The need for those endless walls

A former student recently asked about endless walls, and since this knowledge is a good thing for every photographer to keep in their back pocket, I figured I'd make a quick how-to.

What's an endless wall?

Exactly what it sounds like - an endless wall is a backdrop that is positioned in such a way that it seems to, well, not end. It does end though, if you back out of frame far enough, as seen in the image below:

Side view of an endless wall

Wide view of an endless wall

If I had to break it down into steps, the process of building an endless wall would go something like this:

1. Find flat, white, non-reflective roll of paper (I'm shooting on a Savage backdrop - the colour is Pure White)

2. Suspend from a backdrop rig (the one pictured is a Cameron rig). Although it looks fancy, a small rig can be made by simply running a string through the roll of paper and suspending it between two chairs.

3. Mitigate shadows. If you're going for a clean look in the background, you'll want to shoot an area behind your set up that's as clean and shadow-free as possible. In the photos above, I had to work with a gigantic window and multiple shadows behind me, so if you can shoot in a dark area, you're already doing well. So how to mitigate shadows? Fight them back with flash! In the the photos above, I have two speedlights positioned in front of my backdrop. The end result is what can be seen below (this has been leveled and edited in Photoshop/Lightroom):

A note on light positioning

This is not an easy process. Sometimes it may be, but you'll constantly be coming back to your set up to ask yourself if your lighting is right, and what would happen if you made some ever-so-slight tweaks. This is okay. If you find yourself coming away with dozens of test shots, that's fine.

Wash, rinse, repeat: Start with the two-point set up and reposition one of the lights around your subject. Take a test shot, and check out your photo. The shadows will gradually change and you can pick from the set up that jives well.

Final tips

- More is good: In the photos above, note how long the backdrop is. This is a good thing, as I was able to account for any cropping space that I needed in post.

- This is a patience game: sometimes getting the ideal photo can be done with a single shot. Other times, it can take hours. Patience is essential (this can be said for any form of photography).
 

And that's it! An endless background in three easy steps. As always kids, don't forget to shoot in RAW (or RAW+jpg, if you gear allows). You'll thank yourself when you're working in post.

Any questions, leave 'em in the comments!