Working on a Cyc or Working With a White Seamless

Breed Member Paul Gisle recently asked me if I prefer to shoot on a cyc or if shooting on a white seamless was sufficient enough. It depends on the shoot but most times, working on a large cyc is really nice! There’s tons of room for movement, you have this large, open “canvas” to move around and also you can add props and staging that add so much to the images. But let’s face it, most of us don’t have studios with large cycs and we have to rely on using a white seamless to create the effect. Shooting beauty on a seamless is easy, because you’re coming in tight and there’s no need for depth or much movement. Shooting a dramatic fashion story is more tough, though, because when the model jumps you sometimes see the side of the seamless paper or the top of the seamless stand. These are fairly simple fixes in Photoshop by just extending the canvas, unless of course, the hand is outside the canvas paper or the hair is above the seamless stand. 

There are some easy ways to get around this by making sure you’re model stays within the seamless paper even if you have to stand further back to get the whole shot and then crop the exterior room out of the shot or extend the canvas to create a wider or higher effect. One other bonuses of shooting on a cyc is you can really go in a light the background. So if you want the background really white and have the model not “fall” into that lighting that is creating the white background, you have to have her far enough a head of the lights. And usually it’s good to use black V-flats so you don’t get light spilling onto the front of the set or creating flare in the lens. This is more tough when trying to create this effect on a seamless in a small room. I would say that if you are limited to having to use a white seamless in a small space and want a super white background make sure you have two black V-flats so you can flag off those background lights! And your story should probably not have too much movement or jumping because you are limited to the tighter space. 

Below are some examples from my own work showing how I worked with both a cyc and a white seamless. 

  Shot on a White Seamless in a Small Studio

Shot on a White Seamless in a Small Studio

The picture above is of rock and roll royal couple Sebastian Danzig from the band Palaye Royale and his model girlfriend Stephanie Pearson for Alice Magazine. I was shooting in a relatively small studio with no cyc so I had to make the seamless look like it was expansive. The way I did this was by putting the models at the very front of the seamless, as far away from the back of it and obviously they are sitting so there isn’t any movement.

  Shot on a white seamless in my home

Shot on a white seamless in my home

I used very controlled, directional light so that only a little light would spill onto the seamless for this shot. The model is pretty close to the seamless, but again, she is sitting so I didn’t have any problems with containing her within the set. This was a pretty tight space! This was just something I shot in my home one day while I was bored in LA. Never noticed the dust on my sensor until today!

  Shot on a White Cyc

Shot on a White Cyc

This is what I mean by having the room to move when you’re shooting on a cyc! We lit the background so it went completely white and still there is enough room to light the model in a side-lit, dramatic way. So having the space to move around on a cyc is definitely fun!

  Shot on a White Cyc in a Studio

Shot on a White Cyc in a Studio

Another good example of having the room to light the background exactly how you want it and still having the room to light the model separately! I didn’t want pure white in the background, I wanted some depth. But I had the room to create exactly what I wanted because we were shooting in a large studio. I also had the room to get the model in full length poses, which I loved!

  Shot on a White Cyc in a Large Studio

Shot on a White Cyc in a Large Studio

The last example is this best way to show the perks of shooting on a white cyc in a large studio. I was able to have complete control of the fall off in the background and go in and light the two models. And have room for them to stand in this pose which is pretty wide!

Melissa Rodwell