How To Create A Pure White Background For Video Or Stills

Everyone claims that they know how to shoot subjects on pure white but many of them still struggle with the background light washing out their subject. In the video below, Olivia Speranza shows us how she created the look for a video but the same techniques apply to flash as well. The key is to light the background as evenly as possible and expose it so that it is just barely pure white. If your background is a few stops past pure white, the light will begin to eat into your subject.



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22 Comments

Sean Shimmel's picture

 So very easy...

...and pricey  :)

Lee Morris's picture

honestly, you could easily do this with 2 lights (one on the background and one on the subject) or, you could do it with one light if you used the sun to light up the background.  

I think the goal was to have a flooded white scene. You are correct though, You could likely do this with two lights so long as you only had one subject on screen. 

Sean Shimmel's picture

 Now that's what I like.

You sure can Lee. I used that same set up with two speedlights. One for the back on 3/4 power &  the front on Full ETTL, both were controlled by Pocketwizards Mini TT1 & Flex TT2. 

Maybe not so expensive after all?
http://www.cowboystudio.com/product/c16/c16.php 

Sean Shimmel's picture

 Potential Cowboy quality questions aside, it's this kind of fresh thinking that makes it all exciting.  

Hmmmnnnn.... I don't get the feeling that the end result was properly exposed. It looks like her arms are clipping in the whites. There was one shot at the very end that was a closeup and only up for a few seconds that looked correct.

Joshua Gaede's picture

 nice if youre interested in continuous lighting but i prefer portability. i dont have my studio yet so continuous isnt practical  

If you notice the title specifies stills and video. So to fill the video qoutient they were kind of required to have a continuous lighting source. 

or... if your using PS... duplicate the layer, adjustments, levels, and set the white point... done and it doesn't even change the subject's light.

 To properly do this so that the the reflected light from the background doesn't start lighting the subject from behind causing loss of detail around the edges the background should be between .5 and 1 stops above the diffused value of the subject. (Theres a Dean Collins video on this somewhere.)

You can also stand further away from your backdrop if it is large enough. 

Patrick Hall's picture

 I still think you want the background only .5 - 1 stop above the light you are using on your subject.  If you've ever used the sky as your background, you've probably noticed that it can wash out your subject in the front because the sky is often more than 1 stop above your subject lighting....and the sky is really far from your subject :)

Does it still apply though if the room is dark?  Like, when your outside you have ambient light from all over. If your in a dark room the light source from behind is a directional bounce off the white white backdrop. If you pull the person past the point where the the background lighting is no longer incident, then the only light that should cast on the subject is the lighting from the front. Right? (Not sure if I am making any sense). I do get where your coming from though. :P

Patrick Hall's picture

It does still apply indoors with a smaller light source.  Lee and I setup a photobooth at weddings a lot of the time and if you blow out the background too strongly then you will loose a lot of contrast in the images. 

A perfect example of a BTSV... quiet music, fixed camera positions, great narration, fast and to the point with minimal advertising crap at each end..  I learnt everything i needed to know within a minute and like a whisper she was gone.

Patrick Hall's picture

 I know right...I wish there were more videos like this!

gp's picture

I  have the exact same softboxes, but I only have 2 of them, should've bought more when I had the chance, I believe they were only $120-$150 for two of them so not that expensive, less than $500 for 6 of them. 

Sean Armenta's picture

completely off topic, but why is it always so much better when you have an attractive girl explaining all this stuff? if they had something like this in school for math, i would be a genius.

No attractive girls know math. That's why! j/k lol :)

 Like the new Jack in the Box commercial says, "we use beautiful models because fat girls don't sell burgers".  :)