Saturday, 25 July 2009

Background check…


I decided to experiment a bit with backdrops last night.  I really believe that the background of a picture is every bit as important as the foreground, so I wanted to take a few test shots to test out some ideas I had.  The shot above is a test shot I’ve been meaning to try for a while.  I don’t have a light-tent but I wanted to mimic a seamless backdrop, so I taped together three pieces of A3 white paper and taped them up over my monitor (setup shot below).


You can see in the setup shot that I had the softbox really close to the subject.  This effectively made the softbox as large a light as I could which made the shadows as soft as possible (since the light is hitting the subject from many different angles).  On the milk shot at the top of the post I also had another flash off to camera left with a snoot on it to direct the light in a tight beam.  I didn’t want a pure white backdrop in that shot and so aimed the snooted flash off to the side for a gradient of white to grey.  

In order to get this gradient it meant I also had to position the softbox very close to the subject and pointing directly at it from the right.  I also pointed it slightly away from the background as I didn’t want the softbox to just nuke all the paper to white.  It’s very tricky to get enough separation between subject and backdrop in such a confined area but I managed it.  I possibly could have used a smaller softbox or just shot the flash through some white paper, but I wanted to get as soft a shadow as I could.

Here’s a couple more shots of the chocolate brownies…




The next background I wanted to try was to create a nice bokeh effect with some nice highlights.  Since my son and I found the Pixar Cars short films (Mater’s Tall Tales) the other day and he thinks Mater is great I thought he’d like a few pics of him.  I now have this next shot as my desktop…


Here’s a kind of setup shot which shows how I made the background much more eloquently than I could explain it…


Yes the glasses where all fingermarks but I had just been using them to pour milk into :)

This was just a flash with a green gel and a grid.  I only used the grid to control any spill of light onto the wall but when I saw how out of focus the background was I realised the grid probably didn’t matter that much.  I’d ideally like to have taken the flash further away to reduce the large highlights but as I had to climb over two chairs to get to it (and one of those having the cars on it) I decided it was fine as it was :)

I had to use my 150mm macro lens not because of the macro function but because of the perspective.  Obviously when you use a longer focal length your perspective is narrower, and so I only needed the three glasses.  I tried the 50mm first but I think I would have needed about 15 glasses to fill the background :)

Here’s a couple more I liked…



I have another couple of ideas I’d like to try out on a black seamless so I’ll try that soon and post up.



  1. These picture sare great! Very well explaind and really good of you to write such a great article to show what can be done in a small space. Many thanks

  2. some very cool stuff there ian, really liked the bokeh effect stuff withthe fingerprinted glasses :)