How to Take Photos with a Shiny Background

Shooting photos against a shiny backdrop presents some pretty tough challenges, as well as some interesting results. A shiny surface reflects light and exposes anything that might be located behind the camera—something you definitely don’t need in your portraits. Luckily, Gavin Hoey shows how you can successfully pull off using a shiny surface in your photos:

For is backdrop, Hoey uses a shiny substance that comes in rolls of 1.5 meters wide and 20 meters long. It serves as the perfect kind of background for this experiment.

how to use a shiny surface for your portrait background

Hoey set up a single light, which produced a huge amount of reflection. For the first shot, he placed the light right above the subject’s head.

shooting against a shiny background

Light placed right above the subject’s head

Then he took a second shot with the light raised much higher up.

shiny surface as your background

Light raised higher

With the height of the light changed, the angle at which it hits the background and the reflection that it creates both change.

However, using a shiny background exposes what’s behind the camera. So, there’s always a risk of reflecting an untidy studio or even yourself if you’re not careful.

shiny surface for your background

A simple tool to use in order to prevent at least some of these unwanted reflections is to have something like a gray screen or partition.

suppressing unwanted reflections in portraits

But there is still a problem. The background still shows a reflection of something bright red; you have to be careful and check each frame to see if there are any distractions in the frame.

To spice things up you can use something like a second light with a gel.

experimenting with a shiny background

using shiny surfaces as portrait background

Swapping the blue gel for something like a yellow gel produces an even more stunning result.

Though using a reflective surface as a backdrop for a portrait definitely produces some challenges, it’s worth some experimentation to get some unique shots!

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