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I have a simple white backdrop setup with two off camera flashes setup. One flash is pointed directly at the background to overexpose it to white. The other flash is off camera to the right, shooting through an umbrella to light the subject. The camera was set at f/2, 1/125, ISO 100, at 50mm. The flash behind the subject was at 1/16th power, and the flash to the right of the camera at 1/32nd power.

The studio setup

Image created here: http://www.lightingdiagrams.com/Creator

My issue is that the resulting images have quite a bit of light bleed over the subject(I believe this is the terminology). The way that I would describe this is that the edges of the subject are very soft and blown out. They are not defined well with a nice edge. I would prefer a well defined subject with a pure white background. If I can do this without more equipment that would be preferred.

I got the idea for the flash behind the subject lighting the backdrop from question - How can I inexpensively create the white backdrop look?.

Here is an example of the result that I have right now and would like to improve. I have already done what I could in post production but I know the initial capture can be better and the result better still: Example Image Currently

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If your diagram is to scale, the distance from the background flash to the backdrop is significantly less than the distance from the main flash to the subject. This could well be why the backdrop is so bright and causing the light bleed you are seeing.

The first thing I'd try is use a flash meter to compare the light hitting the subject with the light hitting the backdrop; you only need about 2 stops extra brightness (compared to the light hitting the subject) to blow the backdrop out completely without going over the top. Adjust the lighting ratio between your two flashes, or move the backdrop further away from the background flash, until you can get this balance.

Another trick you can try is to use black objects either side of the subject to prevent reflection onto the edges of the subject; most studios have polystyrene boards which are black on one side for just this purpose; however since you said you do not want to use more equipment then you may just be able to hang some black fabric to either side.

I'd also recommend ensuring your lens is clean - there seems to be some softening in the gap where the baby's left shoulder meets his cheek, which may be caused by dirt on the lens surface.

  • Thanks Nick! Yes the diagram is approximately to scale. The background flash is less than a foot from the background and the subject to camera distance is 5-8ft. If I'm understanding you correctly, you are suggesting to increase the distance between the background flash and the background? I had it setup this way because the muslin background only has about 3-4ft that lays in the floor. I'll have to come up with a different idea to make it longer if that's the best way. – dpollitt Jan 17 '15 at 20:45
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    Yes, that's what I was suggesting, but only if you can't reduce the flash intensity sufficiently. But you also need to be careful that the flash doesn't drop off too much as it will create vignetting as the intensity drops off from the centre. Maybe put a piece of paper in front which will both reduce the brightness and diffuse it. – NickM Jan 17 '15 at 21:07
  • Nick alluded to it but perhaps it isn't explicit enough: the flash for your background may be bouncing off of something out of the frame to the right and reflecting onto the side of your subject. – Michael C Jan 17 '15 at 21:37
  • Also, there are at least two primary ways to reduce the amount of light from a flash: power or distance. If you can reduce the power of your rear flash enough you won't need to increase the distance. As Nick says in his comment, a diffuser is another option. You do need to be careful too much light doesn't bounce back from the flash side of the diffuser onto the subject from behind. – Michael C Jan 17 '15 at 21:40
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    Flags will help a lot — but @dpollitt keep in mind that you're shooting an infant, so your background doesn't have to be anything like full-height. If it ain't in the frame, it doesn't exist, even if it looks stupid (like a waist-height background support bar). – user35658 Jan 17 '15 at 22:29

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