Coloured Studio Backgrounds with Rosco Strobist Gels

Light is like water - both are boring
until you put something in them.

Just about everyone who moves into studio portrait photography wants to know how to create the perfect white background. Recently a student asked me how to create a strongly coloured background for a portrait shoot. Here is a breakdown of a technique I call Colour Reinforcing.

Colour reinforcing relies on projecting light onto a background which is the same colour as the background i.e. red light onto a red background and blue light onto a blue background etc.

Basically, a white background reflects all wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum. Hence the pale blue colour when white light is projected onto a cobalt blue background.

 If you colour the light with a gel of a similar colour to the background only light of the wavelength in question is transmitted by the filter and reflected back from the background. Effectively adding blue and blue makes a deeper blue. The colour can be made lighter or darker by increasing or decreasing the flash power output.

Remember - Generally, more power less colour - less power, more colour.

This the set up I used for these images. The model is Fred. Fred stood at the last minute as the booked model failed to turn up. Fred  is easy to work with; he's easy going, doesn't break for hair & make-up or the odd fag! He is clean shaven and doesn't suffer with skin shine. Best of all he doesn't bitch about how long the shot is taking or want to get away early because he's going to meet a cute fella;-)

This blog is an introduction to this technique. I've prepared a detailed PDF file that you may download here.

Good luck and don't forget to experiment as much as possible. The more you practice, the better you'll be. If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments section below.




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