How Controlling Light Spill Can Dramatically Change a Photo’s Look

Most photographers don’t have an unlimited pool of money or a vast unending studio to collect and hoard gear in. For this reason, it’s especially important to choose gear and accessories that allow them to get the most bang for their buck, like a simple large white backdrop.

If photographers plan on shooting studio-based portraits, there is no more versatile piece of kit than a roll of white seamless paper. In this video, Melbourne, Australia-based photographer PJ Pantelis shows how to get a wide variety of different looks from one single roll of paper simply by controlling the way light spills (or doesn’t) on his background.

In the short four-and-a-half-minute video, Pantelis starts by showing how despite being in a brightly lit room, his camera settings (f/6.3 ISO 100) have been set to ensure that without the strobes, there is next to zero light, and nothing is visible in the frame. From there, he shows how by using a grid on a single light source he can keep the background dark, achieving a moody mid-grey look.

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Dark Backdrop

Then, by simply removing the grid and leaving all of the camera and light settings the same, he shows an airier and slightly more casual feeling light grey color.

Grey Backdrop

Finally, in the third look, Pantelis adds an additional speedlight behind him to pop a splash of light on the background, which then creates a consistent, even, and almost pure white color to the seamless paper roll in the background. Again, not changing any of the camera or light settings (other than the speedlight addition), he compares all three looks.

White Backdrop

As Pantelis emphasizes through the video, the position of the lights, the subject, and the background don’t change. Even the camera settings stay the same so he can further show that in photography, sometimes where the light isn’t going can be just as important as where it is going. Creative use of lighting can take a single set and allow photographers to create an incredible variety of looks.

To see more of PJ’s work, visit his Website, YouTube, and Instagram.

Image credits: PJ Pantelis