Shooting Through a Translucent Background

by | Mar 6, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

There all all kinds of portrait backgrounds that are available from all kinds of backdrop companies. This is a topic that I recently wrote about in my post Studio Basics: Working with Props & Backgrounds.

One of my favorite backdrops is Savage’s Translum that I use to create high key images in my 11×15-foot home studio. The Translum background looks like frosted glass and is available in rolls of 54-inches wide by 18 feet long just like seamless paper, as well as 60-inch x 18 foot sheets. This has come in especially handy after I painted the studio walls 18% grey, so I can no longer use the walls as a backdrop. Translum is made from Mylar and can be framed or hung on a background stand like the inexpensive Savage Economy Background kit I used for a portrait session with aspiring model Kat.


How I made this shot: The portrait was lit with Westcott’s Two-Light Daylight D5 Softbox Kit that has five fluorescent bulbs per head. I was initially concerned that a D5 even with all five lights turned on would not be sufficiently bright enough to  illuminate the background but when used with another D5 as the main light (as seen in the above setup) it created wonderfully room-filling light,

For this lighting setup a Westcott D5 with all bulbs illuminated was placed directly behind the Translum background and aimed toward the subject, while a second D5 with a 24×32-inch softbox installed was placed at camera right but with only three of its five lamps turned on.

For the portrait of Kat wearing a red(ish) dress and photographed against the Translum backdrop, I used my  Panasonic Lumix GH4 and a borrowed Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 lens with an exposure of 1/125 sec at f/2.8 and ISO 800. An exposure compensation of plus two stops was required to achieve proper exposure and to balance front and back lights.



If you’re interested in learning how I shoot portraits and use cameras, lenses and lighting in my in-home studio and on location, please pick up a copy of Studio Lighting Anywhere which is available new from for $31.46 and starting at the bargain price $2.33 used, as I write this. The Kindle version is $129.99 for those preferring a digital format.