Here is the dry gray fact – for all of us who take images in small studios should at least have one gray wall, and/or printed backgrounds simulating different textures in gray. I do not have a gray wall but I do have a printed back drop, and a roll of gray paper, and no my pictures do almost never have a gray background. Every one who use a gray background knows that is almost never comes out in the gray tone that you saw in the viewfinder, but more dark or much lighter. It is not so easy to explain, but here are a few examples. I have used a couple of flashes, and one is positioned 30 Degrees to the right of the subject, and the second flash is places between the table and the gray background. That is my basic setup for subjects – not for portrait, where you normally would set your key light at an 45 degree angle.
If we start out with getting a darker gray background we turn of the second flash, and add a grid to the flash on the right so we get a directional light that will not hit the background. (I have added a silver reflector to the left of the subject). Please note that its the same gray background used on all the images here.
Getting a white background is much more easy, and is done by simply turning on the second flash and add
enough power to make the background white. That is fairly easy even with a smaller flash light – of course depending on how big your background is, but for a corporate headshot its more than powerful enough. It is
important not to have too much power on the second flash since the light eventually will reflect back from the background, and if you are taking a portrait you can easily “burn out” (overexpose) the hair, loosing lots of detail. If you are using a flash meter measure on the back of the talents head and you should measure the same as for your main light. I know there are lots of theories about this but this works well for me. You can always make small adjustments along the way, but this is a good starting point.
Adding color is done by adding a coloured gel in front of your flash. The ones above are round since the reflector on the GODOX WISTRO´s are round, but you find very cheap ones for your speed lights. (I have tried out these from GODOX and they worked just fine) An other little cheap gadget that comes in handy when working with setting light on backgrounds is a small light stand. The “smaller” the better. The one shown here cost 8 Euro from Ebay. They come in many different form factors but this one folds down to 30cm so it do not take up space when not in use.
When you have setup your light and start taking some test shots you might experience that you get lots of coloured light that is reflected back on your subject from the background. You can either fix this in photoshop later, or you can simply make a bigger distance between your subject and the background. Using a silver reflector to reflect back some of the main light (key light) back on the subject may help a lot avoiding the colour cast.
Below you will find some exampels done with the colorgels – and remember this technique is perfect for portraits too, where you can try our many different backgrounds in no time, so your talent dont need to wait for you to change the whole background between each shot.