"Affordable" Background lighting solution?

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by johnmarkpainter, May 4, 2004.

  1. OK

    I now have Three Monolights. I am interested in having a nice even lighting setup to have
    clean white backgrounds. Sometimes I can get by with one or two Monolights on the
    background. Often, I end up with uneven spots that could easily be taken care of with the
    addition of one or two more lights.

    It doesn't seem like a good idea to just keep on buying Monolights for that use does it? Is
    there a cheap no-frills Pack & Head system that I could put 4 to six heads on the
    background? I wouldn't even need to be able to control the head's power levels separately.
    Just an even wash on white seamless.

    I recently watched the Avedon documentary where he had 3 small umbrellas per side on
    his background and usually just one light on foreground.

    Two more monolights will cost me $500. I would prefer to be able to use at least two of
    my existing lights for Front lighting as I am doing alot of "Wall of Light" stuff right now.


  2. If you just want to light a white background to make it pure white, a Morris AC slave (or a few of them) will do that job very cheaply.
    About $60.00 for the light, which plugs into a standard
    household lightbulb socket. A hardware store utility light
    fixture will hold it. You won't get modelling lights, nor
    will you get power adjustability, but you probably don't
    need either of these for the job in question.
    A simple inexpensive pack/head system is obviously much
    nicer in many ways, but you asked for "affordable"...
  3. There are various solutions to this, including complex and expensive multiple lights but the simplest and cheapest way is to use a single light that illuminates the background evenly.

    Some manufacturers (Elinchrom for example) supply background reflectors, which are angled reflectors that provide fairly even illumination even though the reflector is at an angle to the background. The trick is to over-expose the background, which will produce pure white and which will even-out any patchy lighting.
    The only problem with this method is that by overexposing the background you will also bounce light back on to your subject, so your subject will have to be far enough away from the background for the reflected light to not degrade the edges of the image. This method is probably the best way for you, provided that you have at least 12' of space between subject and background and provided that you have enough lighting power to overexpose the background by a stop or 2

    Hope this helps
  4. I use small flash units,slaved fired & hidden by the subject.This shot reveals the light and its effect.
  5. John-- By "clean white backgrounds" are you talking about simple even lighting, or the kind of background where there is basically just zone 9 all across it, and it kind of looks like it's glowing?

    For that second, all you need is a single light just out of camera range directly above the subject's head (and I am also assuming that you have an acutal sheet of white background paper behing him). Pull the paper out in a "cyc", and position the light so that it will be roughly at the focal point of the cyc. Point the light down at about 45 deg. angle or whatever it takes to get the background even. To make sure everything stays pure white, I like to set the background exposure a stop up from the main exposure.

    Depending on the distance from the background to the light, you'll probably need a 50 deg. reflector or so. You can try a bare bulb if you can put in a scrim that will keep it off your subject's head.

    In my studio I have bare rafters and a special mount that allows me to screw a head into exactly the place I need it. Otherwise, you will need to use a boom. Also, much of the time the main lights will help a great deal in filling out the shadows. Three lights should be sufficient if used properly.

    Note that you may have problems with the light reflected off the background and bleeding into the dark areas of the subject with this technique. You can eliminate that by using the very best lenses possible and the tightest compendium shade you can get away with. -Bill C.
  6. Good tips from all.....

    Lately I have been backing up and doing wider portraiture. This means I have to keep a
    larger area evenly lighted (12' Seamless with most of it in frame)... Can't easily get it with
    one background light.

    I will have to try hanging it high from a boom and pointing down. I have had a hard time
    keeping the lower areas of the background white.

    I have also considered hanging a little Truss from my ceiling. It would be nice to help
    keep my floors clear.


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