How To Create Color Backdrop Portraits on a Budget

In my home studio, I have the luxury of having 53″ wide seamless paper mounted to my ceiling which is great for your standard headshot or portrait. But what happens when you want to take something with a lot more color? I don’t have the luxury of ARRI fresnel constant lights which would set me back a couple grand. I could gel a couple speedlites, barn-door them, and aim them at the seamless but there’s the high chance one of three speedlites would misfire (oh, the joys of balling on a budget). I could also just go buy another roll of seamless in a variety of colors at $50 a pop, but I’m not shooting portraits on a hot-pink or orange background every day so that’s a waste of space and money for me.

So, I head over to the local art supply store, Artist & Craftsman Supply, on Metropolitan Ave here in Brooklyn and pick up a handful of different pieces of 16×20 construction paper for a couple dollars each. Once they’re back in my apartment I clamp them onto a Impact Telescopic Collapsible Reflector Holder, attached to an Avenger baby boom arm, on an Avenger stand. Easy enough.

For the lights and camera I’m using a single Yongnuo 560-IV speedlite remotely controlled from my camera with their YN-560TX trigger. That’s also mounted on another Avenger stand with a boom arm, and the speedlite is inside a 26″ Westcott Rapidbox Octa with an egg-crate on the front. I’m bouncing the light with a little 5-in-1 round reflector to open up the shadows a bit just using the white-bounce. All of this shot on a Fujifilm 56mm attached to my Fujifilm XT-2, which I have an unnatural love for. The light is positioned up and to the right of the frame to get a good Rembrandt triangle on the opposing cheek.

On this particular night I had @kimiedaly and a couple friends over, we were drinking wine, carrying on, so I cranked the lights up to full power so I didn’t have to turn off the lights upstairs. So I think (remember, wine) the camera was at ISO 200, F8, 1/250th, and the light was at full power 1/1. Our friend @cirstyscloset stopped in and hooked @luxxlily up with killer hair & makeup for the bright backdrops. Results below.

 

This is all roughly straight out of the camera with some mild color grading applied. If any of you happen to be a retoucher skilled in beauty shots, holler at me. I’m way more of a photographer than a retoucher.

So, this is far from perfect, but for a Saturday on a whim with some construction paper, a couple friends, some pizza from Big Ragu, a couple bottles of wine and a single speedlite in an hour and a half, I think we did alright.

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