White Seamless Tutorial :: Part 5 :: Wrap up, Questions, & Contest!

June 1, 2008 | • Resources • Technique

This is the final part in the white seamless tutorial. If you are just joining this blog, you can find parts one through four listed here. I wanted to end this tutorial with just a few more thoughts on lighting your subject so that you have a few more tricks in the bag.

We have talked about those bi-fold doors on the side of the set to block the background (BG) lights from illuminating the subject (see part 1). You can also use those as big reflectors if you paint them white. Mine are painted white on one side and I keep the natural wood color on the other side so that they can at times be used as a background. Take a look at these two images. These were shot using only the BG lights. 


To bring light around to the front, I positioned the BG lights in such a way that they were not illuminating the subject. I pulled one of the bi-fold doors and a tall piece of foamcore around to the front of Stephanie to act as large reflectors. Those picked up the light coming off of the BG and reflected it back on to the subject. To do this well, you have to bring those reflectors in really close to your subject. They usually end up in my shot but they are an easy thing to remove. 


Still shot the image vertically as you can see so that I can maximize the size of my subject on my image sensor. I simply made a marquee selection around the reflectors, made sure my BG swatch in Photoshop was set to white, and hit the delete key. Whatever is deleted goes to your BG swatch color. Easy peesy! Why did I use one bi-fold door and one foamcore? Um, it is just what I had on hand at that moment. You can use one or the other or whatever. I just want you to be thinking about that background being a large light source that you can then grab some of that light coming off of it and reflect it somewhere else if you need to do so. 

Here is another shot using the same technique. I like the light that it produces and I like the catchlights. 


And, as always, leave a little room around an edge for alternate crops. 


But wait! There’s more! My friend I shoot weddings with, Marc Climie, built two 4’x8′ frames out of 1×2’s and covered them with ripstop nylon. They hang out in the studio and for the following shot I used one 4×8 panel on each side of the frame as main lights on the subject. I shot a light through each one. So that would be four lights. Two on the subject. Two on the background. 


I’ve also used this exact same lighting setup for larger product work… 


For the image above, nailing the ratio of exposure on the subject to the background was critical because I needed to retain some amount of density in the clear acrylic. It took some time getting that set but once it was set, I could move other displays in and out of the set and keep the same lighting and exposure. Also note that it is great shooting on white because you can shoot mulitple angles of the same thing and place them on to one photo quickly and easily. For this type of application set your camera on a tripod so that your angle and perspective to the subject remains constant. 

Speaking of product, all of this stuff I’ve been going on and on and on about lately works for just about anything… 


You can take a sheet of that tile board and put it on top of a table for small product work. I have shot hundreds of small products using this set up. As always, I fill the frame and the expand as needed. For the image above I just used the BG lights. 

I’m a big fan of grid spots and I use them a lot when shooting on white. I also include elements of my set into my photos as well… 


For the image above I used a 10 degree grid to light my brother’s face and I composed my frame to include elements of the set. If you or your client do not want these elements all you have to do is set your BG swatch color to white in Photoshop and select and delete areas or use the eraser tool to remove them. 

Again, I’m a fan of the grid. This is legendary hip hop king, 8 Ball, from Memphis… 


Well, that is pretty much it. That is just about everything I do with a roll of white seamless paper. It seems as though this has been good for many of you. Thank you for taking the time to go through it. 

I am now open to questions! Leave them as a comment here. I will also go through the other seamless posts and pull out questions I haven’t had a chance to reply to yet. I’ll let the questions come in for a week or so and then I’ll make a post with all of them together with the answers. 

Also… Let’s have some fun with this. Go out and start shooting and upload your photos to the Seamless & Cyc group I have started on Flickr. Post as many images as you would like that combine the use of a subject(s) and a white wall, a roll of white seamless, or a cyc wall. I’m going to choose a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner on August 4th, 2008. Here is what I’m going to put in the prize chest. 

1st Place – A copy of the OneLight DVD coming out soon – OR – a 50″ Westcott Apollo softbox

2nd Place – A copy of the OneLight DVD coming out soon – OR – a 28″ Westcott Apollo softbox

3rd Place – A copy of the OneLight DVD coming out soon. 

2 Honorable Mentions will receive a year pro account on Flickr. 

(Uh… Ahem… if any of you manufactures or service providers have anything you want to throw in the prize chest just let me know! ( zack @ ZackArias.com )   

I will place an image in the Seamless & Cyc pool on August 3rd declaring the contest is over. I’m going to choose the winners. I’m the judge, jury, and executioner of this since I’m filling the prize chest out of my own pocket. :) You can enter as many photographs as you want. If I feel something has been entered and it doesn’t belong, I’ll remove it. I will announce the winners August 4th here on the blog. 

So, hit me with questions about all of this in the comments here and I’ll collect them for a week or two and reply to all of them in one post. Thanks for stopping by! Drop suggestions for other tutorials in the comments as well. This has been a lot of fun for me… and more time consuming than I thought it would be… but fun all the same! 

Cheers,  Zack


  • Danny said on June 1, 2008

    I’d like to thank you once again for sharing all this excellent information. It’s always great to see how other photographers work, so I can pick up new ideas and techniques to use on my own. This has been all very inspirational.

    And I am going to see what I can come up with for the contest between now and the deadline. I have got to get out and shoot more. :)

  • Aaron said on June 1, 2008

    Zack, you are so awesome for posting this KICK A** tutorial!!!

    My question: How do you decide to shoot a subject in the studio instead of on location?

  • Michael Tissington said on June 1, 2008

    Great tutorial thanks …

    I’ve been trying this using a bunch of Nikon SB800s … two pointing at the background a a couple in a 36 x 48 softbox.

    If I’m not using tileboard how do I get the ground to appear consistant ?

  • Nate Kinnison said on June 1, 2008

    Hey Zack, thanks a bunch man for clearing a few things up for me. I have a space that I will be using and it’s only about a 12×14 room with 8 foot ceilings. Any tips on dealing with lighting in a smaller room – I’m already hanging the seamless from the ceiling to get rid of the stands in the room, and shooting with a 24-70 2.8. What can I do to help control spill from the background lights in such a small space?

  • Chuck said on June 1, 2008

    Thanks for sharing Zack. Can the tile board be used with groups? How do you make the gaps between boards disappear?

  • Vince said on June 2, 2008

    Thanks for sharing all this.
    Maybe a little OT but what 35mm do you own ? AF or AIS

  • Christopher Cornelius said on June 2, 2008

    I came upon your stuff about a week back and it was just the needed inspiration to get an aspiring young photographer to finally make a plan and start moving forward with his work. Figured I’d wait until the end to thank you for all of the awesome help you’ve been and for sharing such valuable knowledge.

  • phil said on June 2, 2008

    Thanks for the great Tutorials Zach! I am having a hard time getting my floor white, what am i doing wrong? i would love to get it in camera!


  • Mike said on June 4, 2008

    HI Zack,

    A really BIG thanks for this, a really great set of tutorials, and very well explained.

    Would love to know when the DVD comes out for those of us unlucky enough to win the competition.

    All the best


  • Scott Piner said on June 4, 2008

    Instead of using 1.5″ PVC and Matthews clamps for the crossbar, could a larger diameter PVC pipe that fits over the 5/8″ studs be used? I’m thinking of the following so please chime in with a different perspective.

    How about a 10′ piece of 2″ or 2.5″ PVC for the crossbar?

    Drill two holes completely through the pipe, one at each end, and line up the holes over the 5/8″ studs on the light stands (assuming you have the Avenger 610 stands). This would form the crossbar between the two stands.

    You could also cut the 10′ PVC pipe into 3′ sections and use couplers when they are in place. This would allow you to keep things small and mobile for breakdown and transport.

    Am I missing anything? Would this work the same as the 1.5″ PVC and Matthews clamps?

  • zack said on June 10, 2008

    Welcoming the strobist crew to the blog today! If you have any questions just drop them here in the comment box. I’ll be open for question through the first of next week.


  • sam said on June 11, 2008

    Brilliant! Thanks for this easy to digest info… I feel like I should be paying for this tutorial, very informative!!!

  • Paul said on June 11, 2008

    can you give a run down of kit bag:
    cameras/lenses used in this series

  • Richard said on June 11, 2008

    Wow. Thanks so much dude. Seriously. This was ridiculously, ridiculously, helpful. You must be ridiculously, ridiculously good-looking.

    Colon right parentheses.

  • Michael Good said on June 11, 2008

    OK… I got everything I think… including the inverse square stuff… but I haven’t a clue what those 4′x8′ frames out of 1×2’s and covered them with ripstop nylon are or how you use them ? I see the result and like … but how’d ya do it ? Cheers from Oz.

  • Michael Good said on June 11, 2008

    oh… and sorry but thanks massively for these tuts. They’re amazing and I bet a few commercial guys out are going d’oh.

  • Rafa said on June 11, 2008

    Absolutely awesome tutorial. I was thinking about getting a background stand and was trying to figure out how many backgrounds I needed. Now I know, just white paper!
    Thanks so much for taking the effort of writing all of this.

  • Azi said on June 11, 2008

    That was phenomenal!

    There are a lot of websites, books etc out there which deal with shooting on white bg. But yours is the most hands-on, detailed description i have read so far.

    I have shot white on white and consider myself a decent photographer (http://artzy.smugmug.com/gallery/4414747_Vc3VQ#259366448_UH3XR) but there was a lot I learnt from you.

    Keep it up!


  • Alessandro Rosa said on June 11, 2008

    Thank you for these great tutorials! it is really generous of you to have put all the time and effort into putting these together.

    Your suggestion on background extension in PS rocks! I shot a full frame image on a black background that I wanted to output as an 8×10. Resizing the image distorted the subject and I didn’t have the room to crop it proportionally. It wasn’t until I read your tutorial that the lightbulb went off and I realized I could extend the black background on top of the image to give me the 8×10 aspect ratio I needed. Thank you so much!

  • Dave said on June 12, 2008

    Hi, Just found your site via Strobist. Thanks for all the great information put in an easily understandable manner. You have sown a lot of seeds in my imagination to use in future shoots, Thanks again for the amazing info

  • Ivan said on June 12, 2008

    great tutorial!

    as for inverse square law, the reason it behaves like that is this:
    you have a light source somewhere and that light source is practically a point light source (because it is very small when you compare it to the size of the space it is in). It has some power it uses for radiating and in every moment it sends that amount of power into space via the light it radiates. It’s light is then traveling away from it in all directions equally and thus you can imagine that the whole power of the light that was emitted at some moment (equal to the power of the light source) is spread across the surface of a sphere. The radius of that sphere is distance from the lightsource. Now, elementary school mathematics say that you calculate surface area of a sphere by multiplying squared radius with something (4 x PI). So, when you double the distance, the surface area grows 4 times (radius increased 2 time, so square radius increas 2 x 2 times = 4 times). Density of light (let’s call it like that to keep this simple enough) is now reduces 4 times since the power of the light source (which doesn’t change in time) is spread over 4 times larger surface. This density (or light flux as it is called properly) is what determines how bright will our subject be exposed, so for increasing the distance of the subject to the light source twice, you have made it 4 times less bright -> you lost 3/4 = 75% of it’s original brightness.

    try it with the candle light: look at the gradation of the light it casts onto a piece of paper as it goes away from it. it is very bright near the flame and then more and more steeply becomes dimmer and dimmer further from it.

    I hope this was helpful enough.

  • Jeremy said on June 12, 2008

    Excellent tutorial. Amazing job. Thank you!

    As for hanging the seamless, re: 2″+ pvc. The tube the seamless comes in is around 2″ I think so anything larger than 1.5″ won’t fit into it.

    I have 4 crossbars ceiling mounted. Or I should say, I have space for 4 crossbars. I bought hooks from HD (for, uhm, hanging stuff) and installed them into the joists, 10′ apart. Then I took 2 pieces of 2.5″ pvc (totalling 11′) and installed eye bolts into them, 1 on each side. The PVC is cut into 2 pieces, so you can pop them apart to remove the paper but it’s easier to just uninstall one of the eye bolts. The eyebolts then go onto the ceiling hooks. Room for white, black and 2 colors. Easy enough to make additional crossbars and just rotate them on/off the ceiling hooks.

    After reading this tutorial, I may not need to use the black again though :)

    Speaking of black though, I’ll end with a quick question. How do you get a nice reflection on black (or other solid color) since the tileboard is…well… white?

  • Pat said on June 12, 2008

    Just want to add to the props!
    Superlatives, dude.

  • Wil said on June 12, 2008

    Thanx Zach. Really insightful and helpful info. Can’t wait to put it to use.

  • Paul said on June 13, 2008

    This is the most amazing tutorial on lighting for a white background I’ve ever seen. Totally practical, GREAT example pictures and a ton of fun to read. I’m -tremendously- thankful for this as it’s given me a wealth of new ideas to try.

    I only wish I had more width and height to my small studio area!

    thanks again.

  • Kelly said on June 13, 2008

    Great tutorial, very helpful and very much appreciated. Thanks!

  • Sony Alpha said on June 14, 2008

    Good composition
    Nice shots

  • zack said on June 14, 2008

    Keep ’em coming for a few more days. I’ll close it out here soon.


  • Chris said on June 16, 2008

    Even if I didn’t care about the subject matter, it would be worth reading your blog just for the humour.

    Thanks so much for writing this, it is infinitely useful.

  • Nick said on June 16, 2008

    Amazing Tutorial, thank you so much! One question though, what the hell is the UK equivalent of ‘Thrifty White Tileboard’. Nobody has heard of it over hear, so ive ended up with white laquered mdf and the same on chipboard, I hope it works!

  • zack said on June 17, 2008

    I’m compiling the questions. Any more?


  • Jason said on June 17, 2008

    A couple of questions:
    1. Can this set-up be used for high-end digital camera work?
    2. If so, are there lights that will do both continuous and strobe? i.e. alien bee etc?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Tim Brandt said on June 19, 2008

    Absolutely fantastic walkthrough. I look forward to any new posts from you, and are seriously considering buying your DVD when it’s released.

    Suggestion… high-key tutorial. It would be perfect in combo with this tutorial :)

  • Andrew said on June 25, 2008

    Hey Zack –

    Love the site, your tutorials are absolutely brilliant, as is your photography.

    Question: have you tried gelling the background lights to change the color of the background (say from white to red/magenta?)? If so, how would you expose the BG relative to the talent to get the most density and saturation from the BG color?

    I’ll be trying something like this soon, and would be happy to share my experience.



  • Andrew said on June 25, 2008

    Just read part 3… scratch my question!

  • Eric said on June 26, 2008

    Hi Zack,
    Indeed a fantastic tutorial! The best I ever read.
    Could you please comment as to the best way to do such a High Key on locaation? Where you can’t have the floor tile and the BD is just white muslin? What wouold be the best lighting scheme there for a full shot?

  • D_2 said on June 28, 2008

    I had resonable success with a cyc shot, but I noticed some minor problems with the images…I decided to read all the tutorials again and they make even more since. The BG to subject distance is the key…I learned that from saying a few four letter words and making adjustments. I almost got it right, I feel better after reading the tutorial again because everything in the tutorial is very meaningful.

  • Rodolfo said on June 28, 2008

    Thankyou for sharing. Great work!

  • Kent said on July 2, 2008

    Thanks heaps for the tutorial. Just a quick Q for you. Been practicing some white seamless with similar product to tile board. I am assuming that the same distance ratios work for shooting product. If that is the case when i am shooting my imaged have a tendency to look over exposed, ie lacking blacks. Have taken meter reading to be sure but am wondering what i am missing. Tanks for any response.

  • chi said on July 6, 2008

    i’ve had soo much fun with this setup. All my friends think i’m a pro… thanks to you and this tutorial. Keep up the great work and thanks for sharing.

  • Eric said on July 8, 2008

    Just wanted to say thanks for doing this. You have really helped out an outrageous amount of people tremendously. I have read thru these thing several times just letting the gears turn on it, kinda like a cow chewing cud.

  • Peter said on July 10, 2008


    Thanks for the great tutorial my family are having so much fun with the seamless background since I learned a little bit about it from your article.
    I tried the background gradient PS technique you described but the gradient is not smooth as yours. I saw other guys on the flickr pool having the same problem (for example this photo is great but the background has the same harsh gradient as mine: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ssbphotography/2623772410/ ). Do you have any advise for us.

  • Steve said on July 15, 2008

    Had a question for you: What fan are you using in Part 2 of your tutorial for the ‘hair in the wind’ look? I’m seeing a great variety of makes and models of industrial fans with several different sizes available, have a recommendation?

  • Bim said on July 19, 2008


    Thank you for posting this wonderful series!! I’ve done some white BG shots in my home studio a while back and I had to learn on the fly but reading your articles has inspired me to dust off my equipment and shoot some more. I’ve been waiting for my 6 month old to be able to sit up on his own so that I can take photographs of him against a white BG. And now with the wonderful information you’ve provided, I can’t wait to shoot my son!

    I’ll be sure to post my past white BG photographs and future ones of my son to the Flickr group.

    Thank you!!

  • Giselle said on July 21, 2008

    Thanks for the great tutorial. I have a question, the strobes that you use, ar they continuous lights or do they fire on sync?


  • Giselle said on July 21, 2008

    If you wouldn’t mind telling me which lights you use. I’ve bought some different ones and they don’t seem powerful enough. I checked into the alien bees and there are different ones with different powers. True watts vs effective watts per second. All confusing stuff. I’m using a vinly BG do I need more power thatn 375w/s on each side, or should that stil work for me?

    Thank you!!!!!!

  • --Christine said on August 3, 2008

    hey Zach! wowza, hands-down the best white-on-white lesson I’ve ever come across — thank you!!!

    what do you do when the edges of your tileboard get nicked or broken down to the board?

  • Eric said on September 8, 2008

    I’m not sure I have the right gobos/flags to block the lights. In part 1 you mentioned you moved from 4x8ft foam board to bi-fold doors but never seemed to specify the size of the bi-folds. I bought two 80 x 36 (width fully extended) inch bi-folds at $50 each. Maybe I bought too big a width or not.

    I did price out a DIY route with 4x8ft plywood $11, with 6 or 7 1x2x8ft braces for strength $7, 4 hinges for a door $6.2 and wound up with a grand total of around ~$38-40 for a door. But seemed to much material to be manageable.

  • Leigh, UK said on September 22, 2008


    What a fantastic resource you’ve put together!

    I’m new to studio photography and in the process of putting some gear together and will be spending a lot of time digesting your tutorial.

    Thanks so much!


  • Serge said on October 1, 2008

    Zack, I stumbled upon your website yesterday. I’m very pleased with your tutorials, I already learnt several neat tricks! Thank you for sharing!

  • Don said on October 2, 2008

    Okay gang, I REALLY enjoyed this tutorial, but it got me thinking…. Why ‘reflect’ all kinds of light in order to make the background go white? Why not just have the background ’emit’ white light? And what do I have that emits light? That’s right, my television set! So I sat in front of my 60″ LCD TV and took my picture…and it WORKED!! The background blended into pure white very nicely. It obviously isn’t big enough for a full body shot, but it works for a headshot.

    Perhaps this has been mentioned before. Or perhaps I’m just too ignorant to know you shouldn’t do it this way. Either way, take a look, and leave me your comments.



  • Mark said on November 19, 2008

    Excellent articles… I can’t wait to put it in practise… your experience and understanding of photography is simply awesome.

    Just curious where the answers to all the questions can be found at? I have searched numerous times through the comments and can’t find a final link.

  • zack said on November 20, 2008

    I still have to write the questions post! Sorry!


  • danny linton said on November 21, 2008

    Guess im to late for this :(

  • Vegard said on December 3, 2008

    WOW! thanks so much for this! I learned alot!

    Christmas greetings from Norway!

  • Dandoon said on December 3, 2008


    Like everyone else, I love your work!!

    In fact, I love your work so much that I have set up a dedicated white backgropund studio exactly as per your directions.

    It’s working well EXCEPT for the fact that I cannot get rid of the grey flooring when my subjects are sitting down. I am currently editing in photoshop but this is both time consuming and quite poor detail around the toes!

    I am sure this is a common challenge … i value your opinions and suggestions?

  • zack said on December 3, 2008

    @Dandoon – Shoot at a lower angle. The white tile board acts like a mirror and “reflects” the pure white background. If you start pointing your lens down at it from a higher angle, it goes gray.

    If you will lower your shooting angle it should clean it up.


  • wisemanleo said on December 8, 2008

    Hey Zack,

    Why did you use the 105 f/2? I’m having trouble finding this lens.
    What other lens do you recommend besides this and the 35mm? Would you say the 105 f/2.8 micro work just as well?

  • zack said on December 8, 2008

    @wisemanleo – You need to test your lenses in these situations of a very bright light source coming back into your lens. I haven’t shot any other lenses to be able to give you a recommendation.


  • wisemanleo said on December 8, 2008

    I see!
    I know what you mean though. My kit lens, 18-55mm, produces a very bright green spot as well as a crosshair-like green streak in my photos in some very sunny scenarios.

  • Tammy Labuda said on December 9, 2008

    Thanks for the great tutorial and for being so generous with your knowledge. You mentioned how your Nikon lenses react differently in this studio setting. Do you have any experience with the Canon lenses?

  • Tsuki said on December 12, 2008

    I only came across this today and just read thru it all. It’s an amazing compilation of information! I really appreciate the work you put into this and the fact that you shared it with us. I can’t wait to start experimenting with my setup! :)

  • Allen D. said on December 15, 2008

    Hi, Zack. I really like your tutorial. My question is something else: how do you set your white balance? I use Kelvin but alway get a little tint, either pink or blue. When I use ExpoDisc, it always has yellow cast. I even tried to pre-set on a gray card. The result is not precise either. Please help!

  • tom said on December 21, 2008

    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 should the lights be, in term of w/s or GN? Do you have any recommendations?
    2. Where can I buy seamless paper in Atlanta area?



  • Asterix said on January 26, 2009

    Question: Floor lighting on White BG Full Length Portrait

    If you shoot a full length portrait on white BG getting the background light white is hard but can be done. However, I have a problem understanding how to make the floor the same even white as the BG.

    In order to minimize flare, to keep contrast and good exposure on the subject, standard procedure is to keep the model a fair distance away from the BG such that there is no light spill around the model, or at least to have the same meter reading at the back of the model’s head as in the front. Now, that can be done, however, the floor the model is standing on will be the same exposure then, which means that even if one uses Plexiglas on white seamless or glossy white tile boards to reflect the BG light, the floor will still show up darker than the background due to the 1 – 1.5 difference in f-stops (BG say at F/11.5, model and floor it stands on at F/8).

    How does one go around this issue? How can you make the floor the same white as the background without affecting the model as well? I would like to minimize post processing as much as possible, and right now, I can see how I could do this. Any help in this issue would be much appreciated!

    PS: bellow is a link to a description/pictures of my current setup from another post:

  • Jon said on January 27, 2009

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! This is exactly what I was looking for! You rock!

  • Ole M said on February 10, 2009

    Love that gradient tip.
    Awesome =D

  • Allan said on February 13, 2009

    Excellent tutorial. I read it all and it was well worth the time. I bookmarked it for future reference.

  • Kenneth Ruggiano said on February 23, 2009

    Same question as Asterix.

  • zack said on February 23, 2009

    @Asterix and Kenneth – Try dropping down a little when shooting. At some angle that white tile board acts as a “mirror” and you pick up the white reflection of the background. That pops it to white. If I stand up too high, the floor goes grey.

    Hope this helps!


  • ple said on February 24, 2009

    superb !! thank you very much, chapter 3 draw my intention so much..you tell the story ver well :)

  • Andrea said on February 24, 2009

    In the past year, I have just started a photography business and have just recently began to play with white backdrop and lights, etc. I could not get it to look like I wanted and by reading your tutorial I have figured out why!!! Thank you for making it so simple and easy to understand. I hope to see more tutorials in the future…I will continue checking your blog!!!

  • Asterix said on February 25, 2009

    Thanks! It worked, and now I get quite OK results straight out of the camera.

  • Robert Mitchell said on February 26, 2009

    You suggested using a crossbar for holding up the seamless but i noticed that you had some other type of bar in the picture, what is it and where did you find it?

    thanks for spending the time putting this tutorial together.

  • Robert Mitchell said on February 26, 2009

    ugh.. i meant.. you suggested using a PVC crossbar….

  • Robert Mitchell said on February 26, 2009

    ok.. on Part 4,.. i get the “moving the subject back and forth to add/subtract falloff and thus darken/lighten the background” and i also get the “maintain sync speed of 1/250th while playing with aperture” but what i have a hard time with is the *put-explicative-here* lights! What power do i set them? 1/4, 1/16, 1/2? I have AB so it’s a slider as you probably know – not an exact measurement.

  • Tim Larson said on March 1, 2009

    Hey, I am a Television Production guy… but I like to dabble a bit in photography… I’ve got a Pentax K10 Digital SLR (Yes, I let the guy at the camera store talk me into Pentax… I’ve liked it, but don’t really have anything to compare it to) with three lenses:

    – Pentax SMCP-DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL II Autofocus Lens
    – Pentax Zoom Normal-Telephoto SMCP-DA 50-200mm f/4-5.6 ED Autofocus Lens
    – Pentax Normal SMCP-FA 50mm f/1.4 Autofocus Lens

    I volunteer with a college campus ministry and was asked if I could help them make a poster for an event that they have coming up. They want the silhouettes of six people (that are involved in a drama for that night) on the poster…

    Without much thought I said, “I can help put that together…” Meaning… “Yes, I can do that for free and spend countless hours trying to figure out the best way to do it and purchase the necessary equipment and supplies needed without being reimbursed.”

    After all, it sounds like a fun project, and it will help in my photography skills…

    So, I started researching the best way to shoot this, and I came across this tutorial.

    I’ve already got a couple decent stands that go up 12 feet, and a ten foot PVC pipe that I’ve used for hanging a cloth black backdrop for a video production that I’ve done. So, I went ahead and ordered the seamless white paper from B&H and a couple of clamps, which should arrive this Friday (March 6, 2009.)

    I’ve set up a shoot with them for March 17 and am excited to try some of these techniques.

    Since I’m going to have this whole thing set up, I’m planning on taking more than just silhouettes. I’d like to have some options to show them with silhouettes and fully lit… plus it will give me more experience, if I try to shoot both… and now the questions:

    1. The lights that I have are for television production… I’ve got a Lowel light kit similar to this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/285836-REG/Lowel_TO_95Z_Ambi_Tungsten_Four_Light.html
    and a dimmable 1000 Watt 32″ x 32″ soft box.

    You talk a lot about using strobe lighting… all I’ve got is the pop-up flash that’s built into my camera for non-continuous lighting… am I going to run into any problems using continuous lighting made for video, or should this be fine?

    2. I don’t have any studio space, but have secured a location that should work well for a couple of days… the first day I’ve got 5 hours to get things set up and to test things, the second day is the actual shoot.

    Should I try and get the location once before that to set things up and do some tests… then take it all down and re-set it up for the shoot, or should 5 hours the day before the shoot be sufficient for testing…

    If I were to set this up and take it down, how reusable is this paper? Should I plan on being able to reuse this multiple times, or is the paper a one shot thing? (And I know I should store it vertically.)

    3. Are there other “gotchas” that you foresee me running into that will cause me huge headaches that I can avoid?

  • Andrew said on March 7, 2009

    seeing the scores of pictures in the seamless group made me realize just how important the flagging is for the bg lights. It really seems like that will make the overall balance easier to achieve. Huge separation problems in a lot of those examples. I’m excited to go play. Too bad I’m 8 months too late to enter anything. =D

  • Patricia said on March 10, 2009

    Hi Zack,

    Great tutorial! I love it!

    I have a question that may seem obvious or just plain dumb, but I need to give it a go as I have no idea how it works.

    What is the ambient light, usually in the studio / room where shots are being taken with strobes. Such as the ones in the tutorial, or some product shots for example.

    Examples of this would also prove useful to give me an idea.

    Much appreciated.


  • Ayrica Bishop said on March 16, 2009

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving so much of yourself in these kick a** tutorials! You make it an absolute joy to learn new techniques. I ordered my OneLight DVD today and can’t wait for it to get here! YOU ROCK!

  • Dave April said on March 21, 2009

    Totally inspirational! Thanks for sharing such great information. It’ll take a while to digest, but I’m looking forward to it. I wish I had a bigger speace to work in, but I’ll try to adapt your techniques as best as I can for my smaller area.


  • James Kiffmeyer said on March 29, 2009

    Thanks! Loved the tutorials, please keep it up!!!

  • Emily said on April 2, 2009

    Well said, finally a good report on this stuff

  • Chris Biele said on April 11, 2009

    Wow Zack, this is a kick ass series of posts. I really wish I had a big area to work with. You’re right about the spare bedroom and the curse words! I did some family portraits with one hotshoe strobe behind the subjects and two umbrellas in front either side. I realize now I should have used the two strobes at back and one in the front. Biggest problem though was the confined space. I shot with a 50mm with my backup against the wall and the subjects sitting nearly against the other.

    Anyway, thanks so much and I now have your blog RSSed right between Chase Jarvis and David Tejada.

  • Sheri Johnson said on April 22, 2009

    really helpful info all over your blessing of a blog Zack

  • Edgar Clemente said on May 13, 2009

    I’m new to photography and the terminologies that it uses. However, you have made this tutorial simple to understand. Thank you very much for this tutoria and for speaking to me in English :)

  • Petra Hall said on May 26, 2009

    Wow, this is what I needed! And you share this info for free… you have loads of karma points to expect, my friend! :)

  • David Lee said on June 19, 2009

    Thank You for your willingness to share your knowledge. As I read your tutorials on lighting, I’m reminded of where I cut my photographic teeth. The late Dean Collins and his use of basic low budget lighting equipment (vivitar 283s,3/4 pvc piping and the like), and still producing great light quality.

  • Downtown Imagery said on July 18, 2009

    Thanks for doing this Zack. You have helped a lot of people advance by doing this and I am sure the photography community at large is very grateful.

    Thanks again.


  • Brandy Beauchamp said on July 29, 2009

    Do you have any tips/techniques for shooting groups with the white background? Say 6-8 small children and babies?

  • Maria said on August 14, 2009

    Thank you so much for sharing this, great tutorial and just in time, as i have been struggling with the white BG which I just purchased.
    My question is, I am using strobes and wasn’t sure how that would be set up to achieve the results you have in this tutorial?

    Your help is greatly appreciated.

  • paul said on August 16, 2009

    The single light source sunpack. could you explain the distance relationships of light subject and backgroud locations. What was the exposure on the backgound with the single light

  • james said on September 10, 2009

    great tutorial,,,can,t find the tile boards here in uk,,,,anyone suggest anything,,,cheers

  • Crystal said on September 20, 2009

    Thank you so much for this blog. A friend of mine sent me the link to it over a year ago, and I’m still referring back to it today! Thanks for not being a selfish Photographer that takes their secrets to their grave. We need more like you.

  • DJH said on September 24, 2009

    Im having the same UK problem.

    So far try

    Mermaid Panels (stockists)
    B&Q White Hardboard
    http://www.ipsluk.co.uk/ HDPVC 2.5mm thick tileboard

    Travis Perskins For White Board branch with bathroom displays.

  • Adrian said on September 27, 2009

    As Kurt Cobain said: “I’m in debt for the rest of my life for the good advice you’ve given me.” Thanks again.

  • Florence said on September 28, 2009

    Hi, I saw somewhere somebody using the back of a Linoleum roll as BG, he recommended to give it a simple new white paint coat when dirty…Seems a very good idea! What do you think?
    PS: Zack, met you yesterday on the web…and now, I am addicted!You are a Master! Thanks for your generosity!

  • Florence said on September 28, 2009

    Oups, sorry…Reading more into your different pages, just saw you already talked about the linoleum….Thanks anyhow!

  • DJH said on September 29, 2009

    For anyone looking for Tile board in the UK



    Got some samples and it looks perfect and 35 quid I think for 8′ By 4′

    HD PVC it’s called


  • Paul said on October 1, 2009

    What about this?


    (white faced hardboard from B&Q). Not tried it – let me know if it works. LOL

    Cheap enough – but transport would not be easy!

  • Steve said on December 25, 2009

    I had the same problem but bought Kitchen Hygene Board – basically a wipe clean PVC sheet available in 8ft by 4ft or 10ft by 4 ft – it rolled up into the back seat of my car but takes 2 ppl to roll it and secure with tape or straps. Looks amazing in the photos nice reflection.

  • Ursala said on January 8, 2010

    Zack…you rock man! there’s going to be a special place for you in heaven lol!….seriously though, thanks again for all you do! You’re not just out to make money… your really trying to improve the craft…
    much love!

  • Jim said on February 14, 2010

    Zack, thanks man for all the useful info!

    I do have one quick question.

    If I want to minimize the difficulty of getting everything from bright white to grey to blackest black backgrounds with only one painted back wall, would it be most efficient to have the wall color be a light or medium grey (rather than white)?

  • zack said on February 15, 2010

    Light grey will help a bit. I’ve done that before.


  • Sven said on February 15, 2010

    I stumbled across your post while I was looking for some simple advice on how to take head shots for ID cards and now I am seriously considering building me a seamless white wall background… Honestly, the best blog entry I read in long time that really helped. Glad to know that there are people out there that share their knowledge with the world instead of keeping it all a secret. Thank you!

  • Jim said on February 15, 2010

    Light grey?

    So presumably lighter than thunder grey, correct?

    Perhaps the equivalent of “Pursuit Grey” (Superior Paper) or “Fashion Grey” (Savage Paper)?

  • Jim said on February 15, 2010

    Also, do you think it may be more straightforward to use a 14″ x 56″ Chimera strip box (with eggcrate grids) on each side of the model aiming toward the background, rather than setting up cutters on each side of the model to block the bg lights?

  • James M said on February 21, 2010

    This completely makes sense! I had no understanding of lighting going in, and now I feel that I have a good basic grasp of the fundamental elements inherent in the lighting of a subject. This is the PERFECT base from which to build! THANK YOU!!!

  • Avelaine Scyrup said on February 23, 2010

    Legen..wait for it..dary! You rock my friend. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with the world.

  • Michael said on March 16, 2010

    Helpful and funny! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • Natascha said on March 17, 2010

    Thanks for sharing the great post. I learned a lot on your website. Great!!!

  • dallas said on March 30, 2010


  • poparatzzi said on April 1, 2010

    Zack the white seamless tutorial was great. You take a subject that might be hard to understand and simplify it thank you.

  • Jerry said on April 3, 2010

    I Don’t know how I stumbled upon your tutorial, but I’m glad I did – Great job!

    I really like your writing style, I was LMAO and learning a lot a the same time, so thank you!


  • Jadon said on May 24, 2010

    Hey Zach,

    I am hoping to explore & experiment with all of these tutorials soon. However, I just booked a small “photobooth” session for a wedding reception and I am looking for a similar effect that might be a little more portable.

    Do you have any ideas or suggestions?

    Thanks a lot for all of your contributions and knowledge. From the OneLight DVD to your blog I have been able to learn a lot!

  • zack said on May 24, 2010

  • Zelda said on June 10, 2010

    Hi Zack,

    Great tutorials. I am VERY new at this but you answered alot of my questions. Now I just want to know… can I do a group of like 6 or 7 with a three light set-up?

  • Andy said on June 13, 2010

    The 20 minutes I have just spent reading about this lighting set up is the best 20 minutes I’ve spent on the internet… ever! Absolutely fantastic descriptions and you make is sound so simple 😉

  • IPBrian said on June 27, 2010

    Hey Zack,
    I just read through all 5 parts of this tutorial…it is fantastic. Thanks for the great tutorial on lighting.

  • Karen said on July 14, 2010

    Where can I find the answers to all the questions posted regarding the white seamless tutorial?
    Learned a ton, want more….

  • Marco said on September 6, 2010

    Hi Zack….just saw this after it was forwarded to me…..great great great tutorial!

  • Davor said on September 6, 2010

    OMG… this is ultra-great tutorial with some fine details explained. Thank you!
    A question: does Super white background has some disadvantage compared to regular white?

  • zack said on September 7, 2010

    Davor – super white does not have any advantage over regular white. You can even do this with a light grey seamless.

  • Dustin Fike said on September 8, 2010

    Is there any benefit to using vinyl instead of paper? By the time I buy 4 rolls of paper, I could have paid for the vinyl. Seems like if I got vinyl I wouldn’t have to be replacing it like I would the paper.

  • Jamie said on September 8, 2010

    Hey Zack, just following up here on your blog after taking your class at Photoshop World in Vegas! This has to be the one of the best classes and tutorials I have seen. Thanks for your up-front no-nonsense approach to photography! I plan on using this technique for my daughters senior pics this year and hopefully I’ll get some other biz from it as well! Also saving up to hopfully get to one of your workshops!

  • tom said on October 6, 2010

    Hi, Zack
    This is TOM from PSW Vegas. You signed my “Big Mamma” can you drop me a line, I didnt get your contact info on the last day. Thanks

  • Mui said on October 8, 2010

    Hi Zack

    Would just like to say a big thank you for your very informative and funny series of articles. I’ve learned a lot! You’re a saint!

  • Mike Walker said on October 22, 2010

    Hopefully you’ll reply to this… If I use white foam core(white on both sides) instead of bifold doors am I in danger of unwanted reflected light spilling into the model’s space if they are about 3 feet behind the model?
    You have revolutionized my progression Zac. Thanks!

  • Roeland Van de Velde said on December 13, 2010

    Hi Zack,

    Just a (very technical) question about lighting white seamless, after having looked at your CreativeLive Workshop.

    You light the seamless with a strobe at each side, behind V-flats. At your first testshot (working without a lightmeter) you get blinkies at the center of the seamless, but not at the top. After increasing the power with about 2 stops, the seamless is now white. But isn’t the center of the seamless now overexposed by way more than 1.5 stops? Since it was already blown out at the first testshot?

    Now don’t get me wrong, I do see that the results are just fine, so was just wondering, that’s all…

    Great work anyway,

    Thanks a bunch!

  • Drew said on December 20, 2010


    First, I love this tutorial series. I had a shoot this weekend and studio space available (I usually don’t get to shoot in a studio) and decided to try out some white seamless shots.

    Everything was great except when I tried to kill the background and make it black. I had no strobes lighting the background, was shooting at 1/250 (max sync speed), f/8 or smaller, and had my subject strobes grided to prevent spill. No matter how far I pulled the subject away from the seamless (max distance was probably ~ 20 ft away) the background never went black. There was ambient light in the room, but it wasn’t excessive. Any ideas?



  • Caleb said on December 2, 2014

    Great tutorial, even 6+ years later, but it’s showing some age. Mainly, I’m not seeing the photos and the links between the different parts seem to be broken. Any chance these things could get fixed?

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