What is the best colour of studio backdrop for black and white portraits?

Robert

New Member
Registered User
I'm normally a landscape man but during the lockdown I have started to experiment with taking portraits indoors. My long suffering wife has been my subject (apart from the cat she is the only living soul with me!) and has to put up with me faffing around focusing the 5x4 and calculating bellows extension correction factors!
I ordered a mottled dark grey vinyl backdrop last week and have tried it out this morning. I'm a bit disappointed with the results. The grey isn't dark enough and the tones are very close to caucasian skin in black and white causing the subject to blend into the background. It will probably be OK for colour work.
The reverse side of the backdrop is white so tomorrow I will try again using that side.
I'm using the mid-morning sunlight we are blessed with at the moment which comes into the room at right angles to the camera -subject line. I also have a daylight fixed light on a tripod and a reflector disc on a tripod to use when there isn't enough natural light.
Two questions for the forum:
1. Is there an consensus about the best studio backdrop colour to use for black and white portraits?
2. I was metering EV10 on my wife's face this morning so it was possible to shoot at f8 @ 1/15 second. This only gave a few cm of DoF and requires the subject to sit quite still! I am going to experiment with different apertures tomorrow but what is the general opinion from the forum on the optimum aperture to use on a 210/5.6 lens?
 

Ian Grant

Well-Known Member
Registered User
I'd use a white background or possibly black, however I prefer a natural background portraits in a persons environment but there are occasions when we need to use a back drop.

Optimum aperture with LF lenses is f22, however for aesthetic reasons that's probably going to give too mich DOF for portraits, focus on the eyes and aim for maybe f11. EV10 1/15 f8 seems to indicate a 100 ISO film, try HP5 at 400 and that'll allow 1/30 at f11 with the same lighting.

Ian
 

David M

Well-Known Member
Registered User
One strategy is to use a mid-is grey background and manipulate the lighting. Metering will always be for the face, so the difference can be adjusted to make the background appear as anything from white to black. I appreciate that this may be tricky with natural light.
 

Robert

New Member
Registered User
Thanks very much Gentlemen. I will continue with my experiments (as long as Her Indoors can put up with me faffing around with the 5x4!)
 

Joanna Carter

Active Member
Registered User
I use one of these, it provides a dark or light mottled appearance, especially at large aperture. I find the colour variation helps with distinguishing hair, especially with older people with white or greying hair.
 
Last edited:
Top