Some Thoughts on Shooting Portraits on Seamless Paper

by | Dec 17, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Posing a portrait subject against a seamless paper background is the ultimate tests of your ability to make something from nothing. You’re shooting without a net—naked, even if your subject is wearing clothes. All that stands between you and a good portrait is your imagination. Because there’s nothing for your subject to interact with, your posing directions are going to have to be more precise than normal and you better cross your fingers that the subject is inner directed because it’s just the two of you —the subject and your talent.

Backdrops may not be the main focus of a portrait but they can not only enhance an image, they can improve it in many ways by placing all the image’s emphasis on the subject.

A background can be as much an important part of the photograph as the person standing or sitting in front of it. Then again, using that same background, unlit and barely visible, the subject becomes the main focus and the background is reduced to a supporting role.

If by selecting the right background, the person being photographed feels special, it helps the final product and ultimately your bottom line. By working with different colored backdrops you can experiment with different designs and textures so you’re ready for anything. When shopping for backgrounds try to find one that complements the subjects without competing with them and that’s why the most classic of all backgrounds is in solid colors like the above (left) portrait.

How I Made this Shot: In this setup for a classy, sexy shot of Pam Simpson, one Elinchrom D-Lite RX monolight with a 26-inch square softbox was placed at approximately 45 degrees to her at camera right. A second D-Lite RX with a 26-inch square Portalite softbox was placed at camera left and slightly behind Pam. The background was a a 53-inch roll of Savage Fashion Gray seamless paper.

Camera used was a Canon EOS 60D with EF-S15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens (at 50mm.) The original JPEG file (before my current RAW+JPEG regime) was cropped in a 4:3 ratio and retouched before a little—a lot on the background—burning-in with PhotoKit with a dash of Color Efex Pro’s Glamour Glow filter added for a little frosting on the cake.

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If you would like my take on glamour photography, please pick up a copy of my book Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography. It’s full of tips, tools and techniques and includes information on all of the gear that was used to make each image as well as the exposure data for each photograph. New books are available from Amazon for $23.03 with used copies starting at $8.90, as I write this. The Kindle version is $19.99 for those preferring a digital format.