Power of a White Wall

If you are not in the studio but want professional studio looking shots, a white or light coloured wall can save your life.

Recently I was taking photos on location in Auckland and the idea was to get a series of portfolio pictures that looked like they were in a studio. I have a professional portable studio set up, but this does have a few drawbacks. Namely if you are using a material background and not a paper one, the material probably will have creases in it if you are transporting it around. A paper background is better although difficult to transport without creasing. These portable backgrounds take up quite a large area of space and some extra time to set up. But overall, portable studios can give you excellent, professional results and for not a large investment, they are really quite valuable.

On this shoot, we were on a bit of a tight time line as there was a lot to get through and it was already quite late. Because I was photographing for an actor’s portfolio and not a fashion portfolio, I would mostly be doing head and shoulders photographs. My first instinct was to look around for a white/light coloured wall and sure enough there was one at the location. I set up the Professional Photos lighting system and we were ready to begin taking photos within 20 minutes or so.


The results are exactly the same as if the photos were shot in a studio setting, yet there is no studio set up. This is a win, win situation and you can consistently get great results from the most unlikely of locations if you are willing to give it a try.


Some Tips if you want to give it a go

The white wall technique works best if you are not taking full body shots. Obviously once you get down to where the wall meets the floor you are going to get a seam in your photograph and also a colour/texture change. Sometimes this can work ok if the floor is interesting but more often than not it is better to either set up a portable studio or photograph in a studio. No easy substitute for the real thing when photographing full body photographs.

When photographing your model, pull them about 1.5 – 2 meters out from the wall for professional results. This way, if your lighting is correct you will avoid a few problems that can hinder your results. You will not have a shadow behind the model and if you are also lighting the wall, you will reduce light spill onto the side of your model’s face from the background lighting.

Sometimes you may want to push your model hard against a white background for specific effect. Some rules are made to be broken and I have found that you can get truly pleasing results from letting your model lean on the wall and lighting them with a nice broad frontal light. There is a hard shadow but the results can be edgy looking.

White Wall Second photo

So the best thing for you to do is to find a white wall and then grab your friends, pets, a model or even any object and give it a go. I once heard a quote from a famous photographer. The best way to get better at photography is to take photos. Lots of photos and I will add that you should look at your photos and ask what can you do to make them better. We are all continually learning! Good luck.

White Wall Third Photo

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