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10 Tips for Shooting Video on a White Seamless

Caleb Ward

Shooting on a seamless white background is an incredibly popular way to draw attention to your subject while minimizing distractions. There are a number of different steps you can take to get this look, so we’ve compiled our 10 favorite tips for creating the popular Apple style look.

This spoof on the Apple iWatch product video shows off this style.

1. Use paper not a canvas.

A common mistake among new photographers and videographers is to use a cloth canvas when trying to get the “seamless” look. Unfortunately cloth tends to crease up and it can be very difficult to get all the wrinkles out. Instead, try using a paper backdrop instead. Paper is much easier to keep wrinkle-free and it can be easily rolled back up and stored. You can pick up a 107 inch white paper roll for $45 at B&H.

Photo from Ray Dobbins

2. Light your subject and background separately.

If you want to get a 100% seamless white background you need to think of your lighting in two different stages: the background and the subject. By separating the lights used on your subject and your background you can minimize shadows and hotspots in your image. This does of course require you to use (at least) two separate lights to light your scene, but the added control is well worth it.

3. Distance your subject from the backdrop.

By separating the distance between your subject and your background you make it easier to minimize falloff from different light sources. If you think about it, the background works like a giant white reflector so the more space you put between your subject and the backdrop the less light is going to bounce off that reflector and hit your subject. Having a great distance between your subject and the background also minimizes your risk of having shadows hit your backdrop.

4. Use a light meter for the background.

When working with with a seamless backdrop a light meter can really come in handy. One trick is to properly expose the background then move your aperture 1.5 stops higher to make it blown out. Overexpose it and you run the risk of creating white feather edges around your subject.

6. Use the histogram AND your eyes.

Histograms may be a quick useful tool but there is no alternative to simply using your eyes to judge the scene. A histogram can’t tell you if your scene is evenly lit.

7. Flag your lights.

Spill suppression is incredibly important when working with a seamless background. You don’t want the light hitting your subject to hit your background and vice-versa, this is where flags come into play. By flagging light you can control the direction of a light giving you much more control over the scene. If you’re short on professional flagging equipment, a few clamps, light stand, and some white poster board will do the trick. Flagging light away from your lens is also a great way to prevent any unwanted lens flares.

8. Use a production monitor with exposure peaking.

A production monitor is a worthwhile investment, as they can accurately tell you if your background is consistently lit. Recording tools such as the Ninja Atmos also have exposure peaking and focus peaking built-in.

The Ninja Atomos shows exposure peaking in the form of zebra stripes on the right.

9. Use diffused light on your subject.

To get the ‘Apple’ look you will want your subject softly lit. This will mean using at least 3 lights, 1 for your background and 2 for your subject.

10. Find a look you want to emulate.

Whether it’s the ‘Apple’ look (or another type of lighting setup) you can figure out light placement by looking at the eyes of the subject and study the set up. By examining the eyes of the subject below we can tell that this photographer likely used an Octobox above and to the right of the subject and a large reflector below and slightly to the left of the subject.

Over at DVXUser, contributor Bruce Southerland makes a guess as to exactly how the Apple videos are lit:

In the Apple spots, the actors are lit with a soft source from high & a little right-just enough to give a little shadow to the opposite side of the face & under the chin. They probably use some fill, based on the density of the shadows on the neck (maybe just the white floor), but they do not use a reflector down low.

In the close ups, it looks as though they are using light modifiers to reduce/diffuse the amount of reflections on the left & right edges of the face(the reflections are very minimal). It also looks as though they controlled the fill light & reflections to have a nice medium shadow side to the face.  

It’s best to approach this type of light setup with patience and willingness to experiment! Any tips you can share on getting the Apple look? Share in the comments below!