How to Add Contrast When Shooting Portraits on a White Background

The clean, white background portrait style is a classic look that will always be in demand for a wide range of clients and applications. However, it takes a bit of lighting savvy to create a pure white background while retaining crisp contrast and defining shadows on your subject. If you are wondering how to achieve that, check out this fantastic video tutorial that will show you everything you need to know. 

Coming to you from David Bergman with Adorama TV, this awesome video tutorial will show you how to shoot portraits on a clean white background while still maintaining good contrast on your subject. This can be a bit of a challenging lighting problem for many photographers, but even if you do not plan on shooting photos in this style, it is well worth taking the afternoon to master it, as it will teach you a lot of useful lighting techniques. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Bergman. 

If you would like to continue learning about how to light a portrait, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley," which is currently on sale along with the rest of the Fstoppers store! 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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This is written with much respect but I think it is necessary.
I just clicked on this post as I considered it interesting and probably worth the time and effort... and then I saw "the" word.

Awesome. This "awesome" video.

I decided not to watch it because it probably isn 't awesome (it might be really good and really interesting) but so often I find myself wasting time watching videos labeled as but simply far from "awesome".

I don't think this helps anyone. Mundane things can be important and timely reminders... useful... but calling them "awesome" to me causes a nagging suspicion that things are slipping, that the bar is dropping. If Fstoppers doesn't know what "awesome" means... then something might not be working very well. The same goes for everything being labeled as "awesome" or some other adjective that it really isn't.

As I said at the beginning, this is written with much respect and more with the intention of maybe providing some positive input for a very important forum.

A very happy Christmas and festive season to all.

From M-W itself:

"Many object to the use of awesome to describe something (such as a sandwich) that does not literally elicit feelings of awe. Yet the same people who insist that awesome should be used only of weighty subjects (Niagara Falls, man landing on the moon) will happily use the word awful in reference to something (such as a mess) that falls distinctly short of being 'full of awe.' This weakened sense was once considered improper – in fact, complaints about it persisted through the early decades of the 20th century.

The change in meaning that awesome is undergoing may be more recent than that of awful, but both words are treading the same path. For evidence that such change is normal, we need look no further than awe, which originally meant “terror” and now carries the weaker sense 'wonder.'"

Way to miss the point.

You know, you could have just taken the criticism, in the spirit it was intended, and you know, decided to try and do better.

Just say'n.

thanks for the support. I read the reply (thanks for replying Alex) and thought... "Either you've missed the point completely or I have explained myself badly."

So pleased that at least someone got the point.


Joe Hogan – also with all due respect:
I, myself, decided to watch the video and found it to be pretty interesting. Although I do this kind of lighting all the time and know the intricacies of this setup I still found myself reminded of what to look for again. I would have done a few things differently but all in all it was quite informative. And I guess for people who start to use white backgrounds there is healthy dose of knowledge in that video. I know that because when I started with seamless backgrounds – especially white – I ran into all kinds of problems and sucked a few times until I learned how to do it properly. Also for postproduction which I do as well.

Now one can discuss if the word "awesome" is appropriate for this kind of video. But I would argue this is a purely semantic discussion and the word was used in the article text only and not as a clickbaiting headline or even in the video thumbnail (for which Alex is not responsible anyway).

Of course you are completely free which video you watch and which not. But the wording in the accompanying text would never deter me from watching the video itself. Because only if I watch the video I could verify very easily if the content would keep the promise that was made in the text.
And if I am honest – I did not even read the text below the video. I just read the headline and saw the thumbnail and was enticed enough to watch. I would have stopped if it was awful or not informative. That is just me.

But on the other hand somebody who ran into the problems discussed in the video could find it maybe even "awesome". ;)

I'm so pleased you enjoyed the video Marc and most probably I will get around to watching it myself.
Perhaps I was unclear in expressing my opinion which is simply that the overuse (and/or repetition) of superlatives is, apart from being quite often misleading, dangerous and even more so within a context such as a forum. I thought that it was worth drawing attention to that possibility.
Thanks for reading and commenting on my post. All the best for the coming year.