Lighting A White Background To Get That “Heavenly” Effect
As I shared in my post on shooting green screen videos without a green screen, I said that I’d give you some more specifics on how to create that “total whiteout” background Kim and I have been using in our Special Interest Video Academy videos. You see this increasingly on commercials, particularly the Apple and TMobile spots. The result is the person looks like they are in a cloud, or in heaven.
It is actually quite easy to do. We use a large sheet of white photographic backdrop paper, but you could use anything that is bright white including a wall, however the less texture and wrinkles the better. I place the subjects, usually Kim and/or me, about 8 feet in front of the backdrop.
In our studio I place two large diffused softboxes on Kim or me, each outputting 600 watts. Sometimes I place them equally at a 45 degree angle to us to give us very flat lighting. Other times I’ll add more light to one to give more of a key light.
I place two additional softboxes without the diffusion screen at equal angles, pointing at the white backdrop. I get the light to fall very evenly across this area. I pour 1,200 watts from each box onto the backdrop, for a total of 2400 watts.
When I expose for our faces the backdrop is highly over-exposed, so much so that it is totally washed out. I expose for our faces by zooming into them, getting the correct exposure then zooming back out again.
If you don’t have this kind of light output you can use less, just try to keep the ratios about the same. I recommend that you throw two times or more as much light on the white backdrop as you do on someone’s face. If you can display zebra stripes in your viewfinder the backdrop should be exceeding 100 ire, meaning all of it should be crawling with zebra stripes. If you see any areas that aren’t, adjust the lights to cover them. (For those of you who don’t know what I mean by zebra stripes, that will be covered in another post.)
That’s all there is to it.
Here’s a special tip: I’ll add a reflector right in front and below us to throw some light up into our faces from below; this helps to eliminate shadows and removes a few years from seasoned faces. It gives a nice glow to your skin. Just don’t overdo it.
Oh, and I also have a 300 watt light above and slightly behind us to throw a little hair or rim light onto us.
Experiment and have fun.
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