DIY White Seamless Background Howto Part 1 of 5

This is the first part in a little series, which I expect to run to 5 parts, about my experience with doing a “white seamless background” look, with mostly DIY parts; and weaving in the use of tethering software.

  • Part one will discuss why I’m writing this, why you should read it, and why you might want to do it anyway.
  • Part two will be how I set up the physical environment with totally inadequate space and inappropriate materials; a too small room, off-white crumpled fabric, not quite white wooden boards and at least one bamboo lightstand.
  • Part three will be how I set up my lights and determine the correct power level for the flashes using a combination of a grey card, spot metering, tethering, Adobe Camera Raw, some logic and a healthy dose of guesswork and trial and error.
  • Part four will be actually shooting in this environment, mainly using tethering in order to do self portraits and also to check results as I go.
  • Part five will then be post processing, particularly how I compensate for limitations in my studio, my equipment and my skills!

It may take me a while to get to all these parts, but hey, a guy has to have goals in life, right? ūüôā

So first, why I’m writing this, why you should read it, and why you might want to do it anyway

My main reason for myself is that I was pleasantly surprised with the results I managed to obtain when I did this for myself. I had read various tutorials and guides and knew that I was missing some essential ingredients to do this “properly”, most importantly the sufficiently large space and the seamless paper.

As my stubborn insistence on trying anyway has lead to some usable results I wanted to capture what I’d done in writing, and by writing about it and therefore forcing myself to go through the whole process again methodically, perhaps to improve what I have done.

Why then should you read what I am writing here given that I’m clearly an absolute-beginner who has done this about 3 times and probably doesn’t know what he is doing. Well firstly I suppose you could be an even less experienced person who has done it zero times. But in that case shouldn’t you be reading advice from someone who has done it a thousand times? Of course you should read that, but I believe that as a beginner who has only just had his “ah ha” moment I’m closer to it and perhaps can describe things in way that will¬†interest¬†another beginner.

Of course another reason you might want to read this is so you can laugh heartily at my many mistakes and downright errors! If so, please feel free to keep your comments to yourself. ūüôā

More charitably (on my or your part) perhaps you’d want to give me some pointers to improve what I’ve done? Criticism, constructive or otherwise, does not sit easily with me I will admit, but advice is always welcome.

Lastly, why would anybody want to shoot on a white seamless background – and a DIY one at that. ¬†For me it was initally just “because”, it seemed an interesting thing to do and a bit of a challenge. ¬†Combined with that is seeing those posters of models in clothing stores (where I live it is Uright and Bossini) blown up to about twice life size that always look so cool.

Once I had done it though I realized it presents a few additional advantages:

  • You don’t have to worry about composing the background, there is no background. For me that was a big one as I’m still struggling a lot with backgrounds; I have not yet trained my eye properly to see everything in the frame through the viewfinder. ¬†And so find most of my shots tend to have unwanted things behind or intersecting with the object I am trying to capture. ¬†While I will continue to work to train my eye meanwhile I’d like some nice shots of my wife and kids which are not ruined by junk in the background.
  • Compositing suddenly becomes a lot easier. ¬†You want to duplicate yourself 3 times in the same shot? ¬†Now you don’t have to worry about difficult cutting out and not matching edges. ¬†Every edge is white, it becomes easy.
  • Your background suddenly becomes¬†expendable; you want it to appear that you are on a larger set? ¬†Just expand the canvas.
  • And of course there is room for type if you’re doing a Christmas card!

As for why DIY — well because it is cheap and because I can get it here and now with materials at hand. ¬†Where I live getting a 9 foot roll of paper delivered is not really and option.

So there you go. ¬†Why I’m writing this, why you might want to read it, and why do white background shots anyway. ¬†That’s all I have for part one and now that I’ve started I’ll have to finish this one day!