White Seamless Tutorial :: Part 1 :: Gear & Space

white seamless

Richard Avedon, Herb Ritts, and countless other great photographers have rocked the white background for decades. I recently went to a huge bookstore here in Atlanta and counted the number of magazine covers shot with a simple white background like we are going to investigate here. 87 COVERS SHOT ON WHITE OR A VARIATION OF A WHITE BACKGROUND. Eighty-seven magazine covers at one book store. Its everywhere and it is everywhere because it is simple and effective and makes your subjects pop. It beats the bloody hell out of any wrinkled up grey/blue/brown muslin any day of the week. Walk into a Target store this week and look at the in-store signage. How did I learn to shoot like this? Because this is how we shot JC Penney’s catalogue clearance images when I shot for them. Need to add text and other artwork to a photo? A simple white background lets you do so all day long.

If I had but one backdrop to use for portraiture I would choose a simple roll of white seamless paper. With one roll of paper you can create many options. For the rest of the week I’m going to break it down for you. We are going to look at getting it to pop to pure white, making it various shades of grey, getting it to go black, gelling it to any color in the rainbow, and doing very easy and quick changes in post production to further the visual options available to us when using such a simple background.

As simple as it is, it can be easy to mess up too. I hope to help you out like other photographers have helped me along the way.Before we get into the shooting technique for this, let’s start from the start and look at the gear and resources needed to pull this off.

1. Space Considerations :: The more room you have the less bad words will come out of your mouth. A 20×20′ room with 10′ or higher ceilings is a great place to start. You can do it with less but you’ll have more challenges to face and make this more of a pain in the arse then it needs to be. Trying this in a spare bedroom with 8′ ceilings is going to drive you mad and you’ll sound like the dad in A Christmas Story as he worked on the furnace. You can do it… you’ll just use more cuss words doing so. A hard floor surface is desired. Plush carpeting will bring more cursing. If you are doing this on carpet, lay down an 8′x8′ foundation of 1/2″ plywood so you have something sturdy for your subjects to stand on.

My current studio allows me to have a space that is about 15′ wide by 40′ in length. I really wish I had 20′ in width. I would say 80% less cuss words if my area was wider. My ceilings are about 11′ in height and I wish they were 14′ but you do what you can with what you have. My old studio had a cyc wall that was 20′ wide by 40′ long with 14′ ceilings and I never ever said a single bad word when lighting a set.

BTW – Cyc is short for “cyclorama”. Also known as an infinity wall. Think of it as a permanent roll of seamless paper from floor to ceiling that can be painted over and over again. They are worth every bit of the few thousands of dollars they cost to have built properly. You only want one built if you know for sure you will be in your space for a long time because you’ll never want to leave it.

2. Lights :: Three lights are pretty much the minimum you are going to need for this. They’ll do everything you need to have done for the most part. 95% of my pure white background images are shot with 3 lights. I don’t care what kind of lights they are. 3 Alien Bees, 3 Travelites, 3 Norman heads, 3 Canon 580′s, 3 Nikon SpeedLites, whatever. I will say that you want more power than less for much of this. You can pull it off with hotshoe flashes but you’ll use 47% more cuss words with small flashes as opposed to more powerful strobes like Alien Bees or Dynalites etc. You can rock the pure white with OneLight and/or two lights but if you want to make life better and your studio to be more of a PG rated environment, go with three lights.

3. Seamless, stands, and misc. grip gear :: You are going to need to 2 solid stands to hold your 9′ wide roll of seamless paper up. You’ll need a sturdy crossbar to go through the roll of paper that gives you at least 3 inches of room on each side of the roll. You can use a 10′ long section of 1.5″ PVC pipe from Home Depot or the like. I then use super clamps to attach the pole to the stands. The following links will take you to B&H.

Savage 107″ (9 feet wide) white seamless paper. :: $40 :: You don’t have to have “super white”. A light, light grey can work as well but just plain ol’ white will do it. Try to find it locally as shipping can sometimes cost more than the seamless. It is heavy stuff. Also note – Store your seamless paper standing up. DO NOT store your seamless laying flat on the ground. If you store it flat you will get ripples through the whole roll eventually.

Avenger 10.8′ light stands or the 12.8′ version. :: $78 ea. for the 10′ and $84 ea. for the 12′ :: You’ll need two stands to hold your seamless.

Matthews Super clamps (you need two of them) :: $27 each.

OR… Just buy a background support kit like this Impact set-up. For $99 you get 2 stands, a crossbar that fits on the stands, and a bag to carry it in. I prefer using stronger stands, super clamps, and metal cross bars but a kit will work for you. You get what you pay for though. Cheaper support kits are going to give you more problems. Pick up two sandbags ($22 each) to help keep the whole thing grounded.

1 or 2 A clamps :: $4 each :: You need these to hold the paper on the roll once you have rolled it out. Get a good roll of gaffer tape as well. Don’t be so ghetto that you cheap out and use duct tape. Have a little dignity and use some good industry standard tape!

3. Cutters / Flags / Gobos and tile board :: When we set up to go with a pure white background in our photo we want 2 lights on the background and we don’t want that light to spill on to our subject directly from the strobes. We need some sort of cutter/flag to keep the subject from being lit by those lights hitting the white seamless. You can score a 4×8 sheet of 1/4″ foam core down the vertical center to stand them up. I used those for a long time but they fall over easily. I have now moved to using 2 bi-fold doors that I bought at Home Depot for $20 each. I painted one side of each set white. You can use barn doors on your strobes or whatever. You just want to make darn sure that the light from the strobes hitting the background DOES NOT directly hit your subject. Using tall cutters like the bi-fold doors makes things much easier on you.

Tile Board :: $11 per 4×8′ sheet at Home Depot. This stuff rocks. This is going to give you a nice white floor and a reflection under your subject. You need a few sheets of it. Check out the photo below to get the exact stock number. You can find it at Lowes as well. You’ll find these either in the area where they keep paneling or in the bath fixtures department as it is used to wall in showers and bathrooms. You want the pure white smooth kind. They have some that has a bit of a pebbled texture to it. Don’t bother with that stuff. It is brown on the back side which actually photographs beautifully as a background when thrown a bit out of focus. Its a floor! Its a background! Make the most out of what you have!

Here is a photo of the basic set up for going pure white.

basic_setup.jpg

And here is the tile board you want to get…

tile_board2.jpg

Here is the Super Clamp attached to a light stand and holding the cross bar.

superclamp.jpg

Setting up the seamless is going to be the biggest pain in the arse for you. Get it on the stands about face level and roll it out to the floor until it starts to roll back on itself on the floor. Roll out as much slack as you can but don’t allow it to wrinkle or crease. Attach an “A” clamp to the roll and crossbar to keep it from rolling out any more. Extend one stand up a bit. Then go to the other side and extend that up a bit. Then go back to the other side and extend that up a bit. Rinse and repeat until you get the roll all the way to the ceiling. Having another person makes it MUCH easier. You’ll make sailors blush if you are doing this on your own. It could be an olympic sport really.

Get on a ladder and let out some more paper from the top and pull it out toward and lightly tape it to the floor. Let out some more paper and pull it back some more. Crap. Not only is it a pain to do, it is a pain to describe. If any of you can’t wrap your head around the set-up, I’ll shoot a little video on it or something.

Here is the “A” clamp holding the paper from rolling out any more.

aclamp.jpg

DO NOT just let your seamless sit up there without being clamped. When that stuff starts to unroll on it’s own, you’ll just want to jump off a bridge at that point. Trust me. I know.

One last thing on gear notes here…

Lens Choice :: When you start shooting into the background when you have lit up like a roman candle you will find that one lens may perform better than another in this situation. When you light that white background you are essentially shooting INTO a very large light source. You can run into all sorts of flare and chromatic aberration (CA) problems with some lenses. I know that my Nikon 35mm f2 and my Nikon 105mm f2 lenses perform really well for this. My Nikon 50mm 1.8 looks like butt. Ugly butt. It is worthless when shooting on a pure white background due to flare and CA and it adds a big ugly purple spot right in the dead center of the photo. A Nikon 50mm 1.4 holds up much better. My 80-200 f2.8 also looks horrible. My 85 f1.8 does “ok” but it isn’t that great. You’ll just need to test a few of your lenses for this. You may find that a zoom works better at one end of the focal length than the other.

That wraps up Part 1 of this tutorial.

Next, I will be talking about setting up the lights and finding your exposure without a light meter. A light meter sure does help for this but I rarely, if ever, pull the light meter out simply because I have shot this stuff so many times I have my formula worked out.

Continue Reading – Part 2 :: Setting Lights And Exposure

ETA – If you have questions about any of this, drop them in the comment section here on Part 5 of the tutorial. I will be following up on this tutorial with a new post answering all the questions at once.

Cheers, Zack




Discussion

  • jason said on April 29, 2008

    Wow! That was just awesome!!!

  • Ramiro said on April 29, 2008

    Zack, this is great info, thanx for sharing, but I do have a question. Is a cyc wall something that can be built by someone building a house? or does it have to be someone special? I guess along those lines, what is needed to build a cyc wall? Thanx again.

  • Jayme From INDY Onelight said on April 29, 2008

    thanks for posting this Zack! I got a tile board the other day at your suggestion and love it. I need to pick up one more though.

    Also I was trying to figure out what to use to block light didn’t even think of those bifold doors. YOUR ROCK!!! Thanks so much for always sharing your knowledge.

  • Jeff said on April 29, 2008

    Looking forward to the rest of the coming posts…

  • zack said on April 29, 2008

    Hey Ramiro!
    There are people who just build cyc walls. There are also some kits you can purchase but it isn’t so simple as locking some stuff together and calling it a cyc wall.

    Someone who is good at building stuff can make a cyc wall. You just want to have a very, very, very even transition of the cove into the floor and into the wall. You want the cove to be spot on as well. Any imperfections will show up when you are not blowing it to pure white.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Anita Matejka said on April 29, 2008

    Oh my gosh, that is the funniest thing I’ve ever read! Thanks for the awesome info. full of flavor :)

    I can’t wait for the next installment!

    Dumb question, but you show the bi-fold doors as brown, do you paint that side or is the other side painted? I assumed the side toward the camera would be painted, but wasn’t sure.

    Thanks again for sharing this information. Seriously, it’s priceless. I wish I had a bigger space, but I make due … I’ll just be cussing more ;)

  • zack said on April 29, 2008

    Anita,
    The other sides are painted white. I probably should paint the sides facing the camera black. I’ll talk about that in another part.

    I wish I had a bigger space too!

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Aaron said on April 29, 2008

    Can you possibly be any more awesome???

  • Vanessa Bartels said on April 29, 2008

    That was such a great read-you are hilarious! Thanks for sharing your know-how in such a detailed way!

    I currently do my high key stuff using stretched white muslin, 2 lights, one softbox camera right and one light behind the muslin with an umbrella pointed toward the camera. Works OK, but not great because of the draping at the bottom where the muslin and tile board meet.

    Can’t wait to learn how to do it the right way!

  • peter said on April 29, 2008

    this is way too awesome! thank you for sharing your knowledge! can’t wait for part deux!

  • Mark said on April 29, 2008

    Awesome Zack! Thank you so much for sharing this.

    I was wondering…instead of light stands is there a cussing % you would apply to a hanger coming down from the ceiling instead?

  • Chris Green said on April 29, 2008

    Zack,
    Thanks for writing all of this. I am a total rookie, but one day aspire to take a good pic. I know Meghan from Buckhead Church…on staff in audio.

    Thanks for sharing your mind. I need to get to one of your onelight seminars…one coming up?

  • David Burke said on April 29, 2008

    dude you should be a writer in your spare time (and get paid for it!) You rock. Thanks man.

  • Anne said on April 29, 2008

  • Bob D said on April 30, 2008

    It’s so wonderful how selflessly you give back to the photography community! You rock man.

  • dave cross said on April 30, 2008

    Great stuff! Very informative – and funny as, um, heck.
    Linked to you from my blog….

  • Tammy said on April 30, 2008

    um.

    yeah.

    you got it boy. And I’ve had a roll of white paper “let go” with no clamp and it was NOT pretty. Duct tape works too.

    Rock on Z!!

    Tam (tall girl Detroit workshop)

  • K.C. Larsen said on April 30, 2008

    Zack, I need to use your set up in a week and a half, hurry up and finish this already so I know what to do:) Seriously though, your work simply rocks. I love it.

  • Melissa Powell said on April 30, 2008

    Freaking awesome as usual Zack! Can’t wait for the next installment!

    ~Melissa Powell

  • Roël Dixon-Mahatoo said on April 30, 2008

    Thanks for the tutorial. You are the master of effective lighting for minimal cash outlay!

  • zack said on April 30, 2008

    Thanks for the comments thus far ya’ll. Roel – This is the most expensive technique I shoot since it usually requires more than one light!

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Lisa said on April 30, 2008

    Zach~ can you easily remove scuff marks etc. from the white tileboard?

    I currently use plexi and when it gets black scuff marks from the guys I use the Mr. Clean magic eraser and they are gone. Just wondered if the tile board was easy to clean?

    Thanks so much for all of the great info!

  • Rachel said on May 1, 2008

    wow. this is really helpful. cheers!

  • Roël Dixon-Mahatoo said on May 1, 2008

    Zack… I guess we’ll see a “two light” workshop next year? (hee hee)

  • Alana said on May 1, 2008

    Thank you so much!!!

  • Anna said on May 1, 2008

    Well, I shoot white background stuff almost all day everyday, but I love your comical account of all the pit falls… looking forward to the next installment!!

  • Jeff said on May 13, 2008

    Zack, great stuff, I sure hope you will explain more on how you did that shot with the honeycomb just grazing his face with light. I can’t seem to get that much control out of it. Waiting for the next post since you’ve already sold out in Denver. :-(

  • Rob said on May 16, 2008

    A friend of mine pointed me to your site here Zack. Great job!

  • corey said on May 17, 2008

    zack,

    awesome site!

    Is that set up you show in a garage? I’ve shied away from shooting in my garage because of all the dust. Do you have issues with that?

    also, if one was only going to use shoot white, could the seemless paper be subbed out for a white sheet.

    When looking locally, what kind of place sells the seemless paper.

    THanks!

  • ripe images said on May 30, 2008

    great tutorial, I remember being an assistant setting the wider rolls up when the cove already had a set on it. going back to seamless after using coves, instantly makes you miss it lol

  • A. Dawson said on June 2, 2008

    thanks so much for posting this!

  • Amanda said on June 4, 2008

    I’m so glad I found this…I can’t wait to read all of the other parts. So awesome! THANKS!

  • Dani said on June 5, 2008

    Your blog is so motivating and inspirational, you have given me a boost of ambition again. Im a Canadian working in Sweden as a graphic designer and now am trying my skills at photography. The reason I quite my job was that the answer always seemed to be ahh, we fix it in photoshop. Spending a little extra time on lghts and the set was never an option that was considered.

    I love PS and the power of creation that comes with it, but a lot of people are forgetting the power of the camera and the lights. Thank you.

    P.S: I have been getting really cool looks with the in camera settings like contrast, saturation and sharpness. I know pretty basic PS things but youll be amazing at how real it looks when done in camera…

  • Julia said on June 8, 2008

    Zack, your photos are fantastic and awesome. I’m so glad they are now showing up in my RSS feed!!!

    I just ordered a stand, a clamp and some seamless from B&H. If anyone reading this is a member of NAPP (photoshop users group), free shipping is currently one of the benefits… even with seamless! Today I saved $36 in shipping.

    Now just a trip to Home Depot, and a few curse words, and I’ll be set!

    Thanks for sharing all this wonderful information, Zack!!

  • zack said on June 9, 2008

    Well done Julia! Thanks for the tip on the NAPP membership.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Wedding Photographer France said on June 11, 2008

    Excellent tutorial! Very useful for my portraits shots.

    No Home depots in France but I’m sure I’ll find some equivalent wares.

  • Mike said on June 11, 2008

    thanks for the good info.
    i’m going to try to do something similar to this in a 10×10 room. Lighting rules.

  • Excellent Post… will be checking back regularly.

  • jk said on June 11, 2008

    Check out skate board ramps:construction ranges from junque warped plywood to concrete-for-the-ages…

    When you build one, cover it with linoleum, hide/smooth any cracks/edges with spackle. Flaws won’t show. Paint with matte white latex paint, repaint whenever it gets dirty (every other day if necessary…cheap…better than seamless.

  • ian said on June 11, 2008

    That title board at $10 a sheet is way cheaper than $300 plexi that scratches up as well. Thanks for the tip.

    Shooting on white back in the film days was the toughest thing I had to learn to do.

  • Katie the Scrapbook Lady said on June 11, 2008

    Thank you so much!

  • KW said on June 11, 2008

    Muchas Gracias! I was just telling my students how good photographers share information. Thank you for being in that group.

  • Bo Boswell said on June 12, 2008

    Thanks so much, Zack! I’ve always had a hard time getting a nice clean white background. This is great information that I’ve been searching for for some time.

  • Debbi said on June 12, 2008

    What kind of lightstands are you using? They have wheels and seem to not take up a lot of real estate.
    Thanks for a great tutorial!
    Debbi

  • erick from 7imaging said on June 12, 2008

    Great info…I pretty much do the exact same thing.Another idea for the floor,AND I buy sheets of cheap plexi (2′x3′)at Home Depot and paint the under side gloss white. You get a great reflection and the seems can’t be seen when shooting. Also, Instead of buying the folding doors to block out light..I buy a 4′x8′ sheet of black or white foam core.(available at most art supply stores) Cut them into two 2′x8′ sheets and ‘hing’ them w/ black gaffers tape. its more affordable, and easier to move around. Just a couple other ideas I thought I would throw out there!

  • qiv said on June 13, 2008

    I enjoyed the tutorial. Could you use grey paper the same way? Blowing it white and using it as black? Then less space would be enough …

  • Loic said on June 13, 2008

    It is funny what you say about the 2 Nikon 50mm, my experience is exactly the opposite.

  • Chris nagy said on June 14, 2008

    Hey..
    Good stuff m8
    cheers

  • A.J. Pomales said on June 17, 2008

    Being a visual person I found this tutorial to be very helpful and insiteful. I had kinda figured out a bit of this kinda of setup in my head (& through trial and error), but this tutorial was WONDERFUL in filling in the holes where I was at a loss… Thanks for taking the time to share this greatly detailed tutorial w/ all of us! Your work is amazing!

    Creatively,
    A.J. Pomales

    A.J.

  • Bruce Philpott said on June 22, 2008

    This is great information very well presented! I’m going to post a link to it at http://www.photozo.com, a terrific digital photography site whose members will be delighted to get this information. Thanks!

  • Jake Jacobs said on June 23, 2008

    Not many folks have your attitude of sharing their knowledge about a subject.

    A feather in your cap for doing so!

    Thanks Zack

  • Steve K said on June 26, 2008

    Zack, thanks for sharing all this great info. I only stumbled across your site because I found a link on the twip blog.

    It’s hard to translate the products you mention above in to what we can find locally here in Australia. All I’ve got left to acquire now is the tileboard which either no-one seems to sell or knows of an equivalent.

    Thanks again for sharing this wonderful info.

  • wyatt said on July 1, 2008

    I have no problem with successfully getting a pure white background photo. My problem is that after uploading the photos to my computer from my camera, the photos show up pale on my computer but they remain pure white on the camera. how can I fix this??

  • Jeff said on July 2, 2008

    Great observations. Thanks for sharing :)

  • Jeff said on July 10, 2008

    Zack you truly rock my man. I hope we can work together someday. I’m new to studio lighting and am going to set this up in my garage space. Are the BG lights hot lights? Or can they be? If no, what sort of ambient light do you use when the strobes aren’t firing–i was thinking if the bg lights aren’t hot it might be a bit startling for the model to have all 3 firing so bright all at once. Cheers, and thanks for all of your great help. I’ll definitely be buying your one-light dvd when it comes available.
    Jeff

  • josef matos said on July 19, 2008

    ok – so i went to home depot and found tileboard, but it has impressions of actual tiles on it (hence the name i guess). The pics on your tutorial does not show the tile impressions. is that due to the light or is there another type of smooth tileboard without the tile impressions on it?

    Thanks – josef

  • zack said on July 20, 2008

    Josef – There is a smooth surface tile board. You do not want the one with impressions in it.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • anil said on July 21, 2008

    thaking you for the info…
    it is tooo helpfull…

  • Mos said on July 21, 2008

    I have a question about the bi-fold. what can be an alternative to the bi-fold. DYI wise???

    Thanks, Mos

  • Gary Lau said on July 22, 2008

    Excellent tutorial!

  • Mark Christensen said on July 30, 2008

    Hey Zack, just got back from the HD with the tile board. The stuff is kinda warped. Was yours perfectly flat? I’m kinda nervous that it’s not gonna lay flat. Any thoughts?

  • promosyon canta said on August 1, 2008

    I always read your blog in high spirits. Thanks :)

  • Lucy said on August 3, 2008

    How very kind of you to share! Very clear and simple. Thank you.

  • Gary Alvis said on August 18, 2008

    Forget the Super clamp. Save money. Drill one hole on each end of the bar through one side only. Insert the light stand end through the one hole. The other non-drilled side of the pipe will act as a stop. I have ten bars of varying length (longest is 14′) with this system and at times have three set up at once for a three sided white enclosure.

    Good tutorial. Valid advice.

  • Tim said on August 27, 2008

    Hi,

    i’m wondering how much of the paper do you actually have to replace from time to time. I’m from the dominican republic, and therefore shipping for paper rolls is extremely expensive .. Do you actually change the paper on the bottom, or do you always have the tileboard on the floor – and therefore NOT have to “loose/spend” the paper ?

    Great page !!!! Keep it up !

  • corey said on August 30, 2008

    i went to the home depot today. they had the board under a different SKU. in the tutorial, it looks like a glossy finish. At Home depot is looked like more of a mat finish. what does this stuff look like?

    also, the edges are brown,,,how do you keep from seeing them in the photos?

  • Eric said on August 30, 2008

    Hi Zack
    In your excellent tutorial you mentioned some lenses that perform better that the others when used against a white overexposed BG. I think that it will be beneficiary to all if photographers that performed comparative testing will share their conclusions. People intending to buy new lenses for white BG will be able to use this guide as the performance of a lens for this specific use is never speced.
    I conducted some systematic comparative testing on lenses that I own. I looked mainly on the contrast; how deep is the captured black of a black object placed in front of white BG. Here are my results:
    Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D: Bad !
    Nikkor 24-120 f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S:: Medium
    Nikkor 18-200 f/3.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S DX VR II: Medium
    Nikkor 18-70 f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX: Medium
    Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR: Good !

    Eric
    eric@orckit.com

  • ryan said on September 2, 2008

    is there any cheaper way to make a picture have a white backround

  • Paul said on September 15, 2008

    Any chance you have a picture of the actual tile board up close? I’m interested in how shiny it is/pebbled… Trying to find comparable items locally and not having much luck.

    Thanks,
    Paul

  • sondaj said on September 17, 2008

    I always read your blog in high spirits. Thanks :)

  • Anthony said on September 25, 2008

    Thanks for this – it’s a great help for me getting more into studio lighting.

    I’d really like to see that video of you setting up the paper roll on your own though…just for the laugh ;)

    Thanks again.
    A.

  • bahce said on September 28, 2008

    I follow you always, this post is excellent.

  • luis said on September 30, 2008

    question:

    Can i use that white tileboard on a large white cyc floor, we currently have a large white cyc floor, or choice to use the white seamless, but i always hate cleaning and painting the white floor after use, can i use that white tileboard on it, and how do i clean it afterwards? thx.

    ~Luis.

  • Alex said on October 11, 2008

    really informative, I am new to photography but like the style that venture use in the uk.I think it looks so dramatic as used in your photo. Are there any cheap ways to do if if you want it mobile and don’t own any lights yet?

  • blackbrutha said on October 14, 2008

    This tutorial was very helpfull and your OneLight DVD was the sh*t. I watched it 4 times so far.

  • Erik Shannon said on October 24, 2008

    Do you use pocket wizards to trigger each of these lights?

  • joespi90 said on October 30, 2008

    Great stuff – thanks for sharing you skills.

  • Raymond Chou said on November 8, 2008

    Awesome stuff! I’m doing a shoot where I’ll be making the bg pure white for the first time and your tutorial is gold!

    Unfortunately, the hds in my area don’t sell that thrifty white tile board, but something a LOT more expensive for around 70. Sigh… and there’s no Lowes in my area either. Know of anywhere else I might be able to find a decent tileboard for cheap?

  • Tom said on November 13, 2008

    Zack,
    I have been looking for information to setup a home photo studio for a long time. Your articles are the best I ever read!
    It would be greatly appreciated if you could help me on the follow up questions:
    1. My goal is to take whole body portrait for my kids with white and black background. I do not want to spend more than I have to. How powerful the lights should be, in term of w/s or GN? Do you have any recommendations?
    2. I have Canon 50D with 24-70mm 2.8L. Can the camera and lens do the work?
    2. Where can I buy seamless paper in Atlanta area?

    Thanks

  • Jon Bauer said on November 17, 2008

    Thank you Zack!

    I think my experimental first shoot went well, even though I didn’t blow out the background.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonbauer/

    - Jon

  • Jene said on November 18, 2008

    What is the name of the lighting you used side by side?- Not sure If I overlooked that-

    BUT I got the soft box is a westcott.

  • Jennifer said on November 19, 2008

    Hey… Can’t seem to find the white tile board???

    When shooting my white background usually looks a light gray? Any suggestions – I have two lights – one with a soft box, the other with an umbrella.

    Thanks
    J

  • dave said on November 20, 2008

    Real big THANKS man, the guys over here in England don’t seem to want to share anything so your stuff is real help, keep it up !

  • zack said on November 20, 2008

    Jennifer – Your background isn’t getting enough light. You need to increase the power of the light hitting the background.

    Jene – I use Westcott softboxes most of the time.

    Jon – Well done!

    Tom – Showcase Inc sells paper. PPR does as well. If you want to shoot full length on black then you will need to get black paper. If you want reflections on black then you need to use plexiglass for that. That = $$$. You don’t need super powerful lights. I can pull it off with some old Nikon Speedlites.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Alberto Libre said on November 23, 2008

    Bravo, a superb tutorial.

  • Don Steele said on December 3, 2008

    Hi Zack,
    This is really useful stuff – thanks.
    Any ideas how I can achieve a pure white background when shooting pets in very limited spaces, ie in dog training classes and pet stores etc. Having 3 or 4 lightstands isn’t practicable due to manic dogs tearing around! A real challenge, right?

  • Mik said on December 5, 2008

    Cool set up, when I worked at a large commercial photographic studio in the UK they had several large studios all coved out with no straight edges, great for photography large Mack type trucks on a white background.

  • Scott Campbell said on December 6, 2008

    (Edit: bad link to my site – delete the other post)

    Zack:

    Awesome tutorial. I can’t thank you enough!

    I’m about to give it a try and am going through step by step. Are you sure that your PVC pipe is 1.5 inches? It looks more like 1″ or maybe 3/4 inches to me? I ask because I cannot clamp the roll to the cross-bar because the diameter of the roll is too close to that of the cross-bar (i.e., there is no space to put the clamp in there). I’m going to pop out to Home Depot and get a smaller pipe, but I just wanted to mention it. After all, we do want 50% few cuss words.

    Thanks again for the detailed instructions. I’m looking forward to seeing my results.

    -S.

  • Hi Zack, said on December 7, 2008

    Hi.. Does anyone know what the uk version of tileboard is as I cant find anything like it… I think we call it backer board over here but its far from white!
    Have thought about getting loose vinyl and glueing it too some thing marine plywood.. would this work?

  • Bruce said on December 11, 2008

    Fantastic tutorial, Zack. Thank you so much! You’ve saved me a whole load of time and hurt!

    I have one thing that I’m not quite getting. When I shoot full length, I get the background a nice and even white, but I’m still left with a slightly gray area front of where the ‘shadow’ from the doors is. If I expose the back more to get that grey to go white, I’m over-exposed enough on the back that I get flare. My background is all within about 1/3 of a stop, and my lens is pretty sensitive (it’s the 50mm 1.8 Nikon lens), but it doesn’t flare as long as I only just over expose the background. Do you ever put any extra light on the floor at the model’s feet to get that to go grey or do you just push the background a bit harder?

    Couple of example images:

    Nice pure white

    Grey area

    Many thanks again!
    Bruce

  • Bruce said on December 14, 2008

    Ah – I figured out the problem. Much better shots now:

    Much better

    The problem wasn’t that my background was too hot. The extra flare I was getting was coming from the sides – I have a narrow studio with white walls, and the background lights were not directly hitting the model, but a lot of light was bouncing off the sides of the studio and back onto the model, so there was much more flare on her than should have been given the strength of the background. Reducing the sidelight with negative fill let me go hot enough on the backdrop to get the floor to go grey :-) Thanks again for the great setup :-)

  • Bruce said on December 14, 2008

    ‘to go grey’ – to go white is what I mean of course

  • Leon said on December 21, 2008

    Hi Zack, what a great tutorial, and this is only pt I ! I was wondering if you have tested some other lenses in doing shoots with white backgrounds, like you wrote you would?

    I was planning on getting the 85mm 1.8, but I’m having some doubts after reading you found it to be ‘ok’.

  • Rhonda said on December 27, 2008

    thanks, I was wondering why the images do not download. First one is ok, but the rest only about an inch at the top. Can you upload again?

  • Dandoon said on December 28, 2008

    Hi zack,
    In a previous post (29 April) you said you would talk more about painting one side of your bi fold doors black and I have been unable to find a further explanation on this.
    I am asking as I was thinking about building a more portable set using black cloth to block the light from my subject rather than transporting big heavy doors. Would black blockers on a collapsable screen work?

  • Josh D said on January 9, 2009

    This may or may not have been answered, but…

    Is the tileboards running north to south (camera to BG) or east to west (camera left to camera right?

    Also, is the one light DVD sold out? I need that. :)

  • Calbeee said on January 11, 2009

    Zack, u just inspired me to renovate my studio rather than buying over priced stands from camera shops with limited functions.

    Thanks for the post, u made my day!

  • Jacqueline said on January 20, 2009

    Hi Zack, what brand of lights did you use for this photo?

    Would two “Alien Bees” B800 Flash Units be ok? My model will be standing in most of the shots.

  • Tony said on January 23, 2009

    Zack,
    Great article. Is it the reflection of the tile board of the background that gives the white under the models feet?
    How idi you light the model?
    Thanks, Tony

  • Wale said on January 31, 2009

    Great article. Literally licked up every word.and you’re in atlanta too. Cool.

    Many Thanks

  • Trtevor Taylor said on February 8, 2009

    Zack,

    I read your tutorial and it made be utter an expletive.

    If only I’d seen it a year ago not only would I have saved hours of frustration but also several hundred pounds (even more dollars) on courses.

    Brilliant, well done. Thank you.

    One question. What is Tile Board? I think it’s a term which does not cross the pond well and here in the UK it probably means something different. Here it is a board applied to walls upon which you fix tiles. I assume that side of the pond it probably refers to a sheet of wood (plywood, MDF or similar) on which is stuck a white laminated (Formica?) covering. Grateful for help with the US-UK translation.

    Again, thanks for a great tutorial. Now can’t wait to try it out.

    Trevor Taylor
    Oxford, England.

  • FLORENTINO ACOSTA said on February 15, 2009

    This is an excellent tutorial my friends and I will learn a lot from this so if you don’t mind I would like to copy this to my website.thanks

  • Jorge Torres said on March 1, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Thanks for the great tutorial. It made all the difference in the world in finishing my small studio.

    Here are the results:

    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1025&thread=31169756

  • Betty said on March 3, 2009

    Very interesting; I have limited space but will try this setup to try to get pure white results. Look forward to reading additional tutorials from you. Thanks for sharing.

  • Betty said on March 3, 2009

    Where do I find your other tutorials? Didn’t see them on this blog. I like your style of writing and I need all the advice I can get from reputable photographers. Thanks and God bless you.

  • Kristi said on March 7, 2009

    Betty. click on the technique link on the left and all of the tutorials will magically appear

  • scott webb said on March 12, 2009

    this is amazing. I’ve looked for this kind of info for a while now. perfect!

  • Eduardo said on March 12, 2009

    Simply, I love you! Thanks for all the hints

  • Crystal said on March 19, 2009

    You just saved me a whole lot of money!! I am sooo glad I found this website when I did!
    Thanks for the great advise…

  • bifold door said on March 21, 2009

    hey, you rock zack.. holy cow.. thats an awesome and really really helpful tutorial dude.. thank you so much.. looking forward to see other things from you as well

  • Shadowgolem said on March 22, 2009

    I now know why my garage has 14 foot ceilings! (other than they messed up getting the level of the plot right for the street). I can’t wait to try this out!

  • trish thomas said on March 29, 2009

    Does anyone know what the tile board might be called in Australia. Would white laminex be any good.
    ta.

  • Sergey Everett said on April 14, 2009

    Has anyone tried PLAS-TEX PolyWall sheets from Home Depot?

    http://www.waterproofpanels.com/polywall.shtml

  • Sheri Johnson said on April 22, 2009

    I am totally bookmarking this page for future reference. Zack you go above and beyond the call of duty sharing all of this stuff, so much detail, and SO much appreciated. I am just now getting ready to pull together some studio equipment and I am not going to do anything till I sit down and read every word of what you wrote here.

  • Alex said on April 24, 2009

    I am a bit new to this and at the moment have my on camera flash, a metz 45 cl-4 which I hope to be able to sync with a metz 58 somehow. Will this do the trick for the lighting? Or can I also set it up outside as my inside space is limited? If I were to , would I just add one light to the background and a fill flash on the subject if the daylight was bright but diffused?
    Also , is there any way to make a homemade transportable background stand, as I can not think of an idea for the base.

  • anita said on April 25, 2009

    what version of photoshop do you use

  • Arkadiy said on April 28, 2009

    Zack:

    Hi, I just bought two 200w Bowens strobes… I wonder if I could use those for the backround and use my FTZ-500 Pentax flash as main light (That’s a powerful flash though). And what about if I use one single 200w at full power for the BG?; and the remaining one as main light..

  • Don said on May 11, 2009

    HI Zack,

    I have your nightmare, 6’5″ ceilings, about 16′ wide, using 4×6 plexiglass on top of white muslin. Sometimes I have the lights over exposed to illuminate backdrop and some of the lose hair is a bit fried but usually I get the good popping results. I’d much prefer white paper backdrop. I’m using 3 strobe setup with 5′ octogon softbox as main w/ two strobes to cover backrop. The tile board is a lot less costly than the plexiglass, good to know. Thanks for the usefull info.

  • kabao said on May 12, 2009

    THANKS FOR POSTING THIS TUTORIAL. answered a lot of things i wanted to know about setting up a studio. kudos.

  • dave wright said on June 22, 2009

    thanks for posting such an extremely helpful page. i refer people to this tutorial all the time.

  • Lee said on June 30, 2009

    Zack cheers for the tutorial. I took what you said and put it into practice…how you say GOYA.

    I’ve found that I’ve totally up’d my game thanks to these blogs.

    Keep up the work, your a really inspiring person and its websites like these that really help to understand lighting in a simple way without the need to use light meters.

  • Olivia Leigh said on July 6, 2009

    Thanks so much for your incredibly helpful posts. I used this as a starting point for some basic headshots today, and they turned out better than I could have hoped.

  • Rhonda said on July 29, 2009

    Just wondering where I can find the other Parts of your “White Seamless Tutorials”. I’ve seen part 1 and would like to see the others. Do you have a newsletter that I can subscribe to?

  • Simon Andrews said on July 29, 2009

    Great tutorial, really really good. My garage is now a studio! I found 3 white boards to be just right for my size space so the seemless is just onto the ground. I’m using foam core as the double door in my home depot were $30 so off the list for now.

    I had to ask my local Home depot for tile board as it was ‘not sold’ according to the website, but they had it in stock. It was $11 a sheet. I also found fake wood siding next to the tile board which gives me a fake floor to cover my the bare concrete and looks OK in shots too, $18 a 4×8 sheet. Could use it as a background too I suppose but a bit floppy unless bonded to some ply.

    I used it for my first session the other day and posted up the pics on my blog. So nice to understand how to separate the white bg light and the subject’s lighting!

    Anyway, thanks Zach, you da bomb!

  • Dan Driedger said on August 1, 2009

    I want to convert my car garage into a part-time studio. Usable space is 20′Wide by 30′Long with an average ceiling height of 10-1/2 feet. I say average because the concrete floor is sloped for drainage. Will it be better to shoot “uphill” or “downhill” and can the tileboard be easily moved when not used as a studio?

  • Federer Photography said on August 5, 2009

    Nice – both the content and the delivery style. Even though I’ve got zero studio aspirations, I’m going to read up the rest to help with my photo station stuff. I love your willingness to ‘give back’.

  • Lisa said on August 13, 2009

    I was wondering if this can be accomplished using a white muslin backdrop? I am trying to use things I already have:)
    Thanks!!

  • zack said on August 13, 2009

    It can be accomplished with a white muslin BG. Just keep the folds and wrinkles flat.

  • Jayne-Ann Stratton said on August 25, 2009

    Thanks for the info. I am having the pink/purple and white hot spots, never thought about my lense! Canon 2.8 24-70. What should I use for a canon shooting children?

  • Adam said on September 1, 2009

    Firstly great tutorial, I only wish there were more of them.

    This tileboard you speak of is freakin expensive stuff here in Australia. Do you know if using a clear sheet of perspex would have the same effect?

  • pongky said on September 4, 2009

    I just went to home depot today – and it wasn’t called tileboard anymore. If anyone is having trouble finding the thing, it would be near the lumber / wall surfacing area – When I first mentioned tile board, the lady showed me the big heavy tile backing board, which was not what I needed – then when I explained it better I found it, it is still called “thrifty” but I forget the name – it is used for bathroom wall surfaces, and comes in plain, square tiled and this rough surface – good thing the plain one is the cheapest =)

  • Amelia said on September 6, 2009

    Thank you!!! I have been looking for these answers forever!

    I wish there were many more photography tutorials like this!

  • Jason said on September 12, 2009

    Thank you so much. I just bought my white board from home depot and set up my high key background. Shots came out great. Thanks again.

  • Heather Morris said on September 18, 2009

    You are an endless source of info & inspiration … we went right out to our local Lowe’s and purchased 2 sheets of tile board to use with our white seamless backdrop and the results have been very pleasing, Thanks for the knowledge & talents you share with those around you!

  • Adrian said on September 27, 2009

    This site is Superawesome Man.
    Warm regards from Indonesia.

  • Ray T said on September 27, 2009

    I followed your setup and sent the pics to Costco for printing. They called me, saying that my photos were done by a pro studio and that I couldn’t print them out. I replied that it was done in my own basement, and had to sign something to get my prints. I guess your system works! Thx a million for all the great tips.

  • George said on October 11, 2009

    Zack,

    Love your DVD…..quick question, do you use a semi gloss or flat white paint on your bifold doors?

    Cheers,

    George

  • Jim Felder said on October 21, 2009

    My problem has always been that the floor at the feet and in front of the model is not getting enough light to make it white. It’s always gray and has to be edited out in post. I’m shocked that you’re using one light for the model and two for the background. I’ve tried it but can’t get the feet to be white. Could it be the reflective board that’s getting the light from the background?

    Thanks Zach

  • Jim Felder said on October 21, 2009

    Oops Sorry Zack, spelled your name wrong.

  • zack said on October 21, 2009

    @Jim,
    Lower your shooting angle. That should clean it up. Like, “take a knee” kind of shooting angle.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Roy said on October 23, 2009

    Zack, I’m assuming that if you are using shot mounted flashes, that you will need to move everything closer to the backgound, model, tileboard, lights, etc.

  • Roy said on October 23, 2009

    I meant “shoe”

  • verneille said on October 26, 2009

    what lights are you using

  • Shaun Ring said on October 27, 2009

    Thank you for all this great info. In searching for studio space, I’m torn. Provided that I can get at least a 20x40x24, would it be better to go with something windowless and bare (warehouse-style), or something with character, windows, wood floors, exposed brick (loft-style). Asthetics aside, any functional reasoning for one over the other? Thanks!

  • SAM said on November 2, 2009

    hey Zack, thanx for the tutorial.
    I have a question: why don’t you work with a system that is mounted to the wall in the back of your studio? and do you use other backgrounds (Gray ) for fotos??
    thanx for you answer!

  • zack said on November 4, 2009

    @verneille – Alien Bees at the moment. Done this with all sorts of lights though. You just need some that turn on and you can control the power.

  • Phil in Aus said on November 5, 2009

    Hi Zack, just wanted to thank you for being such a graceful Pro. I wish there were more like you that are willing to be the master to so many apprentices! BTW loved the guest blog on scottkelby.com you reignited my passion.

  • POPography said on November 5, 2009

    WOW, thanks so much. I look forward to more. I love people who share ideas. Excellent!

  • debra said on November 12, 2009

    Hi there. I’m sure I must be a ditz but I am trying to figure out how to sign up for your postings. Is that how you do it? I am a beginning hobby photographer and trying to absorb all the info I can from people like you who are willing to share your knowledge. Thank you so much.

  • Tim said on November 13, 2009

    Just saw that the Avenger stand is discontinued and the new replacement is $180

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/611468-REG/Avenger_A0035B_A0035B_Baby_Alu_Stand.html#reviews

    Do you have recommendations for a different stand?

  • Shauna said on November 20, 2009

    Zack, Loved the tutorial, best I read. I’ve tried to duplicate the set up in my basement. It looks fantastic, but doesn’t work :( . What kind of lights, I’m afraid what I’m using isn’t strong enough to fully light the backdrop. I noticed your celling is white. Mine isn’t I’m thinking if I hung one board in back I’d be able to reflect more light on the background. Right now I have a SB800 in front with umbrella, and 2 freestanding lights 250W on stands behind the doors… do I need more in back?

  • Martin said on December 6, 2009

    Zack, this is a wonderful tutorial I just got my brand new set of Calumet Genesis lights and this setup worked really nice using my 580 EX II as fill light.

    Keep up the great work man!

  • wowed said on December 9, 2009

    Hello all. It seems I can find no “tileboard” in Italy:( Does anyone have any idea what I could look for instead?

    Buy stain grade (smooth finish) plywood and paint it with a high gloss white paint. Should do the trick for you. -Zack

  • Gary said on January 1, 2010

    Great stuff! I’ve shot long enough to know that I do NOT know everything… In thirty years of shooting it never occurred to me to use bi-fold doors as cutters. Doh! (I do use sheets of plywood split down the middle though.) I also love the tile board idea. Eh…PG word…PG word…um…uh…freaking brilliant!) I went out and got a flock. (half dozen sheets) Perfect for locations! I also expanded on the door idea and got a couple sets of folding louver doors…they can work not only as cutters (I line the “inside” to block stray light) but as design elements in other shoots. (I love multitasking gear!) Thanks!

  • Irving said on January 10, 2010

    This stuff is absolutely amazing. Question. I use my living room as a studio whenever I have a client so I literally set up every single time. Is tile board OK for that?? I find working with white seamless paper very hard & was considering switching to a muslin until I read this now having second thoughts. So basically, is tileboard portable, is it going to crack or something being carried back & forth between shoots. Thanks for your help

    Answer – Tileboard, while large and cumbersome, is very light weight and can be stored in the garage or on the back deck or wherever.

  • Sean said on January 21, 2010

    Great post – very useful. Thank you!

    Just one question though: How many curse words do you need to roll the paper back up when you’ve finished a shoot?

  • Blaise - Photographe Mariage Nice said on January 21, 2010

    Zack,

    I really really enjoyed your explanation and your writing style. I’ve never tried white seamless, but am thinking about doing so at the reception at weddings. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    Blaise

  • Amir Kaljikovic said on January 25, 2010

    THANKS for sharing!!!

  • Sarah Valentine said on February 13, 2010

    Thank You for all your wonderful resources. You Rock! I can not wait to see you in June in Asheville. Regina turned me on to you. I was looking for someone like you…Have a :) Valentine’s Day! Sarah

  • Chris said on February 14, 2010

    How many cuss words will you use if you are using 2 omni lights (hot) with video banks?

  • zack said on February 15, 2010

    A fair number of curse words but it can be done. :)

  • bluejae said on February 20, 2010

    thanks for the great write up, i’m going to try and incorporate a lot of your ideas. i’ve got myself some seamless white paper background, a d3000 camera, and i’m mostly shooting still products for a catalog. the only thing i’m missing is lighting and i can’t seem to find what i should get. i’ve had brand names thrown at me but i don’t know what model, wattage, size, umbrella, softbox, etc. What brand it is doesn’t really matter to me at this point. i’m wanting 2 lights to blow up the background white and then one main light on the product, such as a softbox but again i don’t know what light to get, or an umbrella. if anyone could just tell me, go to this site, and buy 2 of these and one of these, then i’ll have an idea what to shop for. i would appreciate any suggestions. thank you.

  • Steven Hasanuddin said on February 21, 2010

    Thanks for sharing the tutorial. I’ve been looking for these kinds of setup to start my own small home-made studio. :)

  • John Godwin said on February 22, 2010

    Amazing tutorial, I’m currently building this exact setup in my house, what a nightmare!

    Thanks for the tips, Zack, this is one of the most coomprehensive and well thought out tutorials I’ve ever seen on anything photography related.

    Did anyone else manage to figure out what “tile board” is though, for us UK guys? I’d love to know, thanks.

  • Edward Songco said on February 25, 2010

    hi Zack very informative blog you have. I was wondering if beginner strobes of 3pcs 120w would be enough for this kind of studio or would it better if I just purchased 3 430ex flashes. thanks!

  • lu said on March 1, 2010

    Hi, thanks for the info but I was wondering if the reflection on the floor is produced thru photoshop. The legs of the chair, etc seem to have a reflection rather than a shadow. Thanks.

  • David Hardwick Photography said on March 2, 2010

    Thanks for the article. This is very cost affective and I would like to try out your ideas.

  • Dave said on March 10, 2010

    This post is amazing, i still refer back to it even though it is nearly 2 years old.

    As a microstock photographer, I follow MANY of the ideas laid out here! Great info, keep up the good work Zack!

    -Dave (Microstuck.blogspot.com)

  • DSWfoto said on March 30, 2010

    Zack, Great job at Photoshop World. Can’t believe this gem of a post has been out there for 2 years. What’s everyone’s history for seamless? Will I get hundreds of shoots out of an 18 yard roll, or just 2?

  • zack said on March 31, 2010

    Depends. If you use the tile board you can get several shoots out of one roll.

  • Nate said on April 16, 2010

    I have been looking for something like the thrifty white tileboard you mention for years…never have found anything like it and even searching Home Depot (and a few other large building supply centers) I still cannot find it or anything like it….

  • zack said on April 22, 2010

    Nate – Paint thin stain ready (smooth finish) plywood with high gloss white paint.

  • Jaromir said on April 25, 2010

    I was F…ing with room 10′x 14′ and I made it.Sealing only 8′.I had to paint all walls black. Light from background was also lighting my object. I was not in control of my lighting . I was this close to trow my camera away together with my hands. LOL. As background I used linoleum from YOU GAST IT home depot.10′x12′ $ 45. All I need is a little paint (pure white) and here we go.

  • Robin said on May 11, 2010

    Zack,

    Excellent post. It has help tremendously.

  • John Tang said on May 12, 2010

    Hey Zack,

    Could you suggest a more portable / flexible substitute for your White Tile Board? As someone starting out, I’m finding space to be a real issue. Without a permanent place to shoot, it’ll be great to be able to roll it up into a tube and stick in my car when I’m done. A 4′x8′ board is brutal to store and to transport without a van.

    And this whole White Tutorial series totally rocks!

    Thanks,

    John

  • zack said on May 12, 2010

    John – I’ve tried a number of things for portability and they all suck. Suck as in a complete waste of time and not worth the time/money/resources. Like that Lastolite vinyl crap. Worthless. You can cut the tile board into smaller pieces and then shingle them on the floor. Not the best solution but far better than anything I’ve found that can be rolled up.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • glenn marsh said on June 13, 2010

    Hello Zack,

    I have been watching the training workshop on creative live and it has been awesome. I have learned much and I just wanted to say thank you

    Best Regards,

    Glenn

  • Wing Wong said on August 6, 2010

    Awesome. I recently purchased the downloads for your videos at creativelive.com and they are awesome. There’s so much info packed into each one that I find myself re-watching them over and over.

    This site is just as informative and helpful. Thanks!

    Btw, thanks for the great tips on what to get at each budget level.. that really rocks.

  • jaycee crawford said on August 8, 2010

    zack — i have read all 5 parts to this and i really have to thank you!! quality lighting tutorials are very hard to find online — and you have such an easy uncomplicated way of explaining things — this has really been an eye opening tutorial from start to finish!! thank you!!

    now for a question that i have: i guess here you are using three constant light sources? i am trying to do the same but with 2 constant light sources on the model and 1 strobe / flash on the background.

    now the background gets illuminated just fine, a perfect beautiful white — but the model is left in dim light — even with the 2 flourescent day temperature (5500K x2)constant lights on her. why is that? is my camera’s pop flash changing that?

    or is it that the shutter is blinking too fast (1/250)for the light on the face and body to register? but the light from the background is bright enough to reach the lens in that time?

    i don’t have a light reader, which i guess i should buy. i was trying to wing it.

    any advice you could give would be amazing. thank you again!!!

    cheers.

    jaycee

    what do i need to do?

  • zack said on August 10, 2010

    @Jaycee – I’m using strobes for all of the lights. You’ll have a hard time trying to do this mixing continuous lights and strobes unless they are BIG lights. Like 1.5k’s or bigger.

    2 flashes on the background and one on the subject is the best way to get this done.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • michael said on August 10, 2010

    an alternative to seamless is a cheap flooring material such as linoleum and then paint the backside white and mount it on the wall .. sort of a self made cyc

    michael

  • zack said on August 10, 2010

    @Michael – True!

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Gohary said on August 11, 2010

    Zack .. i love you :D

  • MJ said on August 22, 2010

    Zack, with the 9 foot paper, how wide of an actual shooting area are we talking about? I’ve been trying this out and it seems my effective area is about three or four feet or so before I start seeing the edge of the seamless/wall reflected in the tile-board.

  • zack said on August 25, 2010

    MJ – Not very wide. Using a longer lens can help if you have the room to back up. Telephoto lenses compress the background.

  • rob said on August 25, 2010

    great tutorial!
    cheers from germany

  • Mike Wilson said on September 3, 2010

    As always, Zack… thanks for all you do for us! This article totally ROCKS!!!

  • markowen said on September 3, 2010

    It’s been awhile since your last blog post. I think i speak for everyone here “We missed you”. Once again thanks for sharing with all of us =D

  • Parallax(e) said on September 4, 2010

    Question:
    What colour of infinit background to choose if used for masking in PS (adding different background in postproduction).

    Thank you for sharing your expertise via this great blog!

  • zack said on September 5, 2010

    Parallax – Chroma green or blue is the easiest to work with and are available in rolls of seamless.

  • Jaimie Dee said on September 4, 2010

    Great info! Thanks so much for posting! :)

  • Avishek said on September 9, 2010

    Your teaching technique is so good that everybody in the world will understand. I have seen your videos in youTube and Chase Jarvis’s blog. Awesome. Very inspirational.

  • Michael McMullen said on September 15, 2010

    Would it be possible to add a White Seamless category link on the side of the page? Or some other way to get to parts 1-5 without having to go to each individual post? I mean, I could run a search and everything, but even typing this is making me sleepy. More clicky, less typey!

  • Paul T said on September 21, 2010

    Never would have thought of the tile board.

  • Jil said on September 22, 2010

    Great stuff!

    Even with your awesome lighting setup and space, I highly suspect that there was a fair amount of shadow cleanup required to make the background look so clean.

    Would it be possible to publish the above shot without any PSP edits? Straight from the mothership…

    Thanks!

  • zack said on September 22, 2010

    Jil – The point of lighting it and exposing it correctly is so that the background is pure white right from the start. It really does work. Check out the post production video at the end of this series to see where it is clean and where it can get ugly.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • rem said on October 13, 2010

    Hi Zack, thanks for the GREAT tutorial! I got the stuff! QUESTION: Where did you get that “black vintage” background hanging on the right of the “set-up” photo?

    Thanks!

  • zack said on October 13, 2010

    It’s just a remnant from a fabric shop.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Bobby said on October 19, 2010

    Thanks for the tutorial…I just want to know where you got that sick chair from?!

  • zack said on October 19, 2010

    @Bobby – That chair belonged to a friend of mine.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Paul Wesley said on October 25, 2010

    Hey Zack. Great tutorial – thanks for sharing.
    Quick lens question. I have the 50mm 1.8 (and yes, it looks like “ugly butt”). I am looking at getting either the 50mm 1.4 or the 85mm 1.8, both of which you commented on in the tute. I was wondering which one have you found holds up better in regards to CA and flare?

    Cheers buddy. Paul (all the way from Australia).

  • zack said on October 27, 2010

    @Paul – The 85 1.8 is ok. Better than the 50 1.8. I can’t vouch for the the 50 1.4

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • Bill Thiry said on November 17, 2010

    Zack,

    I noticed the wall’s and ceilings are painted white. Is this necessary, or just the way the space was prior to set up?
    Thanks, and great stuff.

  • zack said on November 17, 2010

    Just the way it was.

  • Bryan Grant Photography said on November 21, 2010

    great tips now all i need is a basement to shoot in

  • AgnorB said on December 13, 2010

    Thank you for sharing this info for a studio-beginner

  • Michael Montalto said on March 13, 2011

    I’ve been lucky enough to see both of your workshops (OneLight & CreativeLive) and you have really given me a fantastic technical understanding of our craft. There are so many different options that I can utilize by using this technique that I wanted to say how truly thankful I am to you for providing this information! Love your work, love your down to earth, no nonesense approach to the craft and I think you are a fantastic artist. Respect!

  • Drake said on July 3, 2011

    Since I’ve discovered this shooting technique on your site, it has been a godsend. I do have one question. Sometimes I notice that the bottom part (front)of the photo would be much darker than the top (rear) of photo. It’s as if I’m not getting enough light to reach the front of the subject causing shadow instead of being reflective.l Is there a way to alleviate this from occurring?

  • Dan Driedger said on September 19, 2011

    Update on the tileboard Zack mentions. Like others, I’ve had difficulty finding it. Finally tracked some down at Home Depot but they were out of stock of the smooth white sheets. They had no idea when/if it would be replaced. Checked back a couple of months later and they told me their supplier had quit manufacturing it. It is known by the brand names of “Barker-Tile” or “Ceramilite”. I checked another building supply store (Rona here in Canada)and they had a skid of 2nds that they had purchased. They also told me it was a discontinued item. Regular pricing was around $80 but they were clearing it out at $25. My advice: get it while you can.

  • Galina Rin said on September 23, 2011

    I was researching background colours for my band’s photoshoot when I came across your picture of Sofia. I can’t help but keep coming back to it. It’s such a great imagine of a personality and colour. We will be investigating this further as, in my mind, this is what our upcoming shoot should produce.

    Thank you for sharing it.

    =^.^=

  • Galina Rin said on September 23, 2011

    *Steph not Sofia (she looks like a Sofia though) :)

  • Eric said on October 5, 2011

    This is great. I laughed out loud (LOL – duh!) when I read the part about clamping the roll of seamless as you pay it out. The first time I got a roll of seamless, I was so stoked, getting it all set up before the model arrived. I put it on the crossbar, jacket it up to the point I could barely reach it, and then gently paid it out. I hadn’t figured on the paper’s weight contributing to the downpull, and the stuff just kept coming… A bit of panic ensued at that moment. But at least I get a good laugh out of it when I think about it now. Anyway, great tutorial – great stuff!

  • mnp said on November 1, 2011

    Great info, but I cant see any of the photos. is it just me??

  • Davant said on November 2, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. I had to ponder on a few other articles, had many questions, but you explain things very well and I fully understood this concept.

  • Carel Grundlingh said on November 16, 2011

    Hi Zack! Great tutorial…wow! I have 2 Q’s: 1) Is there a reason that you only oainted one side of the bi-fold doors white, i.e do you need a white side towards your 2 BG lights, and do you need a non-reflector side towards you modes/subject?
    2) What is tileboard? I live in South Africa and we don’t have something by that name. Is it plain ol’ hardboard with one white side? Is it shiny, on not really?

    Big ups for teaching us little guys!
    Have a good one!

    Carel

  • Zack said on November 23, 2011

    @Carel – 1) It doesn’t really matter about painting them. I painted them white so they could be used as reflectors as well for other applications. 2) Yes, it’s a thin hardboard that is shiny white on one side. You can get some thin plywood and paint it white with a glossy paint and it will do the same thing.

  • Carel Grundlingh said on November 24, 2011

    Thanks for taking the time to comment 3 1/2 years after posting the tutorial….#grateful

  • Igor Furnas said on November 29, 2011

    Zack, this post is awesome. Pure gold! Thanks a lot!

  • Otto Haring - Miami said on January 11, 2012

    Thanks for explaining this and taking photos so we can even see all the setup! you are awesome!!!

  • David said on January 31, 2012

    I learned a lot from this tutorial zack! use info from this in most of my current shoots. studio or indoor

  • Nicholas Coll said on February 29, 2012

    Awesome write up!

  • mike said on May 17, 2012

    Quite the comprehensive writeup. We don’t often see white backgrounds since we’ve moved away from model shoots into wedding work, but this is still handy to have as a reference.

  • Ray Mackaway said on May 29, 2012

    Hi Zack,
    My son has just told me about your site. We have just completed a lighting workshop on this very subject. I like your setup. Very simple and easy to achieve. Thank you for your work and contribution to photography.

    Regards Ray

  • gnohz said on June 5, 2012

    Hi Zack,
    Just a quick question.
    Would it be possible to blow out the background with 2×36″ softboxes instead to prevent excessive light spillage so that I do not have to use the bi-fold doors?

    Thanks!

  • Zack said on June 8, 2012

    @gnohz – That could work.

  • Garrett Born said on June 8, 2012

    Zack,
    I am a big fan of the white portrait. I am having trouble with my paper wanting to curl at the edges, at first I thought it was just old and over used so I bought another one. same problem persists, is this because I don’t have a sturdy enough stand system or am I just being to rough with the paper?

    I loved this post, tile board = genius

  • Zack said on June 8, 2012

    @Garrett – You’ll find the edges curl on a regular basis.

    Cheers,
    Zack

  • jack zucker said on July 17, 2012

    So, I bought the tileboard and setup the background lights according to your suggestions and it works great. Thanks for the tip. However, the tileboard got pretty scarred up after the first photoshoot. I can’t imagine a single board lasting more than 2 or 3 shoots. Anyone else finding this to be the case? Is there anything that is more durable?

  • jack zucker said on July 17, 2012

    One other point is that you don’t mention what size doors you use. I guessed 30″ based on your pictures. I find the 30″ doors to be somewhat precarious to balance. A couple times the models bumped them and once it almost fell over. That would have been disastrous. I think foam core might be a better and safer solution to clients and equipment!

  • Microstock Man said on October 31, 2012

    Your suggestions on how to get this setup done are so down to earth, I love it.

    Have just moved and setup a new room to shoot in (too small tho, but that’s the joy of rentals – can’t be too choosy) and think I am going to do your bifold door idea. Just hope our local Bunnings here in Oz is as cheap as your Home Depot!

    Thanks for the great ideas.
    - Microstock Man (aka, Tim)

  • Microstock Man said on November 7, 2012

    Just a little update – unable to find the white tileboard at Bunnings here in Australia. Will have to find an alternative.

    Thanks again for the tips though, it gives me something to go on. I can probably find something else thats smaller, as the majority of what I shoot is small product for stock work.

    Cheers.

  • Alisha Neumann said on November 11, 2012

    Hey, great idea! I went to the expense of building a perment cyc wall in my space thats 16 x 25 x 10. I have a larger space with 24 ft ceilings around 1700 sqft. We use it for events too, so thinking this might be how we set it up as a large cyc wall. There is a guy in Vancouver that uses plexiglass and then lights behind it to create different colours instead of painting.

  • Marius said on February 5, 2013

    Hi Zack

    Thanks for the set up ,you have solved a lot of my studio problems. Thanks for that, busy watching your Creative live classes. Dig them !You give me Hope again. Thanks for sharing

    Viva Zack !

    From Marius al the way from South Africa

  • Branislav Kokavec said on January 22, 2014

    After you are move your blog to new location in this and some other posts there is no pictures. I love this post, thanks!

    From bk.

  • Brad said on February 3, 2014

    Hi there, how come the pictures are broken now on all 5 of these parts? I saw this a few months back with the pics and wanted to read through this properly now since I have some time.

    Thanks :)

  • Zack said on February 3, 2014

    Not sure what’s going on. I’m going to redo this blog post entirely soon.

    Cheers,
    Zack




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