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High key portraits: White Background Lighting technique with a softbox or OctoDome

5/22/2017 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

High key portraits: White Background Lighting technique with a softbox or OctoDome

The lighting challenge with a white background is that if you put your subject directly in front of the white backdrop - it won’t be recorded as pure white because it's being lit by the same light as your subject and since you are going to expose for your subject and the white background is behind your subject the inverse square law causes the white background to look gray. So in order to keep it white - really white - we have to light it.

A simple and quick white background lighting technique is to use a softbox or an OctoDome as the background. This is an excellent way to create high key portraits:

My personal favorite brand in Photoflex. In this video I use the Medium Photoflex White OctoDome with Paul C Buff DigiBee DB800’s and a Photoflex Medium sized softbox with LumoPro 180R’s.

This Octodome gives me a nice big background that allows me to comfortably shoot vertical or horizontal portraits and headshots and even do some shots cropped from the waist up. A big bonus with the Photoflex OctoDomes is the fact that they are only 16” deep which really helps out if you are working in a tight space. The Medium OctoDome is 55” in diameter and weighs only 4 pounds so you don’t need a heavy duty stand to hold it if you are shooting indoors.

With the camera settings established in advance - I am going to turn my DigiBee DB800 which is a 320ws strobe up to full power and take a test shot. When I preview that frame, I want to be sure that I have the Image Highlights feature turned on. The technical term for this is the Blinky feature and what it does is blink in all the areas that are completely blown out and not recording any detail. Depending on your camera brand and model you will usually find this feature in either the histogram or display settings. Check your manual to be sure.

You may also like: DIY Photography Studio Reflector Holder and One Light Portrait Lighting Tutorial

About Joe Edelman:

I am an award winning advertising and editorial photographer, author, educator and model mentor with over 40 years of experience with a camera and I would love to share with you some of what I have learned along the way. Let's support each other! or donate via PayPal:


Text, image and video via Joe Edelman

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