Portrait Background Technique

Discussion in 'Portraiture' started by cliveh, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    On one of my historical research forays, I came across a method used by early portraitists that I hadn’t heard of before. Apparently some of them use to use a material background mounted on board, that could be swung across the background behind the sitter during exposure. A sort of reverse panning effect if you like, with the objective being that the blurred textured background, would, in contrast, make the portrait, taken with their slower wet collodion plates appear relatively sharper. I haven’t ever tried this myself, but wondered how it may look when used with present day film.
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi cliveh

    i think it would work great, but only if you use ND filters to slow everything down and your exposures
    are more than 1 second .... the blur would be great i think ... ( and a LOT of fun ! ).
    i had a friend in college who asked me to do something similar with him
    but instead of a pendulum type swinging background his photograph was taken infront of a speeding train ...
    caberet voltaire would have loved it ! :smile:

    john
     
  3. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    I can't find the link at the moment (probably on strobist somewhere), but I remember reading a long article on how someone lit an action advertising shot for a new motorbike to be shot on LF chrome. The short version is:
    - huge continuous lights above, a big bank of fluorescents in a 4x8-foot softbox
    - bike tilted slightly, mannequin in leathers perched on top
    - handpainted "city lights" background, scrolls during exposure
    - fishing line wrapped around wheels, wheels rotate during exposure

    The net effect looked like a perfect pan-shot of a bike banking around a corner in front of a city at night.
     
  4. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Maybe from an older Dean Collins vid?

    I seem to remember a similar tutorial.
     
  5. F/1.4

    F/1.4 Member

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    I intern'd at a product studio, and was looking at some 8x10 transparencies they did in the 80's..they had one where there were 3 people. Two were in a convertible with hair and scarfs flying around, the background blurred like they were going 100mph, and another person on the back of the car hanging on for dear life like he was going to fly off. I couldn't believe what I was looking at. That's hard to do digitally, and to see it on 8x10 transparency!!

    They had the background on wheels, and during the exposure, they moved it across the frame to give it the effect.
     
  6. joenail

    joenail Member

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    Very interesting, I've never heard of that before. Will definitely be fun to play about with. Do you mean they blurred the background so as to lose the texture, or actually blur the background, like as Jnanian says, photographing in front of a moving train (obviously a bit more subtle though)?
     
  7. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    If you look at the work of Brian Griffin, you will see that he often used an adapted version of this technique using tungsten lighting for the backgrounds at slow speeds plus flash on the main subject. Great work.