A Guide to Using White Backdrops

Written by Backdrop Express Photography Team on . Posted in Photography Backdrops, Studio Equipment

A Guide to Using White Backdrops
A  white backdrop can highlight nearly any subject… But when used incorrectly, it can become a blown out or underexposed nightmare with significant technical errors. While using a white photo background, certain steps should be taken to maximize the quality of your image.

Consider Your Space

The most important aspect of taking a photo with a white backdrop is the space you use; shooting is made easier with high ceilings and lots of floor space. Unfortunately, this is the one thing you cannot alter once you’ve constructed your set, so make sure to plan ahead. Be sure to minimize clutter by removing any unnecessary furniture or equipment. This will make it easier to set up an effective background. However, whatever space you do have available can be still used to create great images (with a little bit of work).

Keep in mind that if your floor space is limited you will have significant problems getting full body shots of your models. You may only be able to work with head or bust shots. Being too close to the backdrop will cause unwanted light to spill over into your subject. (This happens because the camera sensor sees the background as a light source and overexposes the shot accordingly.)

White Photography BackdropsPhoto by Ryan Walsh

The Materials You Need

The width of your backdrop is of primary importance, especially when taking full body photographs. If the backdrop is not sized correctly, your subject may not properly fit within its bounds. When capturing images with an ill-proportioned backdrop, areas that are too far from or not illuminated by your lights can produce unwanted shadows; As well, lights that hit the backdrop at short distances can create overexposure. Ideally, you want to take your photo from a distance of 9 feet from the backdrop.

When you’re building your set, consider recruiting a friend or two to help with construction. Some types of backdrops can be unwieldy and are much easier to set up with help. If you don’t have help, there are ways to assemble your set without causing many headaches. Try setting up your stand flat on the floor, attach the backdrop, and then standing the entire apparatus upright. Seamless paper is a popular choice, as they are light weight and roll up for easy storage.

Limited Space and Macro Photography

With limited space and undersized backdrops, your setup may be more conducive to macros than it is to live subjects. White backdrops and tabletop studios are popular choices for macro photographers; they are easy to light and draw more attention to objects in the photograph, which reduces the consequences of insufficient lighting equipment and small backdrops. Macro photography is more forgiving with these types of conditions, and improper shadows/highlights are easier to touch up with a computer.

 White Photography Backdrops

Although macro photography against a white background tends to be more forgiving, you still need to consider the potential for light spilling out of the image or onto the subject. Pay close attention to where you place your key lighting equipment. Improper placement of your key lighting can result in underexposure or overexposure. While you may be able to compensate for exposure flaws in post-processing, it isn’t always possible to retrieve every pixel. The best way to get a great image against a white background is to take several test shots, adjust your lighting and subject, and check the resultant images before finalizing. Even with digital editing on your side, there’s no replacement for good lighting.

-Backdrop Express Photography Team

Interested in learning about colored backdrops? Check out our guide on How to Choose the Right Backdrop Color for Your Portrait!

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Comments (2)

  • Everardo Keeme Photography


    I love white backdrops and use them often. For color or black & white I love the ability to draw the viewer more into the subject and just the cleanliness of it.


  • Fonk


    Whereas all of the points here are valid, none of them seem specific to white backgrounds, so the title of the post is somewhat misleading.


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