by Pino Pino August. 30, 2020 1082 views
Perhaps the thing that makes that soooooo creepy is how it is almost two words when spoken by a Dalek… with that drawn out TOOR at the end. Okay – the intonation has changed a bit over the years… but don’t we all? THIS intonation gives me the willies!

In case you couldn’t tell:

  1. Doctor Who is a bit of a big thing at our house.
  2. I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since I saw my first Tom Baker episode back in the 70s.

Covid-19 has severely limited my photographic opportunities beyond home and family so I’ve been bugging my son to sport my Tom Baker era bits and he finally surrendered to a bit-o-CosPlay fun today in our little pop-up studio.

Aside from the obvious fun had from a personal nostalgia perspective, it was also a fun shoot for me photographically as I shot him on seamless white so that I could then ‘extract’ him for use in various ideas I had milling about in my brain.

And here is the final product...

Seamless white – not something I shoot every day as I typically prefer playing with DOF and/or shooting on black background with hard contrast for impact and drama.

Today was completely off those paths.

Test shot I took to check the lighting before putting my son in wardrobe...

Test shot I took to check the lighting before putting my son in wardrobe...

So let’s talk metering.

One thing that struck me back when I first started using a meter was how little information I needed to provide to get a reading.

Typically I’m going the ‘provide ISO and shutter’ route to let the meter provide me an f-stop.

No sensor size, no lens information, no distance from subject.

I’m a HUGE Depth of Field addict and Depth of field is ALL ABOUT sensor (full frame vs. aps-c DOF debate to be had at another time – stay focused – pun intended), lens (focal length and aperture), and distance from subject. For years, shooting primarily natural light, those three things were my PHOTOGRAPHY BIBLE.

So what gives? How can those three things suddenly become, effectively, irrelevant when determining lighting!?!

Well, here’s the thing… light travels fast… REALLY fast… like faster than ‘forgot the open treat bucket on the floor and the dog noticed and ate them all’ fast!

So… if you put light in a room it will reach your sensor and be recorded regardless of how far away you stand or what focal length or aperture you use UNLESS your shutter duration is too short for your sensor (at given ISO) to record it.


My mind pretty much reeled when that realization first hit me. It was a milestone in my photographic journey that impacted my photography from that day forward.

Focal Length determines my field of view.

Aperture determines my depth of field (for now we’ll leave it at that – again, conversation for another day – stay focused – again, pun intended) – effectively, how much the light needs to bend as it passed through.

Sensor size determines crop (talking digital here – again, more to discuss particularly when we talk film and ‘full frame’ digital starts to look a bit silly calling itself ‘full’ anything).

So, back to light and metering…

Really, seamless white (the way I prefer to do it) is just a slight over exposure of a white background/backdrop.

Typically, I meter the subject, say at f11, and then I meter the backdrop a bit brighter (anywhere from 1/3 to 1 stop) – so f16 given the subject being at f11 – and then set the camera to f11… so the subject is ‘properly exposed’ but the backdrop is guaranteed white as it is slightly over exposed.

  • FOOTNOTE: If I need to protect details, I tend to shoot digital under exposed and film over exposed. It has to do with how each deals with highlights – more on that later
NOTE: My intention was to stop here and put the BtS of this shoot on my snappy new PATREON account - - but I decided I'd put this full one here and maybe start my PATREON posts with the next blog as a two parter... Part 1, the photos and story, here and Part 2, the BtS, on PATREON... so we shall see. For now, back to the blog at hand.

So, here are the actual shots...

This is the one I ended up using...

This is the one I ended up using...

I used #2 in the final creation because he moved his head forward enough that it completed the shot. In the others his head is back a bit and looks a bit small proportionately because of the visual perception – looks a bit like a turtle with that big ‘ole scarf.

  • FOOTNOTE: This is why photographers tell you to get your faces on the ‘same plane’ in family portraits. [Yep – discussion for another day… focus... pun intended.)
Equipment: Pentax K1Mii wearing Pentax 100mm 2.8 Macro, Godox SK400ii wearing Impact 84” Octa (behind subject), Godox SK400ii wearing Phottic Easy up 120 + Grid (camera right at 45/45), 22” Silver Reflector (camera left)

Basic Setup:

Diagram of the setup...

Diagram of the setup...

  • First thing to note – this was done in a reasonably small space.
ISO 100 | 1/200th | 84” metered to one stop brighter than Phottic (details below)

I used a few different strobe setting combinations for this shoot but let’s walk through one.

First I determined how to get a ‘black frame’ in camera. I know that typically in my space ISO100 and 1/200th at around f8 to f11 works nicely.

What this means is that no outside light is impacting my exposure – I have full control via the strobes I put in place.

Then I walk to the subject and meter the Phottix flash pop from about his chin. I adjusted flash power until I got a reading of f8 for the DoF I wanted for this shot (at my predetermined ISO100 and 1/200th).

Then I used the meter to determine f-stop of the 84” octa. This tells me the amount of light the camera will record from it (effectively my 'pure white' background) during the exposure. I adjusted power on that unit until it was at a reading of f11.

So, why f11?

Short version – it is one stop down from f8 so it needs one stop of light MORE than the subject has on it/him.

Really, light output from the strobe is what the meter is reading – it is just reporting it in relation to the ISO and Shutter Speed I’ve provided.

If you look at these illustrated apertures you will see that f11 is smaller than f8. This means less light reaches the sensor so f11 would need more light from the strobe (1 stop more) than f8 would to get the same exposure - at the same ISO and shutter speed.

So, let’s talk through this a bit…

Given the settings above:

1. f11 will give a ‘proper’ exposure of the white of the flash in the background.

a. because it is exactly the size hole the meter says we need

2. f16 would give a slightly dark exposure of the white of the flash in the background.

a. because it is a slightly smaller hole than the meter says we need – so less light will get in.
b. note – the output of the strobe has not changed – just the aperture in the lens/camera.

3. f8 would give a slight ‘over’ exposure of the white of the flash in the background.

a. because it is a slightly larger hole than the meter says we need – so more light will get in.
b. note – the output of the strobe has not changed – just the aperture in the lens/camera.

So, if I set the camera to f8 (and ISO100 at 1/200th) I will get ‘perfect’ (whole other discussion… another blog… stay focused… pun intended) exposure on the subject (metered for f8) but a slight over exposure of the background (metered at f11).

Make sense so far?

Now, sometimes you have to play with this ratio of subject exposure to background exposure when doing it this way (as opposed to seamless white paper) because the light from the background, particularly one as big a an 84” octa, can ‘wrap around’ the subject (there is actually a bit of wrap around in this shot but I wanted a little bit of it so I adjusted to achieve my goal)… but this is a good starting point.
And I’ll cover seamless white paper in another blog but suffice it to say there is a difference between the ‘projected light’ in this method verses the typically ‘reflected light’ of lighting a paper background – though you can also light ‘through’ a white paper background. As you can see there are several ways to shoot solid white backgrounds – certainly more than just the few I mention here… and each has pros and cons for a given scenario.
Think product photography – which you can do on a dinette table in a carboard box customized with some parchment paper. (again, another blog… stay focused… pun intended.)

The hope is that the image, once pulled into your post processing software, will look something like the one below when you turn on highlight alerts (all that red around him). This means the area around the subject is totally white – effectively, a bit over exposed so guaranteed white – which was exactly the goal.

Solid white background shots are frequently shot ‘tethered’ specifically for this reason. Being able to immediately pull the image up on a computer during the shoot lets you guarantee you got the white area ‘perfectly overexposed’.

What all that ‘highlight alert happiness’ means is that I can then easily remove that white background in any photo editor and place the subject just about anywhere. This allows a subject to be ‘removed’ from the background and used on any background to replace the white.

Then some cropping and layering in the photo editor… a little Dalek here, a little Dalek there… … …Doc-TOOR!

And that’s how I did it.

So, I mention earlier that there I shoot film and digital slightly differently when I am dealing with highlights.
As it turns out, film (and here I am speaking specifically about ‘negative’ film – not ‘reversa/positivel’ film) is more forgiving if you over expose – it typically allows you to capture/recover more detail in the highlights. Digital, on the other hand, is less forgiving regarding over exposed highlights – it typically does not allow you to recover much if anything.
There is a whole explanation based on how film works verses digital, but that is for another blog - stay focused… pun intended.

As it happens, I did do one other quick shoot since everything was setup... a few head shots for myself using my remote trigger so that I could be both photographer and photographee... no sense wasting a perfectly available pop-up studio! ;)

Join the conversation
There are 4 comments , add yours!
Camellia Staab 6 months, 1 week ago

First of all, I read every step you took and learned quite a bit. As always thank you for taking the time to teach smile Secondly, I am now concerned. I know we talked about finding another platform, does that mean you are leaving Photoblog since you are going to be posting on patreon?

6 months, 1 week ago Edited
Pino Pino Replied to Camellia Staab 6 months, 1 week ago

Thank you!  I'm glad you were able to take something from it. I think I'm settling on staying with photo blog for my primary blog story piece but placing my behind the scenes on something like patreon where it is seemingly less likely to go down...  But I'm still pondering... Truly I can't get myself to just give up on photo blog because I enjoy seeing all of your photography and everyone else's so much.

6 months, 1 week ago Edited
Leon Linder 6 months, 1 week ago

This has made me feel humbled so I went to the thesaurus to find the right words. " extraordinary, exceptional, striking, eye-catching, vivid, arresting, impressive, distinctive, unforgettable, catchy, haunting, indelible, not/never to be forgotten, memorable, signal, special, momentous, monumental, significant" but only some really spoke to me. Anyway I really like your photographic thought

6 months, 1 week ago Edited
Pino Pino Replied to Leon Linder 6 months, 1 week ago

Leon - now I am the humbled one...  thank you so much for your kind words and I am thrilled that you enjoyed my little piece...  it was fun to and even more rewarding to know it has been enjoyed!

6 months, 1 week ago Edited