5 Tips to Fix White Background Problems: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey

In this video I’ve got five top tips, to fix your white
background problems. Hello I’m Gavin Hoey and you’re watching
AdoramaTV brought to you by Adorama the camera stores that have got everything for us
photographers and today I’m talking about white backgrounds. Now over the years, in my small studio,
I’ve used white backgrounds for everything from portraits, to still life, to product photography. It
really is incredibly versatile and along the way, I’ve learned a few of its
pitfalls as well and that’s what I’m going to help you with today
in this video. Now it doesn’t matter whether you’re
using a vinyl background, a paper background, a material white background or
even a pop-up background of some sort they are all slightly different versions
of white, but that really won’t matter in this video because the techniques I’m
going to show you will work on all of them so, let’s get a model in.
Let’s get shooting! So you’ve got a white background of
whatever type. I’m using a Lastolite HiLite here
and you think ok well I’ve got a white background I’ve got a great model like Brian is
going to help me out with this video. Surely if i just take a picture that
background will come out white. Well let’s see.
I’ve got my little Speedlight up here I’ve got Brian sat just a little way
from the background and I take the shot and what I get is, well it is definitely
not white, it is a really really dark grey
background. Brian is correctly exposed because I’ve set
the lights before we started, but that background
isn’t white. Now that’s happening because of the
inverse square law and you can find out more about that over on the Adorama Learning Center. Let’s get Brian closer to the background if you want to hop up and move your
chair right up against the background, I’ll need to move the light so that we
have a similar distance, between light and subject. I’ll take the same shot again here we go. Now this time I get a lighter background
but it’s definitely not white. So if you want your backgrounds to come
out really white you need to light them and in this case that means adding an
extra light, actually it means adding extra two lights. I’ve got one already in the
HiLite on that side. I’m going to add a second street light
360 over onto this side. Now depending on your lighting setup and
your background, you may have your lights set completely
differently they may be coming in from the side and use flags or barn doors. There are so many ways that you can
actually light a white background but without light, you won’t get that pure white background
that you’re after. Ok I’ve already metered this out let’s take
a shot see how it looks, and as you can see, that white background
is really, really white. Adding those lights in, made a massive
difference and allows us to get the pure white that we are after. So you’ve got your background lights in
place and you take a picture. Well let’s do that see what happens. Here
we go and as you can see, things aren’t quite as good as they should be. Infact the picture has extremely low
contrast and the edges of Brian’s hair and his body, they are all burnt out. Well you’ve got to think about this as
being two separate exposures. You’ve got exposure from the key light
lighting Brian and then the exposure from the light on the background bouncing off the background, hitting the
back of Brian and they need to be balanced. Now you could do it by trial and error
but I like to use a flash meter because it just speeds the process along. So let’s start by metering off the,
the key light. That’s given me f5.6 and if I meter off the background
and I do that by getting my flash meter turning it around, so I’m metering the
light that’s coming off the background, hitting Brian and I’m getting f11. That’s two stops more light on the back
of Brian then the front. Now what I need is about the same light
front and back and I can adjust the background lights here, using the street
light remote control, to get me two stops lower. Ok let’s take a meter reading we’ll just
double check, yeah f5.6 we’re good to go. Here we go Getting a pure white background all the way across your image, of course,
is the goal with this setup, but things can happen to make that more difficult
than you think. For example, let’s take a shot like this,
here we go. Now when I look at that
picture I can see that one side is well it is white and the other side is nearly
white. I mean it is almost white. There’s definitely a hint of gray coming
in there. Now in this case it’s a pretty simple fix one of the lights has
accidentally turned itself off. That happens a lot when you have two
lights or more lighting your white background so it’s worth checking that
you’ve got your lights balanced correctly and actually switched on. However it’s also worth noting that it
may not be the end of the world and when we get to post processing in a couple of
steps time there is some things you can do there to help. Now what if you don’t have multiple
lights? What if you only have one light? Well if I get my light out from the
HiLite, if I were shooting Bryan with a single light lighting him and a
single spare light, I would put it in behind, like that and
then I would take the same shot but with this one light here.
Let’s do that, and as you can see I’ve
got light around the edge of Brian but the corners of this picture are gray. Does that matter? Well no because of
course I can fix that in Photoshop really quickly just by painting a bit of
white into those corners. The key when you’re doing a head shot, is to make sure
that the areas around your model, are white and if the corners
are a little bit gray, well maybe that doesn’t matter so much. Having the floor in your shot is one of
those things that sometimes you’ve just got to do, especially if your subject
like Brian here is sat on the floor you’ve got to have a white floor, but can
you get your white floor really white? Do you need your white floor to be
really white? Well at the moment I just got the the vinyl rolled out here let’s just take a picture and see how it
comes out ok Brian, here we go. and when I do that you can clearly see
that’s not great, on many reasons, that doesn’t work. Even though in the video the, the vinyl
floor probably looks whiter than the HiLite, at least it does to my eye
here, in the photo it’s completely the reverse that lit background much
brighter than the floor. So what’s the solution? Well the solution involves
a little piece of extra equipment. So the only thing I’ve changed is the
floor, which makes sense, because that’s the thing I want to be brighter and what
I’ve done is I’ve added a clear piece of perspex. Now you’re going to find all sorts
of different ways of doing this Im just using a very thin piece of perspex. You
might be able to find some white glossy sheeting, anything that has a reflective
surface and mildly reflective surface is going to bounce some light from the
background off the surface into your camera. I have to thank Zack Arias for
showing this tip many years ago and it’s something I’ve used ever since. Ok let’s take the same shot with the
perspex in place, and when I do that you can see straight
away the difference that makes. Yes there is still going to be some
Photoshop cleaning up to do but, by and large that reflection looks really good. Like a lot of photographers I shoot in
raw format and I edit in either Lightroom or Adobe camera raw from
Photoshop but when you bring your white background images into the software, you
might get a little bit of a surprise. Let’s have a look so here’s an image. I
know this background is white but if I hover over it and I read the values on
the histogram they’re going to be just down the bottom here, I can see my RGB values
are never a 100% I mean, they’re close, but at no point is this pure
white with a 100% RGB So what’s going on? Is this a mistake by the photographer? No,
because when I took the picture, I had my camera in the highlight preview mode so,
I could see on the LCD that the highlights are blinking away saying you’ve
blown them out this is actually what happens with the
software and once you know it’s going to happen, it’s not a problem and the fix, well the
fix is really easy, it just uses the histogram and a slider. so if I down to the histogram, I’m
just going to turn on the, the warning here which has a little white rectangle saying
you are now going to see any clipped highlights. Now to make sure my whites
are really white, I’m actually going to come down, not surprisingly to the white slider.
I’m just going to move it just a little bit to the right-hand side and as I do you
see how that spreads out and fills that background with white
just as I was expecting it should be. Now that works really well,
it’s really quick and its really simple, but of course what
happens if you haven’t quite got your background pure white? It didn’t quite
work and in fact, in this case what about the the floor which is not
quite white? Well the solution again very simple and
very quick this time it involves using the adjustment brush, so I’m going to get
the adjustment brush. I’m going to make sure everything is zeroed. Double click
the word effect if it’s not, and then I’m just going
to change the whites slider. Now depending how much your whites
are off, in this case quite a few of these are quite off. I’m just going to max it
out for speed. It’s gone all the way to maximum. I’m just
going to start painting here and you’ll see that my whites very quickly go white I can do the other side as well,
and we get a nice white reflection below like that, there we go. Now in this
case it works really well because of course, there’s no whites on the model.
He’s not wearing any white clothing and he hasn’t got blond hair for example.
Things like that can make this operation a little bit more tricky.
If that’s the case you may need to do it inside a Photoshop if you need to fix it or you
can try turning on the auto mask function here
inside of Lightroom as well. Ok, so that works really well but what
about the outer areas of this picture? The areas around here where you can see
my studio, now of course what we could do is cropped this down but what I’m going
to do is actually come back to the adjustment brush, I’ll make a new brush and this time I’m
going to take the exposure and put it all the way to maximum plus 4 and the
highlights and the shadows and the whites and the blacks.
Basically everything to maximum other than contrast and now I
can just paint around here, now the auto mask by the way is turned off I should
point that out but I can basically over expose all these areas to
get that nice and bright and clean and white and there we go. That works really well.
If I’ve made any little mistakes, I can see I have there let’s just come down here, choose the
erase option and we just erase that bit back in. There you go, and there it is my beautiful white
background image completed. Now at this point is worth reminding you that there
are no rights or wrongs in photography it’s an art form after all, so the mistakes
that I’ve been talking about here can be somebody else’s perfect picture. So don’t let that put you off however, if
you want a really white background hopefully you found these tips useful
and of course if you want to see more tips myself and the other amazing
presenters right here in AdoramaTV you need to be clicking on that subscribe
button over there. I’m Gavin Hoey thanks for watching.

100 Replies to “5 Tips to Fix White Background Problems: Take and Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey”

  1. Hey Gavin – great video, thanks for sharing. What remote trigger are you using on the Olympus? Is it capable of TTL and HSS? Big thanks!

  2. Hi Gavin, where did you get your perspex sheet from and what size did you use?
    I am getting silly prices for a 3 meter by 2 meter sheet coming in at £250!

  3. I'm trying to figure out how to not have wrinkles in my background. I have a white material… I also have a thicker black material that has creases in it that just won't go away. Not sure what to do.

  4. I m planning to Upgrade Photography kit and my Studio Equipment… I have Currently Nikon D90, D200,D750 cameras along with 2.8 nikon 18.55mm, 70.300mm, 50mm prime as well as i have ELINCHROM fx 400r1 lights .I want to shoot Indoor & outdoor portraits , Fashion , newborn baby ,wedding, Product shoots & Events Photos so that Please Suggest me New Canon Camera kit with different lenses , Speed lights and ELINCHROM studio light, steady cam, tripods, monopods, convertible compact crane & Slider rail

  5. I love your videos Gavin. This one was especially helpful. I assume a similar post process will work with a black background. Great stuff!

  6. Thank you for all the great tips to have really good white background. !!You are awesome and a great teache!!. can you write the name of the paper that you used to reflect the light on the floor ? thanks.

  7. What is then name of the piece you added to the floor for reflections (Couldn't really hear the name)? And where can it be purchased?

  8. What brush it this that you used to make the dark area to a bright white? Please explain because I am still learning Photoshop and this is a awesome tips.

  9. Excellent info! I used it last night for a black background and the result is stunning! Love your informative tuts, Gavin!! keep'em coming!

  10. Thank you, Gavin, your videos are always brilliantly informative, and very helpful. Have you done a video on how to light portraits in a confined space? I have very limited space available, but would love to expand my skillset. Again, thank you for your hard work. 🙂

  11. Great tutorial. Thanks. What version of Lightroom are you using? I am using LR 5 and my adjustment brush doesn't include sliders for whites and blacks. Thanks.

  12. Hi Gavin, great video I too use Olympus EM5mkii and EM1mk1 but find the results very noisy and grainy even at base iso and wondered where am going wrong
    best regards

  13. great video ! When I slide the whites,.. the part of the face is also going to be too white.. can I erase this ? or do you have also an video how to fix this in photoshop?

  14. Gavin. Great great video. Read through a couple of my Amhearst photo books to set up some a nice white background but, luckily, I stumbled on your video. Straightforward and clear. Thanks tons!!! The lightroom fixes are great….just a few clicks in Camera Raw or Lightroom and it is done. I've always done it in Photoshop using layers: setting a white background then a mask. This is by far faster and more efficient. Love your personality and presentation, and the fact that at the end, you said that the mistakes done could be another photographers goal. BTW..Note to viewers: .perspex…is acrylic sheets found at local Home Depot from $24 to $90. I do animal photography so will purchase just two small sheets and back them up.

  15. no bullshit talking just right on the point, very elaborative no what if, what if and encouraging, I like youtuber who does it like that, I learned a lot from you, sir, keep up the good work and thank u for sharing this stuff for free.

  16. excellent video. i never thought to blow out all the stand and things i normally just cropped..

  17. I have a canon eos and would like to get the rapidbox but what else do I need? You have something connected to your computer and you have the tester thingy too. I want to be able to set up a light and it take a photo at the same time.

  18. My friend you just answered all my questions in one video of 12 minutes. I don't know I got here but I am so grateful I did. Thank you so much for your tutorial.

  19. Didn't understand the histogram trick at about 9:48, what tool you selected and how white background turns red? you also selected adjustment brush and by blowing out highlights slider you again painted and floor turns red as well, how? please somebody or Gavin himself explain.

  20. What am I doing wrong, I have an image I am trying to use the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom 5 to remove distracting background and make clear white but the image just looks terrible and grainy and still has part of the background still?

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  22. Great video. The LR fix for the border was so obvious, but had never occurred to me until I saw you do it. Thanks!

  23. Sooo,, the light that you put behind the backdrop,, was it on or off? To get the white backdrop?

  24. This tutorial is a life saver. I wished I had found you before. I wasted so many hours trying to make background white and your instructions are soooooo easy and my work is done so quick. You are the best.

  25. Hi Gavin. Need your expert advice. I take shots on pure white with my camera's (7D Mark II) highlight warning turned on. When I shoot, the background is pure white/blown out, but when I put the same image in LR or PS 2018 CC, the bg isn't white, if I turn up the whites, the products' color is effected. Have to use selection/pen tool to separate my product from the bg and pull the whites up all the way. I've recently turned to catalog white product photography but have general photography experience of 6 years almost. Now I have 500-700 products to shoot and this is really hindering my workflow. I use single speedlite setup with octa from top. Any tips please?

  26. Hello, first to express my gratitude to your video lessons, they are super thank you very much, have a question? to you: what is it called or what is put off on the floor to get the model, stack, some plastic? thanks in advance.

  27. Great tutorial. The bit at the end is very handy when the setup isn't quite big enough – like when doing product shots of various sizes in a light tent. Will defo use this technique!

  28. Other newbies, (I'm one) if like me you recon this is really good; "hit that little bell so you get email advises. I learned a lot as ever (kinda reinforced a lot too 🙂

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