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Lighting Setup for Background Extraction


I have done many tests with backgrounds to determine what works best for my extraction process. I have photographed for extractions on high key white, white vinyl, black, and green screen. White vinyl has been the best option for our studio extractions. When properly shot, it produces an 18% gray, which makes it much easier to remove the background quickly.

FAQ: Why don’t you use green or blue screens?
A: “I have a small shooting area with low ceilings. When we have used green screens in the past, there were issues with color spill. Removing the green or blue spill from the subject requires more post-production work.”

Background extraction setup 1:

Lighting setup for BG 1

This lighting setup is used for a traditional lighting pattern. I use this setup for most portraits in my studio. When using this setup to do background extraction I am trying to accomplishtwo things: easy extraction, and dimension in my subject.

Main light is a 4×6’ soft box
Fill light is a 4×6’ soft silver reflector
Rim lights or Kickers are 4- 12×48” strip boxes with egg crate grids
The rim lights can be 2 strips, I just prefer to light from head to toe on my subjects. This gives me more versatility in compositing.
Main light is normally at F8
Fill – I move in to the subject to add detail in the shadows
Rim lights are at F5.6 for normal portraits,or at F8 for more dramatic rim light for sports portraits, creating a 1-1 Lighting ratio

The background is white vinyl, which I prefer. The important thing to remember is that no lights are directly aimed at the background! The only light that is hitting the background is spill from main light. When executed properly, this scenario creates close to an 18% gray background, which will simplify the background removal process.

Background extraction setup 2:

Lighting setup for BG 2

This lighting setup provides a dramatic lighting pattern, perfect for paintings, fine art pieces, and artistic composites.

Main light – 22” Beauty Dish w/ 40% grid (to get extremely focused light)OR a light bender strip box (to create a more dramatic shadowed effect in the eyes)
Rim lights 2- 12×48” strip boxes with egg crate grids
Hair light small 10x 24” strip box (to add more separation)
Main light normally at F8
Rim lights at F5.6-F8
Hair light at F4-F-8 depending on the hair color




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