I want to do a self-portrait at home with a clear white background.

How can I do it without buying expensive accessories (I mean with things that can be found in a home)?

What's the correct light settings for a self-portrait photo?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ We cannot really know what one could find in your home. In my home, for example, one could also find 2 ProFoto B1 500 Air and some soft boxes, which would be enough to achieve that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dragos
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 22:26
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ As inkista says, much brighter light on a white background BUT you can use an editor to replace a colour within a certain range with another colour. If the chosen background colour range does not occur anywhere in the desired image then the background can be replaced at will. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or you can just select out the subject using more manual methods. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RussellMcMahon, you want to post that as an answer? Or I can add it to mine. I forgot about just replacing the background in post. \$\endgroup\$
    – inkista
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant and arguably duplicates: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/29333/…, photo.stackexchange.com/questions/38343/… \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 2:06

5 Answers 5


Well, you need lighting gear, so this is a LOT easier to do if you can buy lighting gear like flashes, stands, and radio triggers.

The way a white background is achieved in studio photography is by creating lighting zones. The subject is in one zone, and the background is in another, and each of these zones has a different level of light. When the background is lit much more brightly than the subject, it turns white in the photo. The background itself doesn't even have to be white, although of course, the lighter it is, the easier it will be to turn to white. If you light the subject more brightly than the background, you can get the background to go to black in the photo.

With the lighting you can find around your home, it's unlikely that you can create enough light on the background to turn it white. Maybe with a work light or something, you could achieve this, but you do want to be very careful about the heat that's generated, and you have little control over the amount of light it will put out.

see also: Zack Arias's "Many Uses of the White Seamless" tutorials

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Implicit in your answer but not specifically mentioned is that the background need not even be white. As long as it can be illuminated enough the blow out all three color channels it will appear white in the photo. Of course it takes less light to blow out a white or light colored wall than a dark one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 5:37

As the other posters have said, you need the background lit brighter than the subject (you.)

One way to do this without any extra equipment is if you have a large window. Face away from the window on a bright day with the curtains open. Expose and color balance for the inside lights; the outdoors will be so much brighter that it will blow out to white.

Light levels are usually pretty low so you'll be using a tripod and wide aperture anyway. Frame the shot to fit within the window frame.

Be aware that there may be blowback or a hazy look; you can go with that or correct it in post-processing.

I often shoot models indoors with window light and let the outdoors blow out, so the window is just white.


The first part is easy.

1) On a sunny day, find a wall that recives direct sunlignt. Put a big sheet of white paper or a bed sheet. Use this as a background.

2) Hold an umbrella above your head so you do not recive direct sunlight.

3) Take your photo.

What's the correct light settings for a self-portrait photo?

Oh dear. Luky for us there are no correct light settings, there are an inmense situations where we can take a self photo, so no recipy here.

If what you are asking is a ratio of light on a white background (But using "expensive" equipment), you need to expose the white background arround 1/3 - 1/2 stop brighter measured with an incident light meter. So you need an incident light meter and probably 3-4 flashes with difuse modifiers.


You can just take a photo on the most uniform and white background you can find and ajust the values using software. You can use gimp http://www.gimp.org/ which is free and good enough for you.


As inkista says, much brighter light on a white background will approach what you want. It is common to "select" objects or areas in post processing and add backgrounds of choice. This method has prose and cons.

As an alternative you can use an editor to replace a colour within a certain range with another colour. If the chosen background colour range does not occur anywhere in the desired image then the background can be replaced at will. –

Here's an example (the photo is chosen for its relevance not its other merits :-) )*

  • The left hand image is the original.

  • The centre image has had sky colour replaced with lovely (garish) lime green,
    with the intention of making it clear which ares were replaced.

  • The right hand image has used pure white as the replacement.

Editing programs which have this feature usually allow the range of hues which constitute a match to be varies in some manner. In this case I found that a range large enough to achieve a good result everywhere relevant, also managed to act in a few undesired areas. Selection of active areas with simple rectangular masks and several replacements using different allowed ranges did what was required (more or less).

A closer inspection in the larger version - seen here will show the areas where substitution has not occurred or where a degree of deletion or replacement that is not desired has occurred. All the ladies have small areas of blue sky showing through portions of their hair. How important this is depends on the end use to be made of the image. Replacement by other editing means would deal with these if desired.

enter image description here

A few examples of areas where blue sky remains

enter image description here

*. Not having a cloud growing out of the bride's head would be preferable. The flowergirl could do with some more face. Shots like these are usually popular after the event but usually require quite a few attempts if double chins and looking-up-noses are to be avoided and reasonable symmetry and OK facial expressions are desired. This may have been an interim version - it was the first example that came to hand when needed. when needed.


I can't talk specifically about self portraits, but I have had some success using camera mounted bounce flash and a bed sheet. Put my results next to those from a professional studio and the difference is clear, but on their own they stand up fairly well. If you have access to any sort of off camera lighting you should be able to do better, as others have stated, by putting more light on the background.


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