How to Get a Nice White Background in Portrait or Still Life Photography

If you’ve spent time shooting people or products inside a studio then, chances are, you’ve shot a white background before. In this video, photographer Mark Wallace discusses a common pitfall of shooting subjects against a white background — lighting the background insufficiently so it appears gray instead of white. He offers a couple of solutions, using both off-camera speedlights and more powerful studio strobes:

The said mistake stems from the incorrect assumption many photographers make that moving the key light closer to the subject leads to a better illuminated background. Mark goes on to illustrate how such is not the case and repeatedly mentions the Inverse Square Law which governs the physics of light intensity with respect to distance.

shooting a white background

Mark presents a couple of quick and easy lighting solutions. The first involves using separate speedlights to illuminate the subject and the background. Ideally, the background light is one stop brighter than the key light. The second employs a studio strobe fired into a large parabolic reflector and positioned on-axis, with the subject set close to the background so they are illuminated roughly equally.

As the tutorial shows, a little knowledge of lighting principles can go a long way.

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