How to Create Catalogue White: OnSet ep. 199

How to Create Catalogue White: OnSet ep. 199

Hey guys, this is Daniel Norton. I’m here in my studio in New York City, with Erica, and we’re gonna do, what I’m gonna call a catalog white. So this is a question I get a lot actually.. this is one of the things clients asked for all the time. They want that clean crisp white, they use it on the web, they use it for whatever you know…Catalogs! So I’m just gonna kind of run through how to do it. A really simple way to get it done out, down, and there we go. So of course we want the wall be white, you could use a white roll of paper or a cyclorama if you’re doing like a big catalog or something. I’m just gonna use the wall in my studio, hopefully the building won’t fall down. You guys can probably hear the construction. It’s happening.. let’s say! So we’ve got the the wall back here, I have two Profoto B1X’s pointed at the wall, and what I want to do, I know I want to shoot at about f/8 right? So I’m gonna look at, look at my… I’m gonna set my lights so that I’m reading f/8 now why f/8… on the wall? You might ask ’cause you’ve probably heard… you know, that you should make it brighter. Well the wall is white, so if I, if I exposed to f/8. St should be white, I’m probably gonna give it a little bit extra to give that like… bursts of clean. But I’m gonna start with the wall at f/8… so I’m gonna come back here, and I was gonna put them da… I usually go down like this. I’m not blocking it, and I’m just gonna to meter the wall. Oh I metered f/8…look at that. Actually that’s pretty good… first try… Alright so now, as a fail-safe… and I stole this from Gavin Hoey, what you do is, you take your meter, and you gonna put it on the back, at the back of her head, and you’re gonna face it towards the wall. You don’t want to block it obviously, and we’re gonna bounce it back, remember the wall is basically a light source. Now what we don’t want is a light source coming from the back, that’s brighter than our camera’s exposure… otherwise we’ll get flare. So I’m reading 5/6 and a third, that should be good if this was more than f/8. I need to adjust the background even though it seems right, right now. The other letter I have the one on here is this biiiig umbella… is this is the biggest umbrella you have ever seen. It’s gigantic, right this is a Westcott, 7ft umbrella. Now you might want, if you’re doing much of stuff, to get different types. This one’s silver, the reason why I’m using silver is because she’s in black, and I want to have some specular highlights, so hopefully where the fabric kind of gets that little specularity, we will see the detail. right? So we want to show that detail, we want our light to be a little specular, we don’t want to use a hard light which would also do that, because a hard light is just not gonna be that attractive, so we want an attractive light, but that’s gonna pull out detail, that’s why we’re using this 7ft Westcott umbrella. this has a Profoto B2 head in it and this should also read right around f/8, and it reads 569… that’s f/8 basically, so now I’m gonna do a test shot, and we’ll see where we are at. So I’m just using my 85mm. Whenever you’re shooting kind of full-length stuff, you want to place the cameras height somewhere like in the center of their body. You know, you don’t want to be shooting up at them, or down, you want to keep it basically neutral. So this is not a full-length, but it’s basically a full length. So I’m focusing, and we take a shot, I’m tethered in the Capture One, which I didn’t move closer to me for some reason. So I’ll get up, walk over, yeah. So we can see a couple of things. Good exposure on her face …right? We’ve got detail, we’ve detail in the shadow because the light source is huge and soft… it’s just wrapping around her. You could put a fill over there if you really want, and then if you look at the black, remember the black should be black, but there is in fact a detail here. If I punch right in you can see detail in the black, and that’s what we want. Obviously, you’re going to see more detail in the highlighting areas, and less in the shadow. So this is what you want, you want your exposure so that your black is black, and that you’re seeing detail right? You don’t want to under expose, you want to over expose. You want to expose exactly right, which is pretty much where we’re at, just to kind of show you, and by the way the way this is the way histograms come in ..alright? People talk about histograms a lot… look at this histogram… it looks nuts, but the reality is is that… that’s our black, and then that’s our white, yeah right… so we want… I’m just gonna go like this for you guys, just to show you if I bring my exposure up a little bit, you see how the black starts to get gray.. you might look at that and be like that’s how I should shoot it… because obviously your face is too bright… because there’s detail, but that’s not a detailed black, that is grey, this is a black, alright cool. So let’s shoot a few, simple as that, right? Basically even light on the background, big soft light backed up to give me wrap, and we want to keep everything nice and even. The worst thing in the world you can do … well not the worst things… here’s terrible things you can do in the world… when you’re doing this kind of stuff is…. to have your white uneven… we want to borrow it to be as even as possible, you can play around with it right? And remember she’s got this black outfit on, so we want to make sure that we don’t… she’s doing great with the arms and stuff. To make sure that we don’t… just just show him one Erica, can you just drop your arms down. So if she just drop her arms down, she’s … she’s likely just gonna look like a blob right? Because it’s just so much black going on. So that’s good, good, good, nice, nice and simple, just move around, we get all the shots we want. We’re showcasing the dress, do a quick look at it. Normally I’d have a digital tech here looking if it was actually for a catalog to make sure everything’s good, and staying consistent, it is, everything looks good. Can rock through them… boom, boom, boom, boom. Nice and simple, I did mention about even, this is actually the corner of my studio. So if the wall was actually bigger, we would have it, would be evenly white. So yeah these are cute right? They’re nice for the fall, let’s keep that, that’s your that’s your signature look, that’s the Erica signature look. Slightly chin down yeah perfect. We’ll do like two more… just cuz I feel like it they look good… you know? you’re gonna want to shoot a bunch… get some different you know, when, showcase the different aspects of the outfit. Good, good, good there you go… nice and simple right? So again we’ve got large Westcott umbrella pushing light in… lighting her up, if you really wanted to you could draw a reflector over here. Just to fill in, some people will do that, it depends on the outfit, and this outfit. I’d probably use a silver reflector rather than do that, because again we want specularity. Then we’ve just got a wash of light from the back coming forward. Not too much… we want a white background. We don’t want a blown-out background so that we get flare. Flare is gonna soften the image, and lose detail right? So it’s all about balancing it out, and this is why in these cases, I would use a light meter, as you saw me do at the beginning. So be sure to subscribe guys to AdoramaTV. I’ll make sure I put Erica’s info in the description so you guys can follow her on social media. Follow me @DanielNortonPhotographer and I’ll see you next time OnSet

Daniel Ostrander

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38 thoughts on “How to Create Catalogue White: OnSet ep. 199

  1. Gavin Hoey says:

    Metering the back of the models head, good job! And thanks for the shout out 🙂

  2. Mike James says:

    Thanks, Daniel and Erica. And… Hurrah, for more full-length shots! As much as I love the head shots, and see the reason for them, I do like seeing those extra details like cool clothing choices and interesting shoes. Call me old school, but I like all those extra curves in the overall form, too. You're looking happy, Erica!

  3. Vince Revolution says:

    I’ve heard people calling this amazon lighting now 😂 great video ❤️

  4. brettstrickland says:

    Great video Daniel. Love that umbrella and appreciate the explanation about getting the details and Black blacks vs. grey. How’s that savage multiflex stand holding up?

  5. Gregory Sargeant, says:

    One of your best videos straight to the point,thanks.

  6. Kent AufDerHeide says:

    Great video but I do have a question. I use Lightroom and I don't know much about Capture One. You used two lights on the background and set it at F8. Is that really a true white background? If you look at the intro pic on the email it's not a least not on that pic. It's close but not a true white. What settings would you use to make it a true white without it spilling back on the model? Or, is that what a "catalogue white" should look like? I see so many videos, not yours, and they put a light on the background and say it's a white background. Not even close. Thanks for the help. I really like your videos and I think Gavin Hoey rocks too!

  7. Lanceslens says:

    very educational….appreciate the great video!

  8. Sabe Syed says:

    Much appreciated, oh wise one! THE legendary lighting guru 🙏🏽

  9. John Ruisch says:


  10. Leon Wall says:

    She's just perfect!! great video Daniel, you explain everything you do so clearly.

  11. Randy R. Parker says:

    Daniel, you're fortunate to have such lovely, shapely models. Can't find them in my part of the country. Erica is simply beautiful! I have to go back and watch this again to make sure I'm understanding the setup, but is the umbrella the 7 footer? Also, haven't seen Marisa in your videos, or 'Adorama lives' lately, is she still helping you? Miss seeing her 'down to earth' style! 🙂 Oops! I went back and listened again and this time caught the 7' umbrella comment. LOL!

  12. Tibor Jäger says:

    f/8 on background and also on her face to get a catalog white? something is wrong!

  13. Nick says:

    I learn more about photography from Daniel Norton in 5 minutes than I do from other photographer's seminars, which can run several hours. Thank you very much for the (always) awesome content!

  14. Chuck L says:

    Daniel, I couldn't understand what you said at 2:28. Sounded like "and it reads 5, 6, 9. That's f8, basically". That part was confusing. Otherwise, another brilliant OnSet.

  15. Gary S says:

    Another excellent 6.37 mins.My 7' Westcott is white,thanks for the explanation for using silver.

  16. defined photography says:

    "We'll do like 2 more…. " takes 10 shots … my kind of shooting 🙂

    Thanks, as always, for the tips & information.

  17. Jonathan Langsner says:

    To get even lighting on the background, does your left B1X light the left hand side, and the right one the right, or do you criss-cross them?

  18. Wenyu Lian says:

    Daniel, thanks for this video. Your lighting video are always great. I have a question: you metered the background as f8, and you metered her face as f5.6. Which f-stop did you use? F5.6or f8?

  19. Dara J Makeup says:

    great how to video! Gives me some creative ideas for videos for my channel! 🙂

  20. LensPassions Photography says:

    Great video your video always help me to shoot better

  21. Anurag Simgeker says:

    Any reason why you were focusing the camera on the outfit and not on, say her eyes?

  22. Selfpowered says:

    Thanks Daniel, are the white flecks (lint I guess) that were on the black dress something that you'd deal with before delivering the files, are they an accepted part of clothing, or would someone clean up the clothing first?

  23. PiDsMedia says:

    3:23,…. few dead pixels on that sensor 😉

  24. Anders C. Madsen says:

    Measures f/8.0 on the background. Measures f/8.0 on the model. Capture One shows that you shoot at f/7.1 the whole shoot. You rebel, you! 😉

    In all seriousness, that is probably the right way to shoot a catalogue shoot – in general you do want that extra brightness and crispness, and had you shot at f/8 you would have had your background show up even further down the histogram than you already have. It would not be a disaster, but essentially you would be giving up some dynamic range once you correct the background to complete white in post production.

    Personally I think that it's already a bit low for a white background for my taste, but like you said, too much light off the background will cause flare, and from your previous videos it is clear that you don't have much leeway in terms of moving everything further away from the background to reduce the light from it hitting the model.

    Nice video and very well laid out – all the info is there and is very easily understandable.

  25. Anders C. Madsen says:

    I just remembered something from when I had a much smaller studio space than today. It's a technique that can work for you if you have a reasonably wide studio space but lacks depth and it only requires a couple of V-flats (two large foam-boards taped together in the middle). Perhaps it could be of use to some, I don't know – but here goes anyway:

    I would place the V-flats slightly behind the model and just out of frame, and open them up to around 90-120 degrees with the tape seam pointing forward and the white surface pointing backwards. Then I would position my two background flashes almost at the background, firing into the open V-flat so the light would bounce back on the background in a huge, pretty even wash of light.

    There would be two advantages to this method:

    You will not get any hot spots on the background. I think it was J. P. Morgan who made a video showing that no matter the size of your modifier, the falloff from the center of the light is almost the same at a given distance when lighting a flat wall. Basically this means that you will almost always have a hot spot right behind the model (potentially causing flare) and have falloff at the edges. Shooting into V-flats will bounce the light around inside the V-flat before reflecting it on the background and make the reflected light much less prone to hot spots.

    Less space required between model and background. Even when using standard reflectors (which gives you a pretty directional light) you have to be careful not to have any spill from your background flashes onto the sides of the model, so the distance from model to background is largely dictated by the distance required from the flash to background in order to have a sufficient spread of light to create a reasonably even light across the entire background.

    There are two (perhaps three) disadvantages to this method:

    It requires quite a lot more space on both sides of the model – those V-flats are not small and the flashes will usually go even further out to the side of the background.

    Reflecting light from a white surface eats up a portion of the light, and on top of that, the distance from your flash (positioned at the background, pointing forward) to the V-flat and back to the background is probably longer than when shooting directly at the background – lack of distance was kinda the idea behind this. Both of this means that you will need a more powerful flash to pull this off – but still, a 400-600 Ws unit should do fine.

    Depending on you V-flat, you may suddenly have a black surface almost directly beside your model (most V-flats a black on one side and white on the other), and that may not be what you want – it will deepen the shadows on the side of the models face and clothing to some extent. It may not be a problem, but it is something to be aware of, though.

    Also, be careful not to have any of the light from the background flashes hit your model or your camera lens – the V-flats must perform cover for both or you will have either unwanted rim light on the model or potentially flare in your lens.

  26. GE KO says:

    Really nice Tips! Also that You mentioned Gavin 😀 was helpful. I learn from You both!
    Erica is a really good model, also a nice Insta Account!

  27. Leo says:

    Thank you Daniel Norton for your great videos. I photograph for 18 years, and still can learn some things from a basic stuff video like this. 🙂
    Is there a "standard distance" you use for your main light in this situation? Let's say a 1.5 meter (5 foot?) octabox? Just a bit in front of the camera like you have here? I guess i always placed it way to close.

  28. Chris Knight says:

    Why not over-expose the background a bunch more? Surprised to see the right end of the histogram with a full "hill" rather than it peaking at 100%. I'd think tweaking down the exposure in post would result in a gray (or worse, colored) background.

    For that matter, if you way-over-expose your background (beyond the dynamic range of your sensor), you could make any color wall "white". (But, as you note, beware of bounce, particularly off a colored wall, the reflections will be colored and not over-exposed, even if the wall is.)

    Last comment/question, I assume you would still white balance with a target, not the wall…

  29. Craig Houdeshell says:

    You're the best. Always clear, quick and to the point. Thank you.

  30. Dominique Abautret says:

    Always good to learn from you, but please try to speek a litttle bit slower !!! For us, non native English speaker, it is sometime very complicate to follow you and most of the time, I give it up. Anyway, thanks !

  31. Shutter_Drive says:

    Nice tutorial Daniel! I really dig all your tutorials. Makes me proud when I can replicate what you do. Thank you so much.

  32. Jim Resnikoff says:

    Great vid Daniel.

  33. Cando says:

    Excellent Daniel, thank you. Please tell me why you didn’t use your Scrim Jim?

  34. Bill Poplawski says:

    Thanks I learned something new! Good work!

  35. Brett Hayvice says:

    I had to turn my screen right up to get white on your back wall tbh.

  36. Alan Bee says:

    quick and fine!
    Greetings from Berlin

  37. Peter Betts says:

    I learnt a lot from this tutorial Video Daniel

  38. Lyndon Smith says:

    Great model, great video. Did you set the meter to match ISO on the camera? I usually shoot with a Fuji X-T2, and I find that base ISO 200 is closer to ISO 100. So if the meter matches the camera ISO, I'm underexposed by about a stop. I think the ISO discrepancies between camera brands is one of the reasons a lot of newer photographers just skip using the flash meter.

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