Whenever I go shopping, I keep a lookout for interesting materials that can be used for backdrops. It is not always necessary to spend a fortune on specialist materials to create artistic and cool effects.
I came across some semi-opaque plastic sheeting with an etched design, described as shower curtain material, in The Range at Broadstairs. I purchased 3 metres of the stuff and still had change out of ten pounds when I headed home.
The material was hung on a background support with natural light illuminating the rear, I then set up a Lencarta EP300 with a standard reflector gelled green and lit it from the front at a sharp angle to give some variation to the reflected light. Once satisfied with the background, I then used another EP300 with an 80 cm octagonal softbox to the left. This was placed close to the subject to make it as diffuse as possible. A couple of white reflectors were set to the right to throw a little bit of light back for fill. The lights were individually metered for a working aperture of F4, with the background tweaked for effect once I saw the results.
This first attempt was not too successful, and was softer than I wished, the light filtering through diminishing what I was aiming for which was a punchier look.
By placing a black cloth behind the background it immediately increased the effect of the gelled light. This time I tried a blue gel that gave a pleasing effect. Notice how the light interacts with the plastic sheeting’s etched pattern and the black background. I am not sure if I like the light bleed on the left, I could have flagged it, but thought it added interest by breaking up the background.
Lastly I fitted a full cut of CTO or colour temperature orange. I also removed the softbox and replaced it with a standard reflector for a much harder light. With so many other light modifiers on the market to play with it often gets overlooked as being a wonderful tool in its own right.
By altering the colour of the light source we can create a wide range of effects with ease. Although I ran out of time to try, I am sure that altering the colour of the backcloth would also have an effect upon the pattern.
This was shot with studio lights, but a similar effect could easily be achieved by using speedlites, constant source lighting or a combination of the two. It only takes willingness and time to experiment to create something special from everyday household materials.