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How to Shoot Your Own Backgrounds

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Feb 17

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Why Using Your Own Images is Better than Stock

Using stock images are an easy way to create a composite, but shooting your own backgrounds will probably take you the same amount of time if not less. It also gives you more control over the camera angle and overall view of the scene. Today we went to downtown Chicago and took advantage of some beautiful places the city has to offer.

Bring a Fancy Camera

Sometimes having a DSLR camera can get you access to places you wouldn’t be able to get in otherwise. If you LOOK professional often times people will treat you likewise. Asking politely won’t hurt either.

  • Jay Stebbins

    What aperture do you recommend when shooting backgrounds for composites? Where in the image do you put your focus point? 

    Thanks for everything,

  • Reem

    totally agree!! I just done this in one of my last images! 

  • Oskar Wallin

    Just having a DSLR with a killer lens (the Canon 70-200 f2.8L ISUSM) got me into some concerts for free :) and in Press spots!

  • Shahram Rad

    Awesome picture.

  • Nick Bedford


  • Nick Bedford

    You would want to take a few and estimate where your subject may land in a composite. This will give you an accurate depth of field when placing them. I would try a bunch of different shots with each location. The more to choose from, the better.

  • Chris Day

    Aaron may I suggest a wind screen or a clip on mic so your not shot gunning.  

  • Angie

    Love your reflection in the glass building.  LOL

  • Steve

    Your camera looks bigger and bigger every time I see it!!

  • Shawn

    Aaron.. where the link to the Phlearn Pro?

  • Briedis K

    great job!!

  • Sachin Myneni

    I see that the few test shots you showed in the clip had decent depth of field. So why can’t I use a f/4.0 lens? or a f/5.6 or whatever?
    I admit I learnt compositing from PHLEARN :) but from what I’ve thought of so far (and whatever I’ve done) the background is usually pretty sharp. So I am curious about your recommendation to use a f/2.8.

    The only f/2.8 I have is a 40/2.8 STM :(

    Oh.. .and could you also comment on the what focal lengths you shoot at? Do you shoot at wide-angles and then composite a person shot in ‘normal perspective’ into that background?

  • Michael Maersch

    A little late to this discussion as I move through your library now, but I thought I would add these pix and make the suggestion: Smart as it is to always use a tripod (shoot as low an ISO as possible and then multiple frames for HDR) *these days* it’s probably best to raise that ISO then ‘run and gun’. Resort hotels out here – especially in Snottsdale – do not take kindly to “professional” photography (WON’T, especially during ‘Snowbird’ Season even consider allowing film projects, rarely even foto shoots no matter how much a Company is prepared to ante-up as a location fee). And, I find, even public entities – like the Convention Center, the stadiums, etc. – you’ll have a Rent-a-Cop in yer face in No Time Flat because what? “You’re casing the joint for a jee-hahd action or something?” Security, Security, Security. Paranoia, paranoia, paranoia… Be thoughtful, keep moving, see it, frame it, shoot it and move on. (“Why, I’m a tourist; I’m here for Sunday Brunch; I’m buying some mementos at the NBA Store…” Or maybe this is just peculiar to Arizona? I’m just glad my Location Scouting days are over now.) Here’s some stuff from projects I participated with Directors who wanted a cool, static frame they could make something happen in for their broadcast ads:

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