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Guide to photography background lighting

Photography background lighting is used to illuminate backdrops. It offers separation between the subject and background and gives a 3-dimensional depth to the shots. In this article, we will explain in more depth the following aspects.

  • Background light photography definition
  • Is it necessary for all types of photography?
  • What light to use for illuminating the backdrop?
  • How to set up background lighting in photography?

What is background lighting in photography?

As the name suggests, it is used to illuminate the background of a photo shooting set. It separates the subject from the background and adds a sense of depth to the images.

This is usually included in a four-point lighting setup, which is the same as the three-point setup with an addition of background illumination. The backdrop light is often positioned directly behind the subject and points to the backdrop.

Do you need background lighting in studio photography?

This depends on the effects you want to create in the photos. As aforementioned, background light for photography is a good addition to your setup if you need a separation between the subject and background and want a 3D sense. However, it is not suitable for the following scenarios.

If the background is white or very light in color, you may not need photography background lighting. This is because that the other lights, Key and Fill, may bounce around enough uncontrolled light spread to illuminate the backdrop sufficiently to create separation. When the light sources are large, unmodified, and somewhat distant from the background, this is especially obvious.

If you want to make an odd low-key shot, you won’t need portrait photography background light to establish any separation in this scenario. Instead, it is better to make the subject's edges blend into the darkness of the black background.

If you wish to create a glittering, shining edge around the subject using a strong, unmodified Rim Light, it is advised to avoid using background lighting. The reason is that it will reduce the highlight caused by rim light.

Which light to use for photography background lighting?

This also depends on your needs. Strobes give a great broad wash to the background illumination. They are very powerful in creating a perfectly white background. This is quite useful in high-key photography.

Continuous light is also a good option to illuminate the backdrop. We highly recommend using an RGB LED light. You can place it at any angle and any height and point it to the backdrop. The “what you see is what you get” effect makes it simple to adjust lighting for perfect photos. In addition, using RGB lights for background gives you a big advantage that other types cannot get. That is, you can use it to change background colors as you like.

Building up a collection of diverse color backdrops can be time-consuming and necessitates extra storage space. Setting up some RGB LED lights in front of a white background is a wonderful approach to get around this. Simply select the desired color, and presto! You now have an alternative color backdrop! You may wind up with some patchy lighting on the backdrop depending on the size and spread of the lights you use, but this is nothing to worry about because you can start experimenting with the location and modifiers to deal with this issue.

Watch the video to see how COLBOR CL60R RGB LED light works to change the background colors.

Video by YouTuber KN film

How to set up photography lighting for background?

The methods of setting up photography background lighting vary by the type of background you use.

How to light a white background for photography?

White backgrounds are ideal for high-key photographs, headshots, and e-commerce fashion since they accentuate all details of the subject. To begin, make sure your white background is seamless. Place your subject roughly nine inches apart from the backdrop so that they may be illuminated individually.

The lights used to flood the backdrop should be three spots higher than those used to illuminate your subject. A washed-out subject shows that the lights are too bright, so experiment with reducing them in several test images.

How to set up black background photography lighting?

A black background is required for a dramatic explosion. For headshots and high-resolution photographs, more individuals are choosing black backdrops over white. Such backdrops make things shine out in an impressive manner.

The illumination directed at your backdrop should be three stops darker than the exposure of your subject, resulting in total blackness. When done up in this manner, even grey, blue, or darker backdrops should seem black. Make sure your subject is at least three feet away from the backdrop. For seamless photos, flags and gobos might be put after the lights but before the backdrop.

Tips to avoid shadows on backgrouds

Shadows on backgrounds are mainly produced by the distance between the backdrop and the subject. Keep your primary light at a higher angle and your subject at least three inches in front of your backdrop, potentially more if the backdrop is black.

Light the backdrop evenly by ensuring that the light is at least three stops higher than the light directed at your subject. If feasible, use high-key lighting to fade out the background and draw attention to the subject.

A blockout background also lowers the production of shadows by preventing light from passing through the fabric's back. It's the ultimate answer for preventing glare and filtering out unwanted light.