommend what kind of modifiers would be best suited for a home studio with 8 ft ceilings? I'm using Einsteins and would like to get a C - Stand with an boom and use a beauty dish or a soft box but I'm not sure what size of soft box would be best or if a strip box or a 64 inch PLM would be best ... I want to get at least 3 modifiers. Suggestions?

Thanks,

Brent



Mar 01, 2012 at 10:14 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


alohadave wrote:
No one is as anal about one pixel value as you are. When I shoot this style, it's to blow out the background and isolate the subject.

Yeah, but +1/3 and +3 stops are a huge difference in how the image looks. A third of a stop will over blow out the background. 3 stops will turn the background into a light source that will wrap and erode the edges of your subject. Both are valid, and neither is wrong if you are getting the look you want.

For film, I got the subject far enough from the background to be able to light separately. That's practically impossible in an average sized home studio.

I then metered the BG for consistency and set it 1/2 stop brighter than the subject. My lab and I worked as a team and they made nice clean prints with a white background. 1/3 stop over for digital sounds reasonable. You're right, if you blitz the BG you can get some interesting effects from light wrap. As you said, either are valid as long as you know what you're after and what you do is intentional.



Mar 01, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Eyeball
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


First to the OP: I think you did a terrific job for the first time. I have seen worse first-attempts at white backgrounds here on FM from very experienced photographers. Most first-attempts over-light the background and under-light the subjects. I think in terms of general exposure, you did a great job.

I think the other area that people wrestle with (and where you could improve a little maybe) is that there is so much light bouncing around that much of the modeling to the faces is lost. It's like the subjects are inside a giant soft-box and being lit from every angle, with no shadows to create a sense of depth.

If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you read through Zack Arias' great tutorial on his site:

http://www.zarias.com/white-seamless-tutorial-part-1-gear-space/

And maybe you will notice that in the photos that he shoots of this type, white is white - not gray.




Mar 01, 2012 at 11:58 PM
emandavi
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


I like my white to be white, and not dingy, dull almost-white, too. Dingy white background (in my opinion) makes everything else muddy.


Mar 02, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Hockey_Nut
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · First time with White Seamless - c & c requested


Hi Dennis,

Thanks for the kind words. I'm quite enjoying my new space. I think I have to find a better way to prevent the light from bouncing around ... Zack Arias suggests using bi-fold doors but I've been using some foam core stuff but the light hitting my background is spilling out a bit. My walls are a green/grey so they should be fine & there's no colour cast coming off them. I've taken more photos the past couple of days and my lighting is more consistent & even ... but I'm still learning so I'm going to continue to play around with the gear.

Take care,

Brent


Eyeball wrote:
First to the OP: I think you did a terrific job for the first time. I have seen worse first-attempts at white backgrounds here on FM from very experienced photographers. Most first-attempts over-light the background and under-light the subjects. I think in terms of general exposure, you did a great job.

I think the other area that people wrestle with (and where you could improve a little maybe) is that there is so much light bouncing around that much of the modeling to the faces is lost. It's like the subjects are inside a giant soft-box and being lit from every
...Show more



Mar 02, 2012 at 01:42 AM
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