Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I'm about to do some more clothing photography, this time with the clothing flat on the floor and the camera looking straight down at the subject.

Does anyone have any tips for creating an inexpensive white backdrop for the pictures?

The local DIY store has some cheap wide roller blinds available so I was thinking about trying that out.

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I would avoid the blinds, as even wide ones will still cast a shadow at the edges. Blinds tend to have a curvature as well, and with their smoother, more reflective surfaces, that could also cause problems. Like Chills stated, a white sheet will be far more effective. –  jrista Oct 21 '10 at 1:33
    
Scott Kelby recommends just buying large sheets of white paper from Hobby Lobby. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 26 '13 at 11:37

6 Answers 6

I use a white sheet and a set of clamp lights with daylight cfl bulbs. (see http://photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1902/lighting-equipment/1903#1903)

It works best if you can put a little distance between the subject and background, and the key is for the background to be well lit.

Basically, you're just trying to expose for the subject and totally overexpose the background.

This shot was taken in front of an off-white wall in a somewhat dark room.

The bottle was sitting on top of a coffee can (you can just see the lid) about 3 feet away from the wall behind it. I pointed 2 lights at the wall behind, and used spot metering on the bottle. Spot metering allowed the exposure to be set for the front of the bottle, and since the background was 2-3 stops brighter, it ends up completely over-exposed.

Since you are trying to shoot down at the floor it gets a little tricky since you can not easily light the background separate from the subject.

One thing you could try is to use a white translucent plexiglass sheet as a backdrop, and light it from behind. You will need brighter lights this way, but you should be able to achieve a similar effect with a flat surface.

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Thanks for the detailed response, but what I'm trying to do at the moment is shoot at the floor from a fixed position does the advice still apply in that scenario? –  toomanyairmiles Oct 29 '10 at 6:53

The more space you have the easier this is - firstly you can throw more light at the background to even our creases is your material of choice without it bouncing back onto your subject, and secondly the longer lens you use, the smaller your background can be, to the point where if you're using a telephoto your background only has to be just bigger than your subject.

There's a widely cited blog article that gives some good advice on working with seamless white backgrounds here:

http://www.zarias.com/white-seamless-tutorial-part-1-gear-space/

However it's gear heavy. Everyone says you need a minimum of three lights to do this, one for the subject and two to get even lighting on the background, like so:

However when I was first doing this sort of thing on a budget (with a white sheet background) I found I could get away with two lights (one background light) because that was all I had! Here's the setup I used:

The problem here is that you can sometimes see the lightstand poking out from behind your subject:

This is easy to fix in photoshop as the background is sure white! likewise the edges of the sheet can be fixed.

...leaving a final version, which looks expensive but was in fact a very cheap setup:

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Would there be anything different with taking photos of a static subject (the clothing samples described in the question) and the model/portrait photography you illustrate? –  mattdm Apr 2 '13 at 14:53

I keep a roll of paper table cloth on hand for things like this. Another option is the really good butcher paper but it is not as wide. Photoshop can take care of most of the blemishes that you might find on it.

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I tend to use plastic table topping, it comes in wide rolls from most DIY stores and costs next to nothing. I have lots of colours that I use for backing.

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My personal thoughts are to use a simple bed sheet! I've used one before hung up in front of a window to create a fantastic bright background for a subject :-)

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On my first attempt I went to WalMart and got some bed sheets which worked pretty well. I had a hard time finding a good green color to use for greenscreening. I think a twin size flat sheet is around $14 and the king was maybe $35.

More recently I needed a larger size and happened across the $150 CowboyStudio Photography/Video Studio Triple Lighting Kit which comes with some stands that go up to 8' tall and comes with
10' x 12' backdrops in white, black, and green. It had 4-5 stars and people really seemed to like it after reading the reviews so I opted to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised - it's not a bad kit for the money.

41ii7cz4hyl-sx342.jpg

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protected by John Cavan Nov 24 '13 at 21:45

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