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Real Family – Fake Studio!

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I’m partial to outdoor portrait photography.  Nothing better than diffused afternoon light through a big cloud!  It beats an overhead array of studio strobes shot through a 15 foot white panel!  Well, the setup and triggering, at least.  I also don’t have a 12 foot bag of different color muslin backdrops for studio work.  Just some strobes (a Nikon SB-900 and a Nikon SB-600) and two shoot-through white umbrellas with stands.

For my latest family portrait shoot, we had originally aimed for a fall session, but plans just didn’t work out until Winter!  Brrrr!  Too cold to work outside, no matter how nice the sunset looked.  We had to take it indoors!  I considered buying a backdrop support system and a few backgrounds – and I probably will later.  I’m kinda cheap and I knew they had a nice house with… Ta-daa!  Nice solid color walls!

For a good variety of solid color ‘backdrops,’ all you really need is a nice wall and Adobe Lightroom. How do we do it?  It’s simpler than you might think!  A new background is one adjustment brush away.

Preferably, your solid color wall has some nice marbled texture like you see here, behind our lovely model:

In Lightroom, I chose the adjustment brush (Shortcut ‘K’) and set it up as follows:

Why the settings above?

I’m taking the brightness of the BG down to give more focus to my model, and sharpening up just a touch to bring out the texture of the wall.  Green will be my selected color for fill.

Then, I use this brush to carefully paint the background.  You can also turn on ‘Auto mask’ to help stay inside the right bg areas with the color.  You can also hold the ALT key to quickly switch from paintbrush to erase mode without clicking on the menu.  Saves a few seconds and adds up over time!

The result:

Nice, right?  Nicer than buying hundreds of dollars in background gear, anyway.  Haha.  So, using this technique (with other colors than green), I made backgrounds for other shots in the series (Excluding the BW one.  I just played with the brightness and contrast on that one, and added a vignette.)

Spend less, shoot more, and have fun!

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great thanks i cant wait to dive into this!

    January 3, 2011
  2. cant believe how simple that is! thanks for sharing.

    January 3, 2011
  3. Nicely done! I love their poses, so natural and compositionally pleasing!

    January 3, 2011
    • Thanks Annie! For the most part, I have their great family chemistry to thank for that. I like to suggest a certain look, and let them interpret it how they like! They did great!

      Thanks again!

      January 4, 2011
  4. Good post man. Had me fooled. I thought you had real backdrops during the shoot! Great use of color fill on the adjustment brush. I can always count on you for goofy ideas like this…goofy and effective =D

    January 4, 2011
    • Haha, thanks man! Yeah, I don’t think I can count on every client to have a nice solid wall with marbled texture, so a proper backdrop is probably in order… but not yet! Mwaha!!!

      January 4, 2011
  5. very cool, nicely done! i also like how the family posed.. it’s really natural but compositionally pleasing 😉

    January 6, 2011

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