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I have a roll of white seamless that I use for some studio work that works fine when doing more neutral shots, but I'm looking to do something a bit brighter and require a color backdrop. However, I'm not quite ready to purchase a new backdrop so I was wondering if anyone has any techniques for easily shifting the hue of only the backdrop either in real time or in the editing process.

I understand how to use Lightroom and Photoshop and I know I could, in theory using an adjustment layer with a mask around my subject, but I was looking for a more exact and possibly less time consuming technique.

  • I'm not making this an answer, since you specified in post, but have you considered simply using gels to light the background? – junkyardsparkle Aug 18 '17 at 5:01
  • @junkyardsparkle I did actually consider that, but I wasn't sure how evenly it would work. Have you ever tried this technique? – Isaac Wasserman Aug 18 '17 at 5:03
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    I haven't, studio portraiture isn't really my thing, but it seems to be a standard technique, and anything's gotta be better than masking in post, especially when there's hair involved. ;) – junkyardsparkle Aug 18 '17 at 5:11
  • it may even be possible to gel the light on the subject and set wb accordingly, to get a colored background... – ths Aug 18 '17 at 8:12
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TL;DR: Fake it with white balance.

You could put a plain white light on the backdrop, and boldly gel the light on your subject. If set WB to match your subject, the backdrop will, of course, get the complementary color of your gel.

Dependig on your lighting setup, this might be easier than gelling the backdrop lights. Of course, you mit even try to combine both. Specifically, an unevenly coloured light might create a nice gradient.

Disclaimer: I haven't tried this, I read about this technique in a tip to get a "blue hour" look in a day time shot with an orange gelled flash.

  • It seems like it would be easier to get predictable results by using the gel on the background, but using complementary colors on both could get more extreme effects. I guess you'd have to be even more careful about not letting the main lights wash out the background color, though... – junkyardsparkle Aug 18 '17 at 17:07
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Gel the background + doctor in post

Your goal is to achieve the target color and an even exposure on the background immediately surrounding your subject. Ideally you want two large diffused sources angled in from the sides and an even exposure (within 1/4 stop) across the entire frame. This is easier if you are shooting with a longer focal length and only seeing a small portion of the backdrop. Also, defocusing the background helps smooth out minor variances. Move the background lights as far from the seamless as possible to minimize their falloff.

If you can't meter across the backdrop, use your camera's histogram to try to get the thinnest peak possible. You can also capture tethered or otherwise view the capture on a computer and use levels to ferret out dark/bright spots.

The problem with gelling the subject instead of the background is that you lose contrast upon balancing for neutral. I don't have enough rep to comment on that suggestion above.

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