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Tips for Still-Life Backgrounds in the Home Studio

By Eric Hartwell

Getting the background right in the studio can be difficult. The home studio often suffers from lack of space, unsightly background clutter and poor surfaces for lighting. But you can enhance your shots by manipulating the background in the following way:

1. Place a sheet behind the subject that is the color of the background that you need. White is good as it can be lit according to your taste. But any color will do and will give a consistent appearance

2. Place the sheet on the ground and drape it over something taller than the subject

3. Get yourself plenty of duct tape, clips and pins to hold the background

4. You can make a sturdy and effective frame for the sheets by using plastic plumbing pipes which fit together easily and have connectors which can allow you to make any shapes or angles

5. Make sure the sheet lays in a smooth curve behind the object - there should be no edge. This will ensure that the background is not uneven or unsightly

6. Using 2 flashes - one each side of the subject - will ensure no ugly or distracting shadows behind it

7. Using a white sheet will enable you to put color gels over the flashes to change the color of the background according to your taste

8. You can buy ready-made colored backgrounds - these are better than the homemade sheets but considerably more expensive. You will also need more space for construction and storage

9. For smaller objects, you can try a 'light tent' or 'light dome'. This is effectively a big, white, translucent dome or tent that goes over the object. The camera lens points into the dome. The lighting is outside. The tent diffuses and disperses the light from outside giving an even and softer effect.

10. You can buy a light tent or dome but they can be expensive. Make one with sheets draped over chairs.

11. At worst, you can remove backgrounds in an image editing program such as Photoshop

The great thing about studio work is that you can take your time and experiment with your set-up. Try different lighting effects and angles to get the effect that pleases you.

Eric Hartwell is an enthusiastic photographer and owner of the photography resource site The Shutter. He would pleased to hear from anyone who might wish to become involved in the site - email click here to send email

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