Another special effects background is the translucent background that is used in videography or photography to disappear under accurate lighting. It is a perfect backdrop to use for theatrical scrim effects wherein the photographers or videographers control the appearance and disappearance of the subjects. These backgrounds can be illusion netting, gauze, scrims and so on. The fabric used for these backdrops can be translucent or transparent and diffusive or non-diffusive.
In the shot above I used a two light setup. The main light, camera left, is a Profoto D1 1,000Ws head inside of a 50 inch Westcott Apollo Softbox. While the idea of mixing what is considered to be a high-end strobe with a budget softbox my not sit right with some, I find the indirect lighting source from a Westcott or Photek to give a really nice and even light. The 60 inch Photek Softlighter, which I also enjoy using, may only cost $95 but gives a really nice, soft, and even light. If these lower cost indirect sources are good enough for the likes of Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz, then they are good enough for me. Clay Cook did an great article on these lighting sources, "Lighting Like Leibovitz," that you can find here.
Even shooting on location you can achieve some background lighting magic. The sun moves around throughout the day — think east to west as well as dawn to dusk. Analyze what time of the day the sun will project the light on your subject at the desired angle. Note: Hard light (direct sun) will create darker shadows while diffused light (cloudy overcast) will create softer shadows.
This was a great value for the price. The backdrops photograph well, the lights are great and the stand is good. The stand didn't come with instructions to put it together, but wasn't too difficult to figure out. The backdrops did come with some wrinkles from being folded for shipping, but I have them rolled up together on a wrapping paper roll and they seem to be much better (and I haven't even ironed them yet.) I would recommend this product, especially for beginners like myself.
This kind of fabric has an amazing quality that absorbs light from flashes around the studio. It enables you to have a pitch-black (if using black velour) portrait background that will not reflect the light from your flash or lighting equipment. This way, you don’t have to worry about the direction of light affecting the background because it leaves no detail.
We used this backdrop for an at-home photo shoot with a newborn. It worked great for us, the only downside is that it is folded when it comes and came with instructions to get the creases out adding some more work than just opening the package and taking pictures. Regardless, it flattened perfectly fine in about 10 minutes and we’ll be using it again so it was definitely worth it for the price and effort.
The main cause of this working is distance. Notice how close the subject is standing to the background and how far away the main light is from the subject. In this example, the subject is approximately 2 feet from the backdrop and the main light is approximately 4 feet from the subject. If you're new to this, I would recommend starting with your main light a bit further back to make it a little less challenging. You will see why in a second.
Great photography doesn’t always involve buying the most expensive camera on the market. Certainly, great cameras yield very good results. But even the best camera can’t perform to its best level without great lighting in the scene. Quite often, that great lighting will come from the sun with outdoor photos. However, when you have to shoot indoors, you need to provide your own lighting. Although you can produce this lighting with an on-camera flash unit, photography lighting sets provide the best quality of light. You also can make significant adjustments to the intensity and direction of light when using a set, giving you maximum control of the photo quality.