Getting a white background

You might think that a roll of white background paper might easily lead to  pictures where an object appears to float in a completely white space. Its not as easy to achieve as you might think.

Firstly, the background needs to be very even. This is usually achieved by purchasing a roll of background paper or vinyl sheeting. Either material needs carefully supporting to avoid creases in the surface. It should be completely free from marks on the surface as well. Not too difficult to achieve with a small camera back and a sheet of drawing paper. However, anyone whose tried to photograph a motor bike in the same way will know that trying to get a roll of studio paper to unwind smoothly and lie perfectly flat on the floor is a lot trickier. The roll of paper is often warped by leaning it at an angle in storage.You also have tyre marks, and foot marks made getting the bike on to the background in the first place. Often large objects like bikes, boats and items of furniture are too long for the width of the background. You end up with a picture like this:-

The missing corner on the left has to be added in Photoshop etc. People think that a wide angle lens will solve the problem. Usually they introduce too much distortion.

You have to divide the studio or background into two different light zones. The lights falling on the object or person should be adjusted to give the correct exposure. The lights projected on the the background (you can just see the background light in the top of this picture) should be set slightly higher to overexpose the whiteness of the background. It is this overexposure that creates the bright, detail free, background white.

Exposure should be checked with a flash meter with the background light set slightly higher to overexpose the white paper a little (about one stop) None of this light should fall on the object or person which needs to be correctly exposed to show its characteristics. In a small studio this is often difficult to do as the light tends to bounce around the place in unexpected ways. Note that in the illustration there is a gap of six feet between the background and the biker. This is to stop cast shadows falling on the background.

On a high quality large print it would be necessary to remove a lot of marks made when the bike was wheeled into place on the floor.These can just be seen on the first picture.