Whether you’re planning a photoshoot or setting up to film a short commercial, there’s a good chance that you’ve considered using a wall cyc for the project. These backdrops are perfect for keeping all the focus on your subjects since the background appears to be a white void. However, the main thing that turns people away from using these is they can be pretty difficult to light properly.
Fortunately for you, we’ve put together this guide providing expert tips for lighting a white cyclorama. We hope it will help you achieve the results you’re looking for.
Check Out a Pre-Lit Setup
If this is a backdrop that you’d like to use more often once you figure out a good setup for it, it’s wise to buy your own cyc wall setup rather than continuously renting out a studio that has one. It will save you a lot more time and money down the road.
Regardless, many rentable cyc walls come pre-lit. While it would obviously be a waste of money to rent a room just to scope it out, you can probably preview the area to get some ideas on how you could arrange your own lighting. Granted, you could do the same thing by looking up videos on YouTube, but nothing beats seeing the results of proper lighting techniques in person.
Still, there’s a good chance that the studio uses lighting systems that you can’t mimic at home. That’s where the rest of this guide comes in. If possible, look at some professional-level lighting results in person to help put the rest of our points into context.
Use Overhead Lighting
The biggest challenge with lighting a wall cyc is keeping it as neutral as possible. Depending on your desired results, some background shadows are fine, but if you have too many of them cast on the wall, the cyclorama loses its purpose. One of the best ways to combat this issue is to use overhead lighting to light up the wall and your subjects.
The main reason you’ll want to focus only a few lights on the wall is that they will help it stay bright no matter what kinds of shadows are cast during the shoot. Typically, these lights will shine directly onto the wall itself, but if you want them to double as lighting for your subjects as well, that’s totally feasible. You just have to make sure some of them are far enough back that your subjects won’t block them while standing or moving.
A big plus of overhead lights is that, for most shots, the ground won’t be in view. That means the shadows created from the overhead lighting won’t be an issue. For the angles in which the floor will be visible, follow these next tips.
Mix In Some Directional Lights
Even though most of your lighting will come from above, you should also try using one or two directional lights. These will help spotlight your subject while giving them some more definition. We want to put heavy emphasis on the directional part though. If you use a light that’s head-on, the shadows will go directly onto the backdrop, which will be more challenging to negate with other lighting sources. Putting it to the side will force the subjects’ shadows in a more favorable direction. These lights will also help tone down the shadows on the ground.
Distance the Subject From the Background
If you absolutely need a head-on light for a specific shot or you can’t seem to get a good angle to remove background shadows, the best thing to do is move your subjects farther away from the wall. The beauty of a cyclorama is the fact that it makes your subjects appear as if they’re in a white void, free from all distractions. They don’t need to be anywhere near the back wall to give that illusion.
A general rule of thumb is to double the height of your tallest subject and move them away from the back wall according to that length. For most lighting angles, this will give the shadows enough room to dissipate before reaching the backdrop.
As long as you have a large enough wall cyc, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Fortunately, if you buy a cyc wall kit through us, you will be able to expand it when needed. We make this easy because our cycloramas are modular, allowing you to attach or remove sections from them with ease.
Don’t Forget the Softboxes and Light Panels
If you already have a bit of experience with filming or photography, then you know that the best way to remove or dampen shadows is by using softboxes or light panels. Even though these two products look different, they function in basically the same way—they soften up the harsh light that comes directly from the bulb.
This not only removes the sharp lines that shadows get from direct lighting but also flattens out the light that you shine directly onto a surface. This will help remove any spotlight effects created from shining your overhead lights directly onto the wall cyc. Overall, remembering to use softboxes or light panels is easily the best expert tip for lighting a white cyclorama that we can give you.
Don’t Be Afraid To Get Creative
For our final suggestion, we simply encourage you to have fun with your lighting options and get a little creative. The beauty of photography and filming is that there is no right answer. Obviously, some options will be better than others, but if you play around with it a bit, you might find a combination that works perfectly for your specific needs.
If you think the day of the shoot will be a bit too busy to try out new things, we’d recommend using some stand-in subjects and running tests the day before. If you have a wall cyc in your own studio, there’s nothing stopping you from doing this. You can try out unique combinations without worrying about rental fees or wasting the entire crew’s time while you make minor adjustments. As long as you give yourself enough time, anything is possible.