No Paris? No Problem! Using a Backdrop and Shallow DOF to Fake a Location Shoot


The photograph above seems fairly straight forward: pretty model photographed in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background. But that’s not actually the case at all. The photograph was actually taken in a basement in Ohio.

Taken by well-known, Ohio-based photographer Nick Fancher, he revealed on his blog just how he made it happen:

I used a website called The Rasterbator (weird name I know) that allows you to take any sized image from the web and print it out as large as you want. This image of Paris was grabbed from Google and printed out in four rows of eight 8×10” sheets.

I taped the image together on a sheet of foam core, lit it with one large light source and then lit the model with a gridded speedlite, several feet in front of the background. Since she was shot at f/2.8, the background goes soft and looks more real than a printout.


He goes on to call the photograph a “pretty fun experiment,” but we could see this coming in very handy on occasion. Sure, you like many of his readers might have been able to tell that something was off (and we certainly don’t suggest using fake backgrounds is better than actually being on location) but this is a trick you probably want up your sleeve if your budget is not always up to the tasks your creativity sets for it.

A big thank you to Nick for sending us the exclusive scoop. If you want to see more of his work or learn more about the man himself, check out this behind the scenes video we featured back in 2012 or head over to his website by clicking here.

Image credits: Photographs by Nick Fancher and used with permission.

  • Robert Jewett

    It may not occur to shoplifters to pay for the products they steal for fun either, but the law is pretty clear on this. If I were you, I’d go back and pay for usage.

  • Adam Cross

    unless someone took the same photo standing right next to you and it was there’s that he used :P

  • AW

    You are already using that image for money. Promotional work for yourself is still using it for gain even if no one hands over money to buy this image. If you don’t agree, then you must think that any company who uses someone else’s image to promote their cause (on a flyer, promotional web site, advertising etc.) is also free to use anyone else’s image without paying for it, since they aren’t actually selling the image for money, but “just using it for advertising.” The right thing to do is go and find the owner of that image and pay them now.

  • AW

    And the fact that the image is out of focus doesn’t change that. If you wanted this shoot to just be for fun and not for money/gain, then it shouldn’t have got on the internet but just stayed on your hard drive.

  • AOD

    Jeepers! So much hate. It’s a nice photo ingeniously done. Sure it’s nothing new to a lot of people but others may not be aware of these sort of tricks you can pull to enhance your images on a time and money budget. I for one had completely forgotten and Rasterbator and will look into doing something like this. Thanks Nick.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    The photo was not used for commercial purposes, and with the amount of information given we don’t know if this was a CC license or even if this image is Public Domain.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    How is it violating their intellectual property, if it’s not used for commercial purposes, but they just want to use the Paris backdrop for a personal portrait which they’ll only hang on their own wall?

    I mean, maybe I want to do something similar with this photo, and hang it in my bedroom. What are you going to do about it?

  • stevengrosas

    Sigh, drama drama drama.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    Too many “professionals” in here somehow assume that there is no fun in photography anymore. That there’s no such thing as a hobbyist.

    So somebody does this, and suddenly they all scream “OMG COPYRIGHT VIOLATION!!!!”, completely forgetting the fact that somebody just might want to do this for fun, without any motive of profit or commercial use.

  • Jimmy Fartpants

    Only the flashy-sparkly lights they added in 1999 are copyrighted, and they only go off on the hour for a few minutes.

    And yes, you are allowed to photograph them. No Paris policeman is going to grab your camera if you shoot a photo of the lights.

    These rules pertain to commercial use. Everybody here keeps forgetting that. So take as many tourist images of the Eiffel tower as you like, but you may need approval from the City of Paris if you want to use these images to sell a product.

  • stevengrosas

    Exactly, very well said. I sometimes wonder why I still even frequent petapixel. The “professional” photographers on here make the photography community look so bad and negative.

  • Nick Fancher


  • Nick Fancher

    Wasn’t trying to to fake people out. Wanted to create a surreal/atmospheric image- something that is a bit off and hard to place.

  • João Sá E Sousa

    I´m sorry Nick, thinking better it is a good solution for a photographer. Take it easy!

  • John Adkins

    I just want to say I think its a great photo, and a great idea, even if its been done before. What’s really entertaining is all of the banter in this comments section. I had no idea so many copyright lawyers read Petapixel. ;)

  • bob cooley

    Your comment isn’t germane to the discussion at hand.

    The discussion is around commercial or self-promotional use of someone else’s image without checking for authorship and /or rights available first.

    It’s not about me, its about what is legal and ethical within the industry.

    If you take one of my small images off of the web and print it to hang it on your wall, you are getting a low quality print (since I don’t post a lot of images that are print-sized) and if you want to use it as a desktop image, feel free – many of my travel images are under Creative Commons for non-commerical use.

    However, if you were to use my image in a background to promote your own work or for commercial purposes, you would definitely be hearing from me first, and possibly my attorney after.

    But feel free to troll on – it’s very cool to be contrarian, especially when you’ve missed the point of the discussion… :)