White Seamless | First Attempt

By Jin.

Zach Arias, my man, you probably will never see this measily little blog but this post is a shout out to you for  inspiring me to learn about light and simply for being the man. Not because you walk around struttin your stuff talking about how much you know and with the ladies hanging on by your angles but because you share so much of it with us the photographic coummunity and you do so with a great sense of humbleness, humor, sincerity and style with that fierce beard of yours and all. Respect =)

So a month or so back, I was learning a bit on how to shoot white seamless using minimal lighting equipment from severeal different sources. I had watched Zach on CreativeLive's live streaming course, part of which Linda and I watched while out in the woods camping. The typical demonstations showed setting up two light stands raised with a cross bar hanging across where the white seemless paper get's rolled out to create the seemless backdrop from wall transitioning to the floor. Then you set up couple of lights pointed at the background and put something in the way to block those lights from makings it's way back into the camera lens and subject. After that, you set up your key light with modifier of choice and whatever other lights you want to include to complicate things. Pretty cool this white seamless stuff and definitley my kind of style that I dig as it's so fresh and so clean clean! :) I'd love to give it a go but there's just one problem. We don't have all this stuff that's required nor the space for it in our home. So I left it at that with the realization that it'll just have to wait until I get the opportunity somewhere, somehow to try it out.

Then the other day, I came up with the idea to try shooting white seemless using our window shade as the backdrop so I tried it out. I chose a gift I got a long time ago of a wood carved giraffe as my subject.

I tried to use one of my two speedlights for the key light to expose the front of the giraffe and the other light to blow out the off-white window shade behind it. That didn't work out very well because the one light lighting the background (the windows shade) wasn't enough to immuninate enough of the shade area I needed for the composition. Here's what that looked like.

So I had to use both of the flashes, one on the floor and the other held by my lovely assistant Linda to get the overall window shade area blown to white. As a result I didn't have a flash to light the front of the subject so this ended up being a silloette shot. Once again as you can see from this picture, one speedlight to blow out the entire window shade wasn't enough as it wasn't able to illuminate the upper part of the shade.

And here's the final shot using both of the flashes to blow out the entire background to white. Technically this isn't really a seemless shot since the window shade didn't roll out past the wall and onto the floor for the giraffe to be placed on but whatever, it was close enough for me to practice the concept.

So as you can see, these were shot in portrait orientation but I wanted it to be in landscape so that there is more white space in the composition for flexibility in case I wanted to use it for a graphics piece with text, post card or whatever. I could have shot it in landcape orientation from the get go but I learned a little tip from Mr. Arias that it's better in general to fill the frame with as much of the subject as you can if you don't care about capturing the background or foreground. Naturally this subject demanded I shoot in portrait orientation if I wanted to fill as much of the frame as possible. By doing this, you're essentially getting the maximum resolution possible of the subject. Not a big deal for a smaller resolution picture as I could have just cropped it horizontal without sacrificing image quality and be done with it but let's say you wanted to print this out really big to hang on the wall. Having maximized the resolution of the subject when shot allows me go that much bigger for print. Pretty smart stuff, thanks Zach! So with that said, I took the picture above and processed it in photoshop by using the dodge tool to clean up a few minor small areas of the picture that wasn't fully white (coffe table the giraffe was set on) and then used the auto-fill option to create a horizontal composition. Here's the final image.

It took about 25 shots or so before I had the light output close enough to what I wanted. It took this many shots to get the background blown out to pure white the way I wanted and at the same time not have the light bouncing back from the shade back onto the giraffe in a way that started to light the edge of the giraffe's silloette making the hard edged silloette more soft edged. So it was a fine balance of light output and light positioning that resulted in this final picture.

I had a lot of fun with this shoot and took away from it a few key lessons. I learned after the fact that it would have been possible to blow out all of the window shade with a single flash. All I needed to do was move everything, both flash and giraffe further away from the window shade. That's it. I think this would have allowed enough distance for the one flash to spread it's beam of light at a wider angle making it wide enough to cover the entier area of the shade. Also by moving it further away from the backdrop, the bounce light hitting the shade and coming back at the giraffe from behind would have been reduced, making it that much easeier to get a pure black front silloette without the edge light contamination. Oh well, now I know but I don't think I would have learned it withouth having gone through the process. I know Linda wants to try this out so she can apply the things I learned from it and maybe pull it off in half the amount of shots it took me.

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