Fstoppers Lighting Diagrams: Creating Gradient Backdrops

Fstoppers Lighting Diagrams: Creating Gradient Backdrops

This week, we are exploring how to create a white-to-grey backdrop using strobes. Though this technique can be done somewhat efficiently with two lights, three is optimal. And as in last weeks post, I want you guys to try out this technique and share your results. I will post my three favorites in the next lighting post. I shot all of these images on a white sweep, with the figures about ten feet off of the background. I placed one Canon 430EX speedlite on the ground on either side of the backdrop, closer to the backdrop than the subjects. I then set the backdrop lights to the same output as the main light. Note, if you only have access to two strobes, your main obstacle is getting your sole background light to spread as evenly as possible. It will gradate either way, but may not look as smooth as if you were using two lights on the backdrop.

I triggered my strobes using a Canon ST-E2 and a Radiopopper Px transmitter.

Lessons like this one as well as 25 other lighting diagrams are available in my new e-book, RGLR, The Run & Gun Lighting Resource for $10.


Lighting Diagram nick fancher

photography by nick fancherphotography by nick fancherphotography by nick fancherphotography by nick fancherphotography by nick fancher

In last weeks post, Shooting Products on Black, I asked readers to try out the technique and post their results. Here were three of my favorites:


Image by Paul Monaghan Image by Paul Monaghan


Shot by Jason Colledge Shot by Jason Colledge

Shot by Steven Leung Shot by Steven Leung


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i shot product for a friend few months back on white backdrop. Then a week or so ago he had told me in order to post to a website to sell his t shirts on karmaloop, he need a gradient bg from grey to white to grey again. Since i had shot the shirt already, i had to do it all in post. 

You show grey to white, but would there be a way to create this same effect but grey to white to grey by any chance?

Could you link an example of the lighting you want to emulate? That would help.

Cody Ash's picture

you could perhaps move the subject far enough away that the entire backdrop was grey, assuming you're shooting white.  Then you could grid a strobe w/strip bank modifier and create a white band in the middle of the backdrop.  That is the only thing I can think of without adding a 4th light.

not my photo because i dont have access to my photos, but essentially thats the style background they look for.

my only guess to use two strip or small softboxes and have it aimed half way up. i havent had time to test this.

I would try Cody's suggestion above. The only issue you may run into is having the sufficient space to achieve this. The model would prob need to be at least 15 feet off the backdrop to control any spill light from falling on the white backdrop. You want it to go a bit grey and then focus the zoom of your speedlites in or flag your flash head to make a narrow blast. Keep the speedlites 10 feet off your backdrop too, to soften the edges and make it a smoother transition.

thanks guys

Brandon Luckain's picture

 Couldn't you grid a flash and aim it higher on the background to get a similar effect?

Timuçin HIZAL's picture

speedlite 1/8 -> "f7,1" iso400... something wrong.
especially in large group shots, the flash should be 7-8 feet away. difficult to give this power with only 400 iso speedlite 1/8.

That's the exif for the head shot. The rest of the images are examples of the technique. The ratios would be the same but the specific settings varied a bit. But the idea is basically keep the background and foreground lights at the same output and keep the background lights on the ground.

Timuçin HIZAL's picture

:) ok . I got it now. the interesting thing is my 600 elinchrome, 7-8 feet 1/4 get the same ratios. Forever Speedlites-> http://www.timuchin.com/img/sny/bmw3.jpg
by the way nice setup. 

Hey @NickFancher:disqus

Do you have any tips for photographing products that are to have the backgrounds clipped for use online and in magazine product spreads? I have tried a few different methods but results are hit and miss.

Great work and thanks for taking the time to share your experience, best of luck with the new ventures.

I haven't shot with the intention of clipping out the product. I've only ever been required to shoot it on white for the product shot or in a scenario for the lifestyle shot. Can you share an example of what you are trying to do?