On Location PhotographySubmitted by Michael on Thu, 2012-03-15 13:28

Photo backdrop for (n)on-location shoots

Just imagine, two young, wild and extremely creative hair stylists styling a couple of hair models in your studio. Cutting lots of hair, coloring, gluing and much more. Imagine all of that taking place in your studio... what a mess. No, no, let's better pack your mobile photo backdrop, go to their hair saloon and shoot awesome studio photos right there.



Lighting Diagram Photo Backdrop Shoot
The cotton cloth lighting setup


Many, many thanks to

  • Lutz and Ümit for Toni and Guy
  • Model Coco
  • Model Jennifer
  • Model Jennifer Hill

I am loving all of you!

I wish you good light!
-- Michael

Hard to get my thick German accent? Here's the transcript

Hey fellow photographer,

How is it going? I am Michael Zelbel.

When I was planning this particular episode I thought

I will be talking about an on-location photo shoot.

But when I now really think about it

then am talking about the opposite,

it is a non-location shoot.

I mean the shoot might have happened on location

but the photos look like they were taken in a  regular photo studio

on a neutral background.

I think it is very powerful if you can turn a location

into something like regular photo studio

with neutral back ground.

For instance for today's photo shoot

my cousins Lutz and Uemit

from Tony and guy asked me to shoot

some of their special hairdos and

they needed these photos to look like they

were taken in a photo studio.

Some of them isolated shoots on white back ground

others on a grey back ground. I said okay let's do

it in my photo studio but

for making this sort of hairdo they need tons of stuff.

They need things like washing basins for the hair.

Bottles of chemicals, a lot of tools.

So turning my photo studio into a hair saloon it's very hard for them.

So we thought the other way around:

How hard is it for me to turn their hair salon into my photo studio?

And this is actually very easy.

All I need is a mobile backdrop which I can set up on location

and what I use as such a mobile background is simply

large cotton clothes, 3 x 6 meter pieces of cotton

which are white or neutral grey and they are hanging

on a background rod which is on lightstands

Now this is very easy to set up, it is very easy to transport,

and I prefer these fabric backgrounds over paper on location.

Because paper is very hard to handle,

it is hard to transport, it is not flexible.

A lot of times on location they don't give me enough space.

If I then have a got  paper background which is wider

than the available space

then I cannot shoot with it.

Fabric is very flexible, it doesn't directly break when I handle it rough.

It doesn't break when there is something uneven on the ground.

It's very forgiving.

Let's have a look at the set up of today’s photo shoot

This was actually one of the cases where I came with a three meter background

but we had to bring it down to 2m and 30cn.

230 centimeters because we just didn't have enough space.

Now nevertheless we could set it up, we could place a model in the middle

and we were firing  2 speedlights into the background

both on half of their power.

So it is a lot of power and one of them was on a 180 cm light stand

so it is shooting form the top.

And the other one shooting up from the ground.

The model is lit from two sides with shoot through umbrellas

Speedlights are on one forth of their power

so it less power than the background lights

and the light is very flat and very even

it's ideal for beauty shoots or for something like hairdos

and when we turned to full body shoots

then we also usually use fill lights.

Which was a speedlight somewhere on the ground

we have a shoot through umbrella above it.

Or sometimes we just used a reflector

the camera was on f/8 and on ISO 160 in order to produce

as little noise as possible.

Because when you're shooting hair

then you want to see every detail in the hair.

Then you want hair and not noise.

Shutterspeed is on the 1/200s

to sync nicely with the speed lights. That's the setting.

When you now go and get something like this fabric background,

you can get expensive stuff.

For instance you can get the rod from Manfroto which is excellent

because it doesn't bend. But you can also get Ÿber-cheap stuff from ebay

I for instance in this shoot I used two background systems

which were really really cheap from ebay.

And they are working as well.

just do yourself a favor when you buy something

then go for an adjustable rod which you can adjust to

whatever space you have on location.

Because otherwise you will run into problems sooner or later.

One thing you should pay attention to is

when you are shooting on fabric, it's wrinkling very easily.

For instance when we have a look at the feet over here

they love to hide behind some folds so pay attention to that one.

Other than that it's very easy to do.

So try it out yourself.

And I wish you Good Light!

All: Cheese

Michael: Cheese cake

All: Cake

Michael: Okay, cool.

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