One of the workshops I watched was taught by Zack Arias, a famous commercial/editorial photographer who specializes in shooting on white seamless paper. For those of you who don’t know, white seamless is just a big, white piece of paper draped down from a wall to get a clean background. He is known for his portraits using only one light source – which is helpful when you’re a photographer like me, who doesn’t own a studio full of gear. He has great blog posts that share his techniques on white seamless, so check it out here if you’re interested.
I never knew until very recently, but my school happens to have a room that has white-seamless – sweet. I wonder who uses it. Doesn’t matter, I will.
So, I reserved the room and planned a photo-shoot. The theme: simple, clean, and professional. It was the first time I was shooting in a studio-environment shooting on white seamless, so I just wanted to get used to it and experiment with the additional control of light I had that I don’t get with on-location shoots. I brought a lot of lighting gear for this shoot – couldn’t carry it all myself, so I got my friends Adam and Ben to help me. Thanks guys!
I had two lighting setups in mind for this shoot: one was a full-body shot with a blown-out white background, and the other was a chest-up shot with “clam shell” lighting.
I used three lights for the full-body shot – one AB800 + 24″x36″ softbox as a key-light to light the subject, and two bare speedlights to light the seamless in the background. I powered the speedlights so that it blew-out the background to white.
I also used makeshift flags to block the background lights from hitting the subject. They were just light-stands with big, black pieces of paper taped at the top, haha. Click on the lighting diagram on the left to see the details on positioning.
Ignore the lights on the ceiling: they’re hot-lights for video. The speedlights lighting the seamless are behind the black flags. With only the background lights on, it looks like the photo below. That’s Ben, who was helping out.
The board that you can see Ben standing on was supposed to reflect light from the background and make the floor look white too. It was one of Zack’s tips. Didn’t work though – I probably bought the wrong one at Home Depot. Cost me $40 for nothing – ouch.
And now, with only the key-light on, it looks like this:
Pretty bad-ass, I’d say. The distance between Ben and the seamless was perfect, and it created a nice grey tone that grey works very nicely. Since I couldn’t make the floor look white, I decided that I’d shoot full-body portraits with this grey background.
Once our model Georgia arrived, we began to shoot. We started off with the grey background, just because that’s how the lights were configured.
Georgia was easy to work with, probably because she’s a dancer. I just gave her some general instructions, and she kept banging out great poses until I told her to stop. One less thing for me to think about.
Here’s one of my favorite full-body shots.
Then we turned the background lights on to get the blown-out, white background. Got a bit of fan-action there in too, with the hair.
Pretty simple setup. Large softbox above Georgia, and a reflector right up to her chest, out of the frame. I also put the flags right besides her to keep stray light from lighting the shadows. The shadows give the photos a more three-dimensional feel and make it look more pleasing.
Here’s the photo, once again. Love it. I added a cyan tint to the photo using a color-balance adjustment layer in Photoshop.
By the end of the shoot we were just messing around, so I got shot of Adam in the clam-shell. I’ve always wanted to try one of these thin depth-of-field portriats.
Honestly, I felt like the shoot went too well – it wasn’t very challenging or tiring. Although I did end up with a fantastic photo, it felt like something was missing. Unlike the on-location shoots I normally do, all of the elements, such as lighting and the backgrounds, were completely under my control. Nothing unexpected happened, and it went all as planned – which sort of made it boring. I actually enjoy the thrill when something doesn’t go as planned and I ask myself, “what the hell am I going to do now?” while pretending to the model/client that everything’s going okay. Makes me think on my toes.
In any case, I’m pleased with the photos! They’re gorgeous. Since it’s too cold to take photos with models outside, I may want experiment more with these kinda studio portraits.