How to Shoot Video with a Pure White Screen Background [Reel Rebel #21]

How to Shoot Video with a Pure White Screen Background [Reel Rebel #21]

If you've been watching our weekly video tips series, you've probably noticed that we often choose to shoot against a solid white screen background.  Shooting against a solid black or white background is a popular choice for web videos as it helps create an intimate setting, removing visual distractions so that your viewers can focus their attention on the subject.  Additionally, you can use the negative space of the solid background to showcase graphics, text, or b-roll.

We've covered the basics of how to create an infinite white background and on this week's Reel Rebel, Stephen Schweickart dives in a bit deeper to provide some additional tips to follow to ensure a good looking video when shooting against a white screen background.

Tips for Shooting & Lighting White Screen Videos:

First, if you want a white background in your video you should shoot it on a white screen - not a green screen.  You can do this with greenscreen by chroma keying and then adding a white solid but you'll have a difficult time keying out all the green which will result in green spill on your talent.  It's far easier to start with a white background.

Use a set of lights that evenly illuminates the backdrop and then a separate set of lights to light your talent.  This will help to prevent shadows from showing up on your background from lighting your subject alone.  Using this method also allows you to modify the brightness you want on your talent without effecting the brightness of the white behind them.

The size of the white will determine how many lights you need to have to get the light even on the backdrop.  For a waist up shot you can get away with using 3-4 lights at the most.  One on either side, one above in the center and if necessary one underneath.

A couple other things will make shooting on a white backdrop easier.  First, the simplest way to check if the white is evenly lit is to close the iris on your camera all the way down to one stop before it's completely closed.  The white background should come across as a dark grey and you should be able to see the discrepancies of the grey where the lights are brighter than others.

If you are using a standard three-point lighting setup for your talent, be careful of the effect the back light is having on your talent.  On white it can sometimes put too sharp of an edge light on your talent making them appear to blend into your background as opposed to separating them from it.  Either use a less intense light or even try no light at all since the white backdrop may be reflecting just enough light to get the look you need.

View The Full Video Transcript:

Hey, I’m Stephen Schweickart with VScreen where we make videos for companies and today, in conjunction with ReelSEO, we’re going to be talking about how to shoot on a white screen. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…

So we’ve spent some time talking about the differences between shooting on a blue screen and a green screen, but there’s another common backdrop you might want to learn about – It’s this really vibrant color, it’s called WHITE. No doubt you’ve seen those Apple commercials where “Apple” and “PC” make fun of each other in 30 of the most obnoxious seconds of your life, but even though those commercials are supremely annoying, achieving that look isn’t that difficult.

First, you need to know that, and this is important, if you want a white background, you should shoot it on white, plain and simple. Don’t shoot on green (even though we are right now, please forgive me) and hope that you’ll be able to key out all the green, because chances are you won’t, the green spill on your talent will be unmanageable, and you’ll be stuck looking at a person with fuzzy hair and missing body parts. Shoot against white, trust me.

Just like shooting against green or blue, the trick is to use a set of lights to evenly illuminate the backdrop, and a SEPARATE set of lights for your talent. This prevents your talent from throwing massive shadows against your white backdrop, and breaking the “infinite white room” illusion you’re trying so hard to steal...I mean “emulate”...yeah, emulate. This also will allow you to adjust lighting on your talent without affecting the brightness of the white.

The size of the white will determine just how many lights you’ll need to use to get the light even on the backdrop. But if you’re just doing a waist up shot like this sexy one you’re looking at right now you’ll be able to get away with just a few; three or four at the most. One on either side, one above in the center if you can and possibly one underneath.

Before we kick you out of here I’m going to give a couple quick tips to help you make shooting on white work for you. First, a simple trick to see if the white is evenly lit is to close the iris all the way down to one stop before it’s completely closed. You should see your white background as a dark grey, and you should be able to more easily see the discrepancies in the grey where some lights are brighter than others. This is harder to see with the iris open as your eye will simply see a blown out white background.

Finally, if you’re using a standard three point lighting set up for your talent, beware of the treacherous backlight. Backlights are great in general, but on white they can sometimes put too strong of an edge light on your talent and it can serve to blend them into the background more than separate them from it. Almost like the white is eating them, and that’s likely not the effect you’re going for. Either use a less intense light, or no light at all. Your white backdrop may be reflecting enough light to get the job done for you.

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About the Author -
Mark Robertson is the Founder and Publisher of ReelSEO, an online information resource dedicated to the fusion of video, technology, social media, search, and internet marketing. He is a YouTube Certified, video marketing consultant and video marketing expert, popular speaker, and considered to be a passionate leader within the online video and search marketing industries. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Frank Schwarz

    Awesome tips and appreciate the fact that you say green screen does not get used with all situations.

  • sameer

    what about against the black screen