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FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
Thread started 18 Feb 2007 (Sunday) 18:14
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Subject distance from backdrop?

2,201 posts
Likes: 1
Joined Feb 2005
Location: Belgium
Feb 18, 2007 18:14 |  #1

In many posts here and in many other articles that I read it's says that the
distance from the subject to the backdrop should be 1 to 2 or more meters.

But every day I see stunning, beautifull pictures (in the glamour section for
example) where the model is standing, sitting or laying against or on the

So why is it so important to have a distance from the BD or the BG?
What are the reasons/advantages to have distant from the BD or BG?

Thanks in advance for the help.

J ­ Rabin
1,496 posts
Joined Aug 2004
Location: NJ
Feb 18, 2007 19:40 |  #2

Well, my experience says simply you want 1-2 meters plus to avoid casting ugly flash shadows on the background. As long as subject to background distance is taller than subject, and as long as you put flash high enough to direct shadows downward, you are fine. Also, the camera-subject distance should be longer than subject-background distance, and the subject-background should be long enough for natural "separation" throwing the background out of focus for a pleasing focus on the subject.

With glamour, I am sure they use one or more extra lights behind the subject, illuminating it, killing shadows. So, the distance is less critical. They also do it to over expose the background to eliminate background distraction from the beauty in foreground, so using distance for focus separation is less relevant also.

Finally, the distance should be determined by the goals of the picture. An environmental portrait would want more focused background than a studio shot.
This is all just my opinion, since portrait work is not my strength.

106 posts
Joined Feb 2007
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Feb 18, 2007 20:44 as a reply to  @ J Rabin's post |  #3

I do a lot of environmental and executive portraiture. I don't adhere to any strict rules concerning the distance to the background. In studio I almost always use a backlight and the distance behind the subject must accomodate the light+modifier and allow a decent projection on the background (the light pattern is a matter of taste and what works for the shot).If you want a distance, I'm usually around six feet (for an individual).

If you're shooting high-key portraits with a white backdrop, the distance becomes more critical because you're lighting it white and have to deal with a lot of reflected light coming back at your subject and risk blowing out the sides of the face or hair if the subject is too close.

I love having my backgrounds go way out of focus(in studio and out) and depending on the modifier I'm using and projection pattern I want, I need decent space back there. I've never developed a taste for in-focus studio backdrops unless it's a requirement in the shot.

Environmental portraits are a whole other ball game and I strongly believe personal taste and style should reign (unless the client requests something specific). You can achieve beautiful portraits on location with everything but the subject (even an eye) in critical focus and still convey a strong sense of environment. Let your creativity take over and try a few wide open images. Pay close attention to composition and object placement to link your subject with the space. Sometimes an out of focus background/foreground on a location shot can convey more depth than when everything is reasonably sharp. Go wild, try lots of stuff and don't worry too much about rules.

2,201 posts
Likes: 1
Joined Feb 2005
Location: Belgium
Feb 20, 2007 06:54 as a reply to  @ staffer's post |  #4

Thank you both for the answers, it has helped me alot.

Good luck.

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Subject distance from backdrop?
FORUMS General Gear Talk Flash and Studio Lighting 
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