Thursday, January 31, 2008

I am nothing, if not resourceful

Oh yeah, remember that one time that I said I was going to devote Thursdays to photography?

Me neither.

But, I will try to do a few photo Thursdays here and there. And lucky you! Today is one of them.

After I posted the photoshoot of Sophie the other day, several of you asked what my backdrop set up is. I'm afraid you might not like the answer, but I will share my secrets anyway.

I don't have a backdrop set up.

Here is what I do have: Two kitchen chairs, a sliding glass door and a big old piece of BROWN fleece. Yes brown. Not black, much as I wish it were. And that's where Photoshop comes in.

So, I set up my chairs at a not quite 90 degree angle to the sliding glass door, and then drape my fleece over it, pose the kids and snap away. Here are some pictures of how it looks:

The other thing I often do is hang up my fleece in the garage. I use jumper cables and hang them to the garage door runner thingies. Basically, I just make do with what I have. But, I don't do any garage photoshoots in the middle of winter because everyone would be blue. I do like the larger space when it's warmer, though.

Now, I like (love) the look of the super black background. It is my favorite. Since the fleece I use is dark brown, it generally looks fairly black, but it does need some darkening in photoshop sometimes. I do this by using the clone stamp tool on color burn.

Here are the instructions for Photoshop Elements 5.0. I can't speak for any other version.

Make a duplicate layer by pressing "ctrl" and "J".

Press "S" to get to the Clone Stamp tool.

Up along the top, underneath the main tool bar will be the bar for whichever tool you are currently using. You will see a "mode" field with a drop down menu. Pick color burn.

Go to your picture and place your cursor over the darkest part of your background.

Press "Alt" and click.

Now you can just paint with the tool. I generally zoom in on my photo quite a bit and choose a pixel size of maybe 100-300, depending on the picture. If you have large areas of background you can go even bigger.

If you accidentally brush over something that's not the background, it generally doesn't make a huge difference since you're burning. But if it does, just undo it and keep going.

Once you have burned your entire background, flatten your layers, and voila! It looks like it was black to begin with!

Now, this doesn't work if you are using a light background. It has to be fairly dark to start out with, so a dark colored blanket or sheet will be fine, but nothing too light.

Here are some examples from today (Since I had to set it all up, might as well get a few shots in, right?). You may not be able to tell a huge difference, but on some monitors it will be really obvious:

This picture has the original background, I did not burn it at all:

This picture was burned using photoshop:

One last piece of advice: I took the above pictures in the early afternoon. Generally, try to stay away from that time as the light is really no can kind of tell that it gives her a washed out look, as compared to Sophia's pictures a few posts down which were taken around 10 am. I like to take portraits with this backdrop either in the morning or late afternoon. It is a north facing window which really gives some nice light if you catch it at the right time.

Hope this answered some questions!

Have fun being resourceful!
Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.


  1. Also with that set-up (and if I remember) I'll put a reflector on the dark side -- just so you don't get as dark of a shadow.

  2. YOU are to smart !!! I tell you.. I have photoshop sitting here from Christmas.. because I'm to SCARED to play with it.. You might need Photoshop Wed.. ok.. LOL LOL..

    Beautiful pictures girl!! LOVE them as always!!

  3. I love your new title and pictures at the top! That is such a perfect title with you having three girls. I feel "overstuffed with pink" with just my one little girl, but I love it!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Lara! Now I'm in search of some black fleece. . . do you know about how many yards you use?

    I'm not sure that I have sufficient light in my garage to use it well, but I think I once read on Becky Higgins' blog that she actually just hangs a piece of fabric on her house (she has nails in the mortar between the bricks, I think) and has her photo shoots outside. I might try that. Unfortunately, I do not have enough space in any of the well-light rooms in my house to pull off a photo shoot, either.

    Again, thanks, and I second whoever above me said you might need to do a Photoshop Wednesday! : )

  5. I love that big old spoonful of peanut butter! :O)

    What a doll she is!

  6. I need to take a class on how to use photoshop. It intimidates me! Thanks for the tips!

  7. Wow -- I wish some of that made sens to me. I actually wish you still lived here so you could come help me out!