Photography Q & A: Lights and Backdrops

Photography Q & A

Q- I am looking for input on equipment that we plan to get. We need to buy lights and a backdrop or two. We probably need to wait on the web design before we know what color of backdrop, but we are thinking of arctic white.  Any thoughts on lighting or backdrop colors? – from an apparel retailer
You wouldn’t want your backdrop to dictate your web design.  The backdrop should really be non-existent and all the focus for your photos should be on the models wearing your clothing. The backdrop creates consistency with your images so they always look the same for every image on every page of your site.
Photo_ Lighting_ ComparisonIf you want to use arctic white as a backdrop, that’s great, but you have to become really proficient with your color temperature (or Kelvin) and white balance settings on your camera.  If you have ever seen photos on the web where the backdrop is tinted blue/purple/pink like the one to the far right,  it’s because the color temperature is too hot.  The color changes happen when the color temperature is adjusted in your camera.
I suggest a very light grey backdrop color as it’s the standard for setting up the white balance on your camera and it leaves a nice, soft and easy to look at color. Light grey is also a little easier to work with then arctic white, and if you’ll be shooting thousands of images, the less time you spend trying to fix too hot or cold images, the better. If you go this route, set the color temperature at about 4000 in the camera.
Lighting is key.  Learning how to control light and shadow is important, but not difficult or expensive.  I suggest Alien Bee’s Flash Units because that’s what I use and I love them.  They’re portable and will easily sync with your camera when you have a pair of Pocket Wizards. You’ll need one Wizard for the top of the camera and one that hangs off the back of the strobe to trigger the flash.  Once you set them up and install a big Soft Box or umbrella the lights, just leave them alone and they’ll fire a beautiful soft light for a million images.
Tips & Tricks

  • A high quality lens far outweighs a really good camera body. (A good kit lens will work fine.)
  • Your model should stand about 8-10′ from the backdrop wall.
  • Your lights should be off to either side of the model.
  • No hard shadows.  (Always soft shadows please.)
  • Take one of your sales people and turn them into your assistant.
  • No personal jewelry on the model.
  • Soft makeup is important.  (Too much makeup is a bad thing.)
  • Practice, practice, practice – because once you get it right, then it’s really fun.
  • Develop a file system for keeping track of your images.  You can’t use them if you can’t find them.  (I could tell you stories about this.)

Remember, as you embark on this photography journey, don’t let that hold up your website development. Your pictures should enhance your website, not the other way around.

For more Photography Q & A, check back often as we will be featuring common questions that we hear regarding photography along with responses by one of our expert photographers. 



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