≡ Menu

Cheap white portrait background


Most companies I work for when shooting portraits of their employees tend to like white background. Maybe because it is easy to use if they all have the same white background all the time.

When I set up a small studio on location at their office, there is often a white wall I can use as background, or a white door, or a projection screen. Bringing a large roll of background paper is something I try to avoid if I can.

But, sometimes you have to use a yellow room.

Last month, I found myself in a conference room whitout any white walls, white door or anything white. I had to cover up large parts of the room with black textile just to be sure that the yellow/beige walls didn’t tint all the portrait too much.

This was especially important as this was just one office out of fifteen I worked in for this client, and the portraits had to look the same, regardless of where they were taken.


But, it just took a little time to create a white background (at least white enough to make it so much easier in post production when I made the background completely white).

Copy paper + tape = white background

A roll of office tape, some copy paper borrowed from their printer room and a few minutes taping them to the wall around where the heads would be, covering the whole wall was not necessary.

white-background-detail-blonde-hairMost of the times when clients wants portraits (or anything else for that matter) on white background, it is easier and much fast to make the background white enough and fix it later in Photoshop.

Trying to get the background completely blown out in a small conference room will probably ruin the portrait with all the light bouncing around, but if the area on the background around the hair is not white enough, the masking will be really hard and probably produce a result that looks bad with dark areas behind blonde hair.

In this case, the people I took portraits of had to stand not even one meter from the background, so it was hard to light the background separately.

But, with a softbox and some white paper, it made the work in Photoshop so much easier.

Trying to make a yellow/beige background white behind blonde hair is not fun, and this little trick helped a lot.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Henrik Petersen October 4, 2011, 11:14

    Hi Stefan!
    For your info I’m a big fan of your blog, with lots of usefull post about lightning!
    I can see your issue about the big white roll of paper, and it’s not handy at all to carry around.
    But my question is about the post-production when you say that you don’t use a sofbox to blow out the white background, how to you fix it in photoshop?
    Do you make a selection around the person and use curves to blow out the background? What about the selection, it’s not easy to make a nice selection(espacialy not with the woman with the curly hair)..

    Henrik (DK)

  • Stefan Tell October 4, 2011, 13:06

    I might have been a little tired when I wrote that post, if you found it confusing. I did use a softbox for the rim/background light. The medium softbox is what lights up the background/white sheets of paper.

    The effect of the medium softbox camera right behind the “model” is to light the background enough around the head/hair so making the whole background will be easier in Photoshop.

    I usually mask around the person with the Quick Selection Tool and add a layer filled with white (with that mask). After that, I refines the mask so the edges feels a little softer and smoother. And finally, some more detail work around the hair.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: