Monday, March 28, 2011

An Easy Way To Get A Pure White Background In Camera

Well, this is quite a shift from the previous post.  The March 25, 2011 post's picture is just about as dark as today's image is white.  To get the darkness in the older post the "Dave Hill" style was employed to create a moody, serious cast to the shot.  It would be tough to get lighter, airier than today's image.  We have a white flower on a white background, and yet there's detail throughout the white.  Click on the image to see an enlargement.  Only two things were done to modify the image in any way.  Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layers were used to bring up the green in the leaves and the wrap on the bottle's neck.  To bring up the Green a Yellow Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used.  Sounds a little strange, but in an RGB (Red, Green, Blue) color space Yellow has a huge effect on greens.  More so than trying to bring up a Green Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer.  The Gold was a little more iffy, so the little hand with the double arrows found to the left of the word Master was used to bring up the gold selectively.  Kind of a "happy accident" happened to get the deep blue for the Stroke (Select All [CTRL A] Edit/Stroke)around the image.  There was a serious blue fringe in a couple places.  The edges of the green had a noticeable, thin blue halo in spots.  Using the Magic Wand Tool (W) (almost never used) with Contiguous turned off picked up all the blue areas.  The selection was enlarged by a couple of pixels (Select/Modify/Expand) and brought up onto a separate Layer (CTRL J).  The result was, what looked like, some thin pencil lines of deep blue.  A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used in a slightly different way (adjusted Hue rather than Saturation) to convert the blue lines to green lines matching the leaves.  All that is fine and good, but to find out how the stark white background was done in the camera, hit the "read more".

The setup for today's image couldn't have been simpler. One light, one reflector. If we only have one light, how can we control any shadow from the one light? One method would be to go to checkout Lastolite's HiLite Illuminated White Background. They come in four sizes (?) and range in price from $275 for the 4.6' x 3.6' to $850 for the 7' x 8' size. Ouch! In either case. If you're going to do a lot of high key (as in make a career out of it) images it might be a good investment. If you shoot high key once in a blue moon as I do, maybe not.
My question was "do I have something similar I can use to get the same effect (or close to the same effect)? The easiest thing I could come up with is a softbox. In this case a softbox would be a far better choice than a shoot through umbrella. An umbrella would spill light around the room and contaminate the scene. A softbox would contain the light. I set up a 24" x 36" softbox with an SB 600 Nikon Speedlight defused as the source. Ckeck out Larry Becker's "Larry's Cheap Shots" for an easy way to hold the flash in the softbox or almost anything.

Now, the key to the whole thing. Get your camera off auto anything. Not Auto Mode, not Aperture Priority, not Program Mode, not Shutter Priority, just plain Manual. The reason for this is that you're going to shoot directly into the softbox. That's right. In a line you'll have the softbox with the subject directly in front of it, with the camera directly in front of the subject. The reason you have to use Manual Mode is that the camera will go crazy trying to get a grey. Take some test shots and dial in the right exposure for the subject you want to shoot. How does 1/200 at F 11 sound? You do have to stay with the sync speed of your particular camera (in the case of a Nikon, typically 1/250 second or less) and adjust the F-stop to nail the exposure. Neat trick, but don't let the camera do the work in this case. Be smarter than the camera.