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Live Shoot: Create White Backdrop

Lesson 21 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

Live Shoot: Create White Backdrop

Lesson 21 from: Editorial Portrait Photography for High School Seniors

Dan Brouillette

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Lesson Info

21. Live Shoot: Create White Backdrop


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


How to Make Senior Photos Stand Out


What is Lighting in Layers?


Build a Lighting Foundation


Layer One: Main Light


Layer Two: Fill Light


Layer Three: Accent Light


Layer Four: Additional Light


Lesson Info

Live Shoot: Create White Backdrop

Actually it's perfect what he's wearing because I talked earlier about a Men's Health cover how it kind of goes white. So if you want to stand... You guys probably won't be able to see a whole lot. I'm gonna have him stand far away from the back drop 'bout here, which would tell us that it's gonna go gray. If we can go back to tethering, you'll see that the background on these shots is generally gray. To make it go true white one of the things that I like to do is shoot in to actual V flats. So we're gonna take this off, deconstruct the whole works, get rid of that, stay out of it's way. I just got eaten by an umbrella. Ill give that to you. Alright, so we're going to stick with this as our general, actually we'll go up one size an umbrella just because why not if we're going to do something different we might as well do it different. So we'll switch up to the from the 36 inch umbrella to the 46 inch so that'll be our main light and we're gonna keep it with no diffusion, just to kind o...

f keep that specular edge, since it works well with the subject matter here. We're gonna raise that back up to the height we want, and we'll go a little more neutral on the placement so I'm gonna again, feather that in front. You can basically stay right here. What I'm gonna to do with these other lights so to make the white background go white, that would be in a spot where I would use three lights if you have that available as far as truly lighting a white background. You guys won't be able to see exactly what we're doing back here but I will definitely be sure to explain it. So what we're going to do, this looks like it's aimed in the middle of nowhere but... And so does this. What I do is I take the lights and I wanna when I want a background to be truly white and done the right way I light it shooting these lights in to V flats and reflecting that back. So essentially then you have really light bright sources that are lighting this from top to bottom and the other reason I'm gonna put this here, I'll come out from hiding momentarily, I also use this side of the V flat to block any of that light from hitting him because I only want to light the white. So this lights in here aimed at the in to the V flat. We're gonna mimic that on this side, which you guys will be able to see a little bit better. So, bring that out, and this is something where if I was going to do an actual shoot, if I were to do one I would have this set up before hand but it's good that you can kind of see how we work through it. So again the lights placed pretty well in there. I want 'em about similar height. And now you can see this light can't hit him same with this one. I'm going to move it just slightly. Alright so we got just about the same angle. Now what I want to to do is we're going to shoot at five six, generally when I'm using a white background I actually light it so it's a stop over our main light. So we want our background to read F8, so it goes absolute true white and I'm going to have you step out even a little meh, a little bit farther, that's good. Just like a half a step. So because of that I'm gonna have to shut these down a little bit more just so we don't see them in our frame. If we had a little more space on the sides we can move the lights out but this'll work just a-okay. So what we're going to do is we're going to meter for the background first. I don't care about this because we'll get there. So I want the background to read F8. So we do leave the main light on because that's also gonna cause a little bit of light to hit back here. We'll make sure both of these are on at about similar power. So what I want to do is meter in the middle. (meter beeps) Turn on the meter. Alright we wanna go for F8. (meter beeps) So we're at four five. That means we need more power on the background. So we're gonna crank these puppies up. (meter beeps) F11 too bright, we're a stop too bright so we gotta go down. I got a little overzealous with the dials here. Right in the middle. F9 we're almost there. So close. (meter beeps) I'm gonna see if one of these is brighter than the other. That's ten and that's nine so that let's me know that this ones the one that's too bright. So we'll go down a third of a stop which should be pretty darn close. (meter beeps) F8. So sometimes just taking a reading from either side 'cause those lights aren't the same, they're a B2 and a B1 so their power settings are gonna be a little different. So now we want this to be at five six. You can stay right... Turn this way once B2, yep. So we want this to be at five six, we're at seven. (meter beeps) We're at five six. Now we are ready to shoot. So here's our Men's Health cover with Connor. Alright so you can stays just like that, I'm actually gonna have you hold the ball with both hands just kind of in front. Yeah there you go. 'cause I'm gonna crop just below the ball. So one, two, three. Alright. Oh it's on crop mode from before. Hold on let me get that off of there because we don't need that anymore. Okay one more. One, two, three. (camera shutter clicks) Alright so let's get this back where we want it 'cause I turned the highlights down earlier so it's not showing as white as it actually is and our brightness is down a little bit. So there we go. This monitor is actually a little bit darker than on here but we'll do one more. I'm gonna have you turn completely this way, yep, towards me a little more, right there. Yep that's perfect. A little bit more with your shoulders. That's the shot. One, two, three. (camera shutter clicks) So here we go, he'll be quite a bit brighter now. There we go. One more just like that. One, two, three. (camera shutter clicks) Yeah so I'm pretty happy with that. Turn up the shadows just a little bit, turn up the overall brightness and again he's a little bit darker on here. The only other thing I would do here is if we, we could do that more of an even lighting ratio just so he would be really bright too but as far as the question goes of keeping the white background white this is how I do it. It goes from that gray to white and again that backdrop is one stop brighter than what we needed for our subject. So that's a F8 where he's at five six. If you do not have a light Meter Yes, you should buy one You just fiddle? (laughs) If you don't have a light, honestly you should probably just get one and you can get a good... This one is great but this is a little more expensive there's a Sekonic one, its actually in the gear list that comes with the show notes that its about $190.00. I bought my first light meter in and I still have it in my camera bag today. The technology really doesn't change as it just other than now they have a touch screen on some which is great but like I said kind of annoying because I accidentally change it where the other one just has a few manual dials and there really isn't a substitute for having a light meter, I know a lot of photo students, the first thing they tell them to get is a light meter and it's so accurate and it's so handy to have that I think the only answer to that is maybe just get one.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials

Lighting Gear List

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Lighting Terms Guide

Ratings and Reviews

pete hopkins

awesome teacher and awesome technique. after soooo many webinars, it's really great to see someone break it down to the bare bones of lighting with exceptional quality results. i can listen to Dan all day. no pretense, no over the top emotional pleas, no drama! did i say awesome!!!! Plus, I'm a huge fan of the B! and B2 systems. Freedom is key. Now I can shoot anywhere, anytime. Thanks Dan.


This is by far the best class on senior photography I have found on creativelive. Dan explains the technical aspects in an easy to understand format. He does a great job going through studio shots, outdoor shots, editing and marketing. He's given me some great ideas and inspired me to be more creative. I am going to rewatch the lighting set up for the "hero shot". It's super cool!

Tristanne Endrina

Dan was great. His class was very comprehensive but easy to follow. The slides he used weren't flashy. Instead, they were simple and he went at a good pace. I left feeling like I could really pull off the lighting techniques he taught. I'm excited to put what I learned into my photography. :) Thanks, Dan.

Student Work