The Digital Background blog series rolls on with one of the most important topics (in my opinion). How to shoot your subjects with a digital backdrop in mind. I have learned the hard way that it doesn’t matter how good your digital backdrop is if you don’t shoot your subject correctly. It will never look realistic. You can Photoshop the hell out of it, and it still may not look quite right.
I’ve been looking forward to talking about this with you guys ever since I opened my digital backdrop shop, The Educated Shutter. With that in mind, I wanted to share some tips that I always use when I am shooting a subject with the intent of adding them to another backdrop.
How do you shoot subjects for a digital backdrop?
1) Know what Digital Backdrop you plan on using before you start shooting.
In order to make a subject blend in realistically, light is a huge deal. You must match your subject to the light that is present in your digital background. Nothing gives it away more than light coming in from the right on your subject but your background has it coming in from the left.
People are going to notice pretty quickly, and they will know that Photoshop was involved.
The best way to combat this is to select your background before you even go out to shoot. If the light is coming in from behind in your backdrop then you should shoot your subject with the light coming behind them. Always keep the lighting in mind.
I’ve failed to do this several times, and I’ve always ended up disappointed because I was not able to use the digital background that I wanted. It really can limit your choices.
2) Honestly, the best time to shoot your subject is on a cloudy day.
If you don’t want to fool with having to match the lighting in camera, the best time to shoot your subjects is on a cloudy day.
Cloudy days rock for photographers. The lighting is diffused, and it is even. I’ve raised a few eyebrows from non-photographers who thought I would want all the sun I could get. I don’t want to compete with that or worry about how harsh it can look.
Because the light is so even on cloudy days, it makes placing your subject a breeze. You can use the powerful tools in Photoshop such as a gradient, curves, or dodging/burning to help shape the light on your subject to match your backdrop.
I aim for most of my shoots like this to be on a cloudy day. It’s just easier.
3) Make sure to place your subject for easy extraction.
Don’t make it harder on yourself in Photoshop by shooting your subject in a dark green shirt in front of a bunch of trees. You want to be able to extract your subject without too much hassle.
Placing your subject in front of a contrasting backdrop will help you get a cleaner cut. For example, you could place your subject (who is wearing dark clothing) in front of a whiteboard or a lighter background. The contrast will be extreme enough that it should be a breeze to use the Magic Wand to select your subject. (I use the Magic Wand for my extractions. There are a million and one ways to remove something from one background to another. That is just my favorite way).
There you have it. Those are the three tips that I always use when I shoot a subject for a digital backdrop. Do you have any other tips you would like to share? Tell me in the comments! As always, feel free to email me if you have any questions.