Background woes

Backgrounds. We like to have control over them in portrait shoots, don’t we?

One question I often get is “why can I not light up my background? Nothing I do works!”

This is quite simple. To light up a background, you need a colored light (a gelled flash?) shining onto a dark background.

So if the background is already light, you cannot easily colour it. As in this shot of a kind volunteer in my Sheridan College course the other night:

My main two lights are spilling onto the background, lighting it up.

So how do you get the background darker?

  • Use a darker backdrop
  • Move the subject farther away from the backdrop
  • Move the light closer to the subject, so the relative distance changes.

Any combination of those three gives you something more like this picture of another kind volunteer (in this case I moved the light closer to the subject, and then turned it down correspondingly):

And now I can add my background light, a gelled speedlight in this case, set to 1.4 power, which a nice bright gel – Honl Photo Egg Yolk Yellow:

Simple once you know, n’est-ce-pas?


Interested in lighting? Consider some private coaching, where I explain all, you get to practice and take actual shots, and all will become clear. The December/January special is still on: 10% off during those months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *