Creating Gradient Backgrounds

Make sure your gradients make the grade.

After explaining how to overcome the challenge of creating a clean white background for your photography, Karl explains how to achieve another popular look β€” a graduated background light. This technique is perfect for separating the subject from the background in an aesthetically pleasing way that doesn’t cause any distractions.

This too can be a difficult look to achieve, but Karl explains each step and outlines a few important things to consider when looking to create a smooth, graduated background.

In this class:

  • How to achieve a graduated background light
  • Common mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Illuminating different background surfaces
  • Adjusting a graduated background light
  • Diffusing light to achieve a soft, graduated look

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Dean Collins, San Diego, CA, years ago I purchased educational material from him, before the internet. One example he showed was intentinoally using the uneven aspects of paper background. His method was to cut a round hole in the paper, placing a light behind the paper but extending with the flash tube through the paper. On the end of the flash tube was a black card to block light going forward. This method had the light going up the paper creating an interesting effect. Would not call it a gradient, but simply an interesting effect on the background.

  2. Stiffany! Love it… My gal is “Manique” and it was using the mannequin that I learned how to create the Rembrandt triangle! Really appreciate this tutorial. I mostly have speedlights (slowly building up strobes) and trying to create a similar look as been challenging. After watching the stands/grips tutorial, I now see the value in getting the floor and low stands! Thanks again!

  3. hrachess

    As always, great valuable tutorial! This whole lighting course is amazing! Thanks again Karl!
    2 quick questions. How do you achieve the circle gradient behind the subject’s head? just putting the light on higher stand and that’s it?
    Also in one of the shots I saw it’s high enough but light source was not seen? clipped out in post-production?
    Thanks in advance.

  4. I’m like a kid these days, since I’ve subscribed to your site – so excited )))

    Watching the videos; trying to test it on my own.
    Spent 3 hours yesterday to get this beautiful gradient background. Just the background!!! But when I see the results, it’s so worth it!

    My full time job is definitely in the way now ))))

    Karl, thanks a lot for what you are doing! Helps a ton!


  5. I’m getting a slight shadow of the grid pattern on my background. I’m using a standard 7″ reflector with a grid spaced at about 1-1.5 meters from the background. I’m very pleased with the gradient background glow but do not know how to eliminate the grid shadow except by using inserting some diffusion paper. The diffusion paper works great but was wondering how you did it without the grid shadows?

    I’m primarily a landscape and travel photographer but have been loving your studio videos and have been experimenting in the studio during these Covid times. Thank you Karl for your inspiration!

  6. Still haven’t seen a reason to regret my subscription………… Karl you’ve just opened a whole new world of experience about lighting.

    Thanks, this course is invaluable to me.

  7. This was worth the cost to renew my membership. One area I have been trying to figure out is creating the gradient in the background without the wavy look. This answered all my questions and explained it perfectly. Glad I decided to come back and renew my membership πŸ™‚

  8. So, Karl, how many people have actually caught the name of your model? That is absolute genius and makes me laugh every time (including the previous video).

  9. Another superb video. Wondering how one can create the ball of light when you need to photograph a whole body without needing to photoshop the stand in between the model’s legs. Do I just use two lights on the side and focus them in the middle?

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