Making white really white is not always easy. Or, to be more precise, shooting on a white seamless background, trying both to make it truly white and at the same time getting the foreground correctly exposed, is a delicate balance. If you underexpose the background, it will not be white and there will be a lot of photoshop’ing needed. If you overexpose it, you will probably have a lot of flare and reduced contrast and also quite some photoshop’ing to be done…
There are, however, good explanations on the net (and unfortunately also some that has less good advice). The best I’ve seen are the installments by Zack Arias. Read those 5 parts, and you will be able to do it yourself.
In my case, I only needed to shoot silhouettes. I thought that would be easier, and it may very well be. But if you don’t have a really large room or have painted the walls in your makeshift studio/living room completely black, there will be a lot of light spill anyway, and some photoshop’ing will still be needed.
I hung up my 2.72m super white seamless roll after having removed parts of the furniture in the living room; those rolls are indeed quite wide… Using a couple of flashes on the background made it as white as I needed with some careful placement, and I then ended up placing another couple of flashes behind the model, Simon, in order to create a rim light on him and to make the floor almost white. I didn’t have any tiles to put on the floor, as Zack otherwise recommends, so I needed the flashes. Thus, I initially set them up to whiten the floor, but ended up being very happy that they also worked as rim lights!
I should probably have placed a black piece of molton or similar on the closest wall to kill some of the light spill, but I didn’t.
My Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 was on the camera, and even if I had planed to use the 35mm f/2, I stayed with the zoom that worked surprisingly well with little flare. I have tried using the 85mm f/1.8 for similar types of shots earlier, but it does not work well; there is a lot of loss of contrast. Probably the 105mm f/2.8 VR would be better for that — I’ll have to test that some other time.
After a bit of photoshop’ing (or actually, lighroom tweaking), the shots came out as you can see here. This particular one is not a silhouette, which is what I needed, but I like it a lot as it is here. Yes, there are some flaws that should have been corrected (like the shadows around the feet — probably needs a reflecting tile to fix). The vignette is created in post, by the way, and is not a flaw in capture. If you study the gallery, notice that the rim light helps a lot to create definition around the right hand, like seen in some of the silhouettes. It was not really planned that way initially, but I’m sure glad I put it there!
There are more in the gallery, where you also find the silhouette versions.