by Stuart Wood Published 01/04/2014
As an editorial photographer who has shot for national magazines for some years, I had to master certain techniques at an early stage to be able to get the sort of commissions that I wanted. One of those techniques was to be able to deliver a pure and clean white background so that the publications were presented with plenty of space on the page on which to place text, whether as a cover or a double page spread inside.
Over the last couple of years, I have realised that a technique that has become 'second nature' to myself purely as a result of the amount of times that I have had to perform it, still manages to create a lot of confusion amongst other photographers.
It used to be that if we needed to learn anything 'photographic' and did not have the benefit of a full time college course or assisting good photographers, we would reach for our Christmas present text books (oh, the countless Boxing Day hours spent perusing such sacred and hallowed pages) or wait until the subject popped up in our favourite photography monthly, usually alongside that omnipresent article about 'Cokin filters' and their mind-bendingly fun tobacco graduated filters that flooded many a camera club competition of the day.
The good news was that for the most part, such articles were both useful, informative and generally pretty accurate.
Unfortunately now, with the advent of the internet, we have the delightfully acerbic 'social media' and the new dwelling place of the 'false prophets'. (who said giving voice to everyone was a good idea?) Unlike our old tobacco filters, these 'false prophets' are now no longer shackled to the confines of long winter evening camera club meetings and like some photographic Pandora's Box, have been released to dwell forever amongst us.
So be warned my friends, these 'serial killers' of photographic technique are now out there and the bad news is that they look and sound just like me and you!
I have seen many a posting, feigning knowledge while actually and no doubt unintentionally preaching total ignorance and confusion on how to find this particular 'holy grail' of a simple clean white background and I have been asked on various occasions to explain in as clear a way as is possible how to understand this particularly mysterious 'alchemical' formula.
So for the record and due to popular demand, here it is and remember that this works for transparency, negative or digital!
First and foremost you will need to ignore all the clap trap about things moving on and now there are simpler or better ways to achieve our aim.
You may also hear that my way is only good if you happen to be working in 'aircraft hangar' type studio fully equipped with hordes of assistants and enough lighting power to illuminate a runway designed to safely bring home an airliner in the depths of a murky winter's evening.
What I am about to impart to you is how to properly understand the laws of physics and how we have chosen to measure them, when handling our chosen medium of electromagnetic radiation, or more commonly known as 'light'
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