Unlimited DIY Portrait Backgrounds with a 4K LED TV – DIY PHOTOGRAPHY

Unlimited DIY Portrait Backgrounds with a 4K LED TV – DIY PHOTOGRAPHY


How about a DIY Portrait background that will
save you money and give you infinite creative possibilities? Stay tuned! Hey gang! A portrait should NEVER be about
the background, however, the background can make or break the shot. My favorite solid
background color is gray, because with gels I can make it just about any color I want.
But what about when you want some texture or design in your background? Sure you can
add a new background in Photoshop which adds a lot of time to the process or you can go
on location but that puts you at the mercy of Mother Nature. So the practical question is how many portrait
backgrounds can you afford to buy? Hand painted portrait backgrounds are expensive. Printed
backgrounds are all the craze right now because they can be purchased for less than a hundred
dollars which is very reasonable, but how many photographs are you going to take with
the same background? You can vary the look of your hand painted or printed backgrounds
with creative use of depth of field and also add colored gels to get variations, but you
are limited in options and then you’re just stuck with an expensive background that you
don’t want to over use. Sure – you might be able to sell it at a loss
– or trade it with another photographer…. so…. that they can create shots that look
just like yours. A big TV. That’s right – in my case a 65”
4K LED TV mounted on an adjustable stand with wheels so that I can easily move it around.
Now before you call me crazy and say this is way too expensive… stay tuned until the
end – its not as expensive as you think – in fact – it has a much higher return on investment
than those printed backgrounds. This is the real beauty behind this concept.
You can create your own backgrounds in Photoshop or even by photographing random textures and
designs that you see as you are out and about with your camera. And since you will generally
want the background to be a bit soft – to simulate shallow depth of field – you can
easily use smartphone images to create your backgrounds – which means you can be collecting
backgrounds even without your digital camera gear. I routinely shoot images that I think would
make a good background with my Olympus Tough TG6 or Pen E-PL9 which are my walkabout cameras
when I’m not carrying a full kit. If I am looking for unique patterns or textures
that I don’t have in my library, my go-to sources are stock photography sites like Shutterstock.com,
Dreamstime.com or DepositPhotos.com. These sites let me purchase rights to an image or
graphic for a few bucks each and with a little creative effort, I can use and re-use a background
many different times. I can start with an image like this that I
downloaded from DepositPhotos and in Photoshop I can change the cropping, flip it, alter
the colors, contrasts, etc. So instead of being limited by what I can
do to a physical background with colored gels – I now have so many more possibilities to
re-purpose – without re-using the exact same background. I set-up the lighting for these shots no differently
than I would have if I was using one of my physical backgrounds – the only real difference
is that I didn’t need to light the background. My subject is generally placed three to five
feet in front of the tv screen A lot of people have asked me if I ran into
problems with reflections from the TV. The answer is no – because my stand allows me
to tilt the screen down and since my lights are almost always slightly above my subject
or higher – this is more than enough to compensate. I did run into a few scenarios where I also
angled the tv slightly to the left or right to avoid a reflection. Remember, from the
cameras perspective – it can’t tell the background is tilted or angled. The biggest change to the shooting set-up
compared to using physical backgrounds is that the TV is a constant ambient light source,
which means that it isn’t as bright as your speed lights or studio strobes. If you routinely
shoot with constant light sources like LED’s then this isn’t an issue. If you shoot with strobes it means that you
will shoot at slower shutter speeds than the usual 1/250th of a second that most cameras
are designed to synchronize with flash. This also insures that you won’t encounter banding
from the refresh rate of the television. Here is an example that was shot at ISO200
with a shutter speed of 1/50th of a second and an aperture of F3.2 so that I could have
both eyes in focus. Shooting portraits, you have very little subject movement and with
the image stabilization that is available in most camera brands today, 1/50th of a second
is very doable for hand holding a portrait shot. Also, I am lighting my subject with strobes
– which means the slower shutter speeds don’t impact the clarity of my subject at all. The
worst case scenario if my shutter speed were too slow is that I could see some ghosting
along the edges of my subject – but my subject would still be in focus. You can also use this as a creative advantage… This shot was done at 1/30th of a second at
ISO320. By lowering my shutter speed to 1/15th of a second, placing the camera on a tripod
and jerking it from side to side as I fired the shutter – I can use an effect called shutter
drag to create this motion blur – in camera. While we are talking about creative options…
notice the blue reflection in the sunglasses? That was created by placing a white Walmart
reflector in front of my subject. The reflector is angled up and then using rim lights place
behind her with blue gels aimed at the white board, I get the blue rim lighting on her
jaw and the blue color reflected back into the sunglasses. Change the background on the TV and change
the color gels to orange and you can get a result like this one. I always talk about the idea of “work your
shot” – you know – trying different variations and not assuming your first idea is the best
idea. This shot that I showed you earlier started
with a test shot using this bokeh background – and I simply didn’t like the look,>>
Then I went with this golden bokeh image and some yellow tulle material wrapped around
her head and then I settled in on the mixed colors with the red, purple and blue. For this shot I had an image on the TV but
also used a piece of ruffled tulle and waved it behind my subject – in front of the tv
during a 1/13th of a second exposure. Remember – I shot with strobes so I knew my subject
would be tack sharp. I had the camera on a tripod and shot with a wireless controller
as I waved the material. The backlighting combined with the slow shutter speed gave
me this awesome feeling of movement from ruffled tulle. I should also point out that with this tv
set-up my go-to lens is the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 from Olympus which is a full frame equivalent
of 150mms. I prefer the slightly longer focal length given the limited size of the background
– but you can make this technique work really well if you are a full frame shooter using
a 70-200mm zoom or even a 100mm Macro. A shorter lens like a full frame 85mm or on Micro 4/3rds
a 45mm will work – you just need to have your subject closer to the tv. Also, the way that I manage the images on
the screen is to place my laptop on the shelf under the TV. I keep all of the backgrounds
in a Dropbox folder so that I can add to the folder easily from any of my computers and
I simply use the Mac Preview App to scroll through the images and select which one I
want to use. You could use any software that has image browsing capabilities and the ability
to view an image full screen. My laptop also has Photoshop on it so that I can alter the
color scheme of any image while I am in the studio shooting. Oh and one last thing – after you select your
image – be sure to move the curser all the way to a corner otherwise you will be retouching
it out of the final image. Been there – done – that. You can thank me later! I purchased the TV and stand on Amazon almost
a year ago. I paid $599.00 for the 65” TV and $64.99 for the stand. So that is less
than $665.00. Since then, TV prices have come down considerably
and many of you will be able to do this with even bigger screens at a more affordable price. A 53” wide seamless paper background averages
about $32.00. A 6 foot wide printed background with light blue bokeh sells for $54.00 and
it is a challenge to repurpose. A 5’ wide hand painted canvas background which is truly
beautiful sells for $300.00 – so you do the math – it doesn’t take long as we accumulate
backgrounds with the goal of adding variety to spend much more than this electronic digital
background set-up. You see the possibilities are truly endless.
You are only limited by your own imagination. If you are not willing to experiment and fail
and solve problems – you will not develop a creative skillset. Embrace failure. So is this for you? Only can you can decide
that. For any photographer who is looking to do portrait photography as a way of generating
income, the return on investment for a set-up like this is extremely good because of the
endless possibilities it offers, not to mention that you don’t have to hang it from stands,
or a ceiling like you do regular backgrounds. And if you shoot in your home it could double
as your family TV. If you have a larger vehicle – you could take
this set-up on location since newer tv’s are very thin and lightweight and you can
purchase mounts from companies like TetherTools that would allow you to mount the TV on a
c-stand. And in case you are wondering – there is nothing
to stop you from mounting the TV sideways of you prefer vertical portrait backgrounds. Ultimately I hope this gets you thinking and
inspires you to think outside the box and push your creative boundaries. So please – take
this idea and run with it – go create and show me what you come up with. Until next time, Please hit that thumbs up
and subscribe so that you don’t miss any videos and don’t keep all this cool stuff
to yourself – please share it with your photography friends. Remember – photography is not a competition
– its a passion to be shared. Now go pick up that camera and shoot something
because your BEST shot – it’s your NEXT shot. Adios!

5 thoughts on “Unlimited DIY Portrait Backgrounds with a 4K LED TV – DIY PHOTOGRAPHY

  1. Joe=Genius….When are you coming to Canada…love to see you doing workshops here…

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