How to get a white back ground with color film?

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by mark, Aug 7, 2005.

  1. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    I want to shoot some fruit. How do i light the back so it is totally white-read blown out-but keep the fruit color saturated.

    I will be using velvia or Provia F in 4x5. I don't even know where to begin.

    Would aiming a soft box at the camera and having a flash on camera work? I can't find an example of what I want as an example.
     
  2. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,005
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Light the background so that it meters at least 2stops over exposed and slightly under expose the scene so that the saturation will be maxed.
     
  3. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Darn it! That was too simple. Thanks.
     
  4. wr1000

    wr1000 Member

    Messages:
    2
    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Be sure that you have a good lens shade on, too, as "high key" work tends to promote lens flare, which can reduce the color depth in the image.
     
  5. John Cook

    John Cook Member

    Messages:
    123
    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusett
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Mark, after forty years as a studio (film) photographer I can tell you that it can't be done. At least not in the camera.

    The bright background light bounces around inside the camera, even with the best lens shade, milking-out (fogging) the image saturation. If you like a hazy, washed-out look then go for it.

    A secondary problem is that the background light partially wraps around (diffracts) the silhouette of the subject, causing a fuzzy edge. I tried for years to photograph blue S&W handguns against a pure white background and could never achieve a sharp silhouette.

    Anything like this you may have seen in print is the result of adding a silhouette "mask" in the lithography preparation progress to "drop out" the background and make the product "float". Common printing terms for common procedures.

    In my very early years when all products were shot on 8x10 b&w and contact printed, the negatives were often painted with Kodak Red Opaque to get this effect. Nobody is good enough to do this to small format and then enlarge it.

    Plan B is to do it with some modern digital method, like Photoshop in post-production. But not in the camera. I don't do digital so am no help in that department.
     
  6. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,005
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    With all due respect to John's experience. Do some tests and see for yourself. The results may meet your expectations. I have had very good results lighting the background separate from the subject and achieving or coming close to the look I think you are after.

    I will admit that the background can bloom into the subject silhouette, the background will effect the subject lighting (especially where the background is close to the subject) and the more background in the frame the more it will be like shooting into a light.

    Having said all that, I will repeat that I have had good results. There is almost always a balancing act involved when shooting. You may or may not need to adjust your expectations as much as you will need to adjust your setup. I can assure you though, you gain nothing by not trying. I would also recommend shooting lots of polaroids and taking notes on the polaroids.

    If I can find the time I will try to dig up some flower shots I have taken in this manner as well as model shots.
     
  7. Stan. L-B

    Stan. L-B Member

    Messages:
    342
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2004
    Location:
    London & Fri
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Hello Mark.
    My method may well go against the grain so to speak but, I suggest you consider using nothing but ambient light with a reflector. Take a duplex light reading on the subject matter and the backdrop and expose to have the backdrop about one to two stops over. I prefer overcast ambient lighting which is so kind and in keeping with these type of subjects. All my pictures on this site are ambient daylight. Good fortune, Stan. L-B
     
  8. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,058
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2004
    Location:
    Montgomery,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Mark,
    The color(?) of the white background may also have some effect.
    If you'e using paper, a "super white" will have brightners added which will give a blue cast with color film. Same with some white painted walls.
     
  9. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

    Messages:
    1,723
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Location:
    Colorfull, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Should pay attention to what John Cook says, he is absolutely correct and dead nuts on with his statements. Hand cut masks of amber or rubylith, floride, Chinese White, opaque, corcein scarlet were the norm. Most often cut on the print to make a mask for the halftone to be dropped in by the stripper. I frequently hand cut amberlith masks directly on the 8X10 ground glass, the mask then placed in register with the negative and contact printed. The mask was always used on the base side of the film to slightly diffuse the mask edges when printed. The same principal as making a "spread" mask.

    Working with "high key" is seldom very good as the white background unless 30 feet or so behind the subject will indeed wash out or give an eroded effect to your subjects edges. Ask Peter Gowland about his photos of Anita EKberg and others of his "high key" images. His studio was totally designed to do the "high key" images but he never quite could get a pure white and a good black with out the wrap of light creating edge erosion. Ansel and his egg on the white plate had to accept the gray. I go with John Cook on this one!
     
  10. MenacingTourist

    MenacingTourist Member

    Messages:
    895
    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2004
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I should look closer at my books for the edge erosion thing, but how did Avedon do this?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 9, 2005
  11. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,005
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Mark,
    It can't be done.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    I see what you mean, Callow. A truely nice looking failure you have there. I hope I fail as bad as you did.
     
  13. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

    Messages:
    1,723
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Location:
    Colorfull, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Mrcallow, Your example shows very well what Mr. Cook and I were saying!
    Of course if this image of yours is acceptable to you and Mark it is fine with me. On the other hand I will publically state it is a grotesque representation of a good photographic image. It would fit well in the "experimental" gallery!
    In my very humble opinion!!!!!!!!

    Avadon and others did considerable manipulation to get their final display prints. It just wasn't done in the camera!

    Enuff said on this one, it is obvious that you will never accept the fact, so do it your way. The entire field of commercial photography and the methods and techniques used by the printing industry are wrong. :smile:
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Poco

    Poco Member

    Messages:
    653
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Boy, you're tough, Charles! If mrcallow's shot shows background bleed, I sure as heck can't see it.
     
  16. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    8,005
    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2003
    Location:
    Milan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My blacks could be blacker, my white is not pure.

    Grotesque?
     
  17. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Such a strong statement with nothing to back it up. What the hell are you talking about? Grotesque? If there is bleed I do not see it. Where is it? What could have been done differently? Please show us an example of how it should look when done with your methods. I would not have asked the question if I did not want to learn. Callow presented an example of what he does and his methods. As a visual learner, so far, his example is the only meaningful post presented in this thread. The rest is a bunch of words I sort of understand. With no example I have a hard time understanding.
     
  18. climbabout

    climbabout Member

    Messages:
    225
    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2005
    Location:
    Fairfield Co
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    White backround with color film

    Tha late Dean Collins taught me this simple trick over 20 years ago. It involves setting the lighting and exposure on your subject with an incident meter and then lighting the backround until its reflective reading is 2-1/2 stops brighter than the subjects incident reading. Any less and the background will be muddy and any higher and you will get a fuzzy outline on the subject due to too much light reflecting off the backround. Works every time.
     
  19. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    SO you do not use the dome right? Do you expose for the subject, or do you expose for the background and then up it 2.5 stops? Probably a dumb question but I am new at this.
     
  20. gr82bart

    gr82bart Member

    Messages:
    5,271
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Mark,

    You DO use the dome on the meter. first meter for your subject with the main light used to light up the subject. Set your background lights 1.5 to 2 stops over as MrCallow wrote. Meter whatever other fill lights you will be having - about 0.5 to 1 stop less. Do a check with Polaroid.

    To avoid light spill, you can move the subject away from the background itself. You can use the reflective meter, as indicated for the background, but the inceident metering has always worked for me. Although, I am going to try that trick the next time.

    BTW I believe this technique is called "high-key" if you want to do any more searching on the subject.

    Regards, Art.
    PS Attached is model Alysia shot in high key. She'll be one of the models I'll be shooting just before the APUG Conference in Toronto. So if you register for the conference, you are welcome to 'assist' me that day.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 12, 2005
  21. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,261
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Thanks Art, it makes sense now. I won't be able to make it to the conference, but thanks for the offer.
     
  22. climbabout

    climbabout Member

    Messages:
    225
    Joined:
    Aug 11, 2005
    Location:
    Fairfield Co
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Let me elaborate on my earlier post - take an incident reading of the light falling on your subject (with the dome on your meter) - this becomes your exposure. Then take a reflective reading(with a spot meter or with the dome off if your meter can read reflective) off the background - when the backround reading is 2-1/2 stops reflective higher than your incident suject reading then the backround will be white. The reason you take a reflective reading off of the background instead of an incident reading is that an incident meter only measure the light falling on an object - so it is useless for predicting precise tonalities - the reflective meter measures the light being returned by the backround enabling you to predict the final tonality with precision. This technique allows you to create a white backround whether you are shooting against a white wall, a gray wall, a black wall or any tonality in between. The best teacher of lighting principles was the late Dean Collins and his finelight venture back in the mid 80's - lots of his videos are still available as well as some of his finelight printed matter - I would suggest these publications highly. Hope this helps.
    Climbabout
     
  23. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

    Messages:
    545
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2005
    Location:
    Salt Lake Ci
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Gentelmen,

    I am going to describe the technique I use all day, every day, for lighting pure white backgrounds with MINIMAL blooming, edge fringing and very little lens flare. What follows is very simple, but does take a little work. This is a discussion of how I use this technique, largely with digital cameras, but the philosophy and technique is 100% identical to using film of any type.

    I light small products daily and they have to be knocked out as close to 100% as possible in the camera. The tool I use the most, and what facilitates shooting products knocked out on white is called a shooting table. There are many types of shooting tables, made by a handful of different manufacturers, but the one I use is made by Manfrotto and sold by Bogen in the USA.

    They have two different sizes, and I shoot on both. I shoot very small items like jewelry on the small one, and items like shoes, electronics, handbags, neckties, etc. on the larger size.

    Here is a link to the Manfrotto site that shows the larger table:

    http://www.bogenimaging.us/product/templates/itemalone.php3?itemid=117

    Here is the smaller of the two:

    http://www.bogenimaging.us/product/templates/itemalone.php3?itemid=118

    The transluscent table is half of the battle. The other half is to light the product.

    The idea is to turn the entire piece of plexiglass into one large light source. I place one strobe directly under the bottom of the table pointing upwards, with the broadest reflector possible (and also bare bulb works well). I also place two strobes in the back of the table about 1 1/2 feet apart. I angle them slightly towards the wall I have the table up against.

    I cover the wall with silver photographic foil so that the light reflected off of the wall does not have a color bias. Even the whitest paint has whiteners and brighteners in it which will render blue (as others have mentioned).

    It is very much like tuning an instrument to get the light from below and the light from behind to match in intensity. A spot meter would work well to make sure you are getting even coverage. A polaroid of the table exposure once you get close would also tell you how evenly you've lit it.

    Now that you have the background lit, you can place your object on the table and light it. You will notice that lighting the object will also cause an increase in the brightness of the table, because you are bouncing light off of it as well as passing light through it now. You may find it necessary to back the lights down a bit that are lighting the table.

    Like I said, this is almost exactly like tuning an instrument. Once you get the hang of it though, you will be able to create almost perfect knock-outs without using any digital post-production.

    IF (and this is a big IF since this is the APUG site), you wanted to you could do your proofing with a digital camera. It would make the tuning process much quicker, and you would be able to then switch to film if you chose.

    Good luck!
     
  24. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

    Messages:
    1,723
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Location:
    Colorfull, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Michael,
    The system you have described here is exactly the same way we did it back in the 1950's. We still had to go with a mask to create the knock out in the stripping department. As I described before and was taken to task for it, it simply was not possible to eliminate the eroded edge of the subject. I believe that we were just as skillful in tuning light then as you are today! We
    could get close, but not close unough. According to clients and the printing processes available at that time. The example shown that was supposed to exhibit a pure paper white ground was indeed nearly white, but the color image so distorted that it was totally unacceptable by professional standards. If the distorted in my mind near florescent unnatural greens and color are the results the photographer planed and wanted then I back away and say so be it. I will accept the image as a very poor illustration of technique and move on. Today with in the printing business there are many miracles that did not exsist when I was part of it.

    My question now is why waste time to tune light, when you can shoot on blue screen, yellow screen, or green screen. Then knock out the ground to any color including white with a few punches on the computer. I was at ILM when the first StarWars movie and Battle Star Galactica
    were released. Blue screen was king, with video and film and pretty much ruled the roost. Today with CGI (computer generated images) anything can be done with out hard models. A simple chromogenic ground and digital camera can do the same thing as our light tuning in a snap of the fingers.


    Michael your post is a good one and the technique you describe are exactly as were used years ago and will get you close, but close back then was not good enough! a mechanical knock out was and in many cases still used today!

    I am sure that I will again be chastised for my statements here, but I am standing by this and my earlier comments! L.F.B.

    Charlie
     
  25. Kimberly Anderson

    Kimberly Anderson Member

    Messages:
    545
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2005
    Location:
    Salt Lake Ci
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Charlie,

    Then you should stand by them. Your experience rules supreme in your kingdom (no pun intended...well, ok, a little pun intended). :wink:

    I shoot on white and not blue screen beause I am not familiar with blue screen technology and have not studied it enough to be comfortable using it in the studio.

    What I do know though, is that the commercial shooting I do is all digital, and the lights I have tuned on my shooting table represent a pure white, or nearly pure white at tonal values of 253-255. When I have my shooting table tuned to be able to shoot in that matter, I do not feel that it is necessary to do any more mechanical stripping. I guess on film a pure white is different than in the digital realm where pure white is equal to no data. It is interesting to think of it that way, and it may explain the difference between a white background on film, which contains much data and information in the film, and the color white in the digital realm, which contains no data, or the R,G and B channels are at 0 (zero).

    I do believe that your tuning skills back when you were shooting were superb. I didn't mean to imply that skills today are superior.

    I know that when I light items the way I described, using the tools I described, I can get very crisp edges with little to no blooming.

    On very rare occasions we will have the perfect product that needs little retouching, but in all cases the images are looked at in Photoshop, a highlight chosen, and any slight background tone is dodged out (not erased).

    As for needing a mechanical knock-out, has that term been superceded by a digital knock-out? I haven't seen many pieces of ruby-lith lately (but have worked with it back in the days when I was shooting my own half-tones).

    I don't think it is a waste of time to tune the light. I know that I shoot with other photographers who don't take the time to tune their lights, and it shows in their work.

    I think the tendency to get sloppy and ignore basic fundamentals of lighting is very prevalent today with the miracles of technology. If you are sloppy with the very important task of lighting something, then your sloppiness will certainly carry through to other areas of your work.

    The understanding of today's technology and the possibilities it creates is definitely enhanced when you have an understanding of the generation prior.

    And as for being chastized or taken to task for your comments, heaven forbid! You have valid experience to share, and I'm glad you did.

    Here's a semi-knock-out I did on Wednesday...

    http://images.overstock.com/f/102/3117/8h/www.overstock.com/images/products/L431263.jpg

    Shot on foam-cor with one light...but needed no retouching. The whites were white, and the shadows were hard. I got tired of knocking out EVERYTHING and so I shot a bunch of sunglasses like this. The shots were a hit, and now I've swayed those art directors in charge to think outside of knocking out every single shot.
     
  26. Smudger

    Smudger Member

    Messages:
    276
    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2004
    Location:
    Dunedin,New
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My 2 cents..

    Well, I'm part of the "yes it can" camp. For some years I photographed bottled products from wineries and distillers, all with plain white backgrounds, on b/w and colour trans.
    Setup was : softbox to one side, white reflector fill other side, background lit by flash head from below.
    Incident reading for subject, reflected reading to overexpose white background about 2-2.5 f.
    Usually with 105 Makro-Planar on Hassy.
    There was no budget for clear cutting or other afterwork : effect had to be achieved in camera.
    It's like the bumblebee - aerodynamics declare it can't fly , but it does.