White backgrounds are great, there’s a lot you can do with them because white goes with everything. Blow it out with a flash for a high key backdrop or pull away and you get grey (sample). That’s all fine and dandy until you want a different colour. Why a different colour?, complimentary my dear Watson (Sorry, comedy is not my strong suit). Images tend to have more punch with opposite colours.
In this guide we’ll show you a quick setup that gives a white background that blue colour with a flash and a gel. Disclaimer: This method does not fully replace a proper backdrop, but it will work in a number of situations. Make sure you understand the limitations before you finalize that contract.
Why a blue background? The model’s dress has strong reds and yellows intermingled, top me that’s orange. A lot of people may disagree but I like the logic and I keep things simple.
Each colour backdrop would cost you 60 bucks and weigh around 2 lbs. The weight, cost, and not to mention the time it takes to change the backdrop would be substantial, if the model had to go through 3 different coloured outfits.
You’ll probably read this a lot for me, deal with the most difficult problem first. I’m assuming that you know how to properly light a subject with soft light so the biggest challenge in this case is the blue background. Using a blue gel on top of a flash is simple enough, the trick is to get the right distances.
Check out the fail picture. Light spill from the clamshell setup spilled onto the background, fading out the blue. Too close ….
Distance is the key
To fix this problem we picked the longer side of the studio to shoot. If you notice the distances are much further away, and more importantly, the blue gelled light is much closer to the white wall than the clamshell light setup. With the blue gel flash turned off, the clamshell lighting barely lights up the background.
The higher the power on the gelled flash, the lighter the shade the background will be. The closer it is to the wall, the more aggressive the gradient. You’ll need to play around with this to find out, every wall is different.
A much as a gelled flash is easier to carry that a backdrop and doesn’t require the whole setup, it does have its limitations. In this specific case it worked. Consider this another tool in your kit, and like all tools, it works well when used properly in the right situation and fails when not. Till next time.
Check out our shoot here.