There are plenty of cheap and easily available items that you can add to your shots and raise them to a whole new level. In this video from Adorama, photographer Gavin Hoey takes you to his studio to show you how to get three different portrait looks with a single gold background. He uses a $5 gold emergency blanket, so this is a pretty cheap, yet versatile trick to add some sparkle to your portraits.
You may need two blankets for this, but they often come in a pack of four or more for about $7, so it’s not much of an investment, really.
First things first: how do you light a shiny background? Gavin advises that you put the light higher above your model. This way, the light bounces off the background and onto the floor, not into your lens. This will prevent any blown-out parts in the image.
First look: The shiny blanket behind your subject and a single light above them is all you need. Make sure to use a gray card or make a color profile so that your camera renders the yellow color of the golden background correctly. Shoot away!
Second look: For this one, Gavin crumpled the background and then straightened it up (something you’d also do with tinfoil, like this or this). I’d personally also do it for the first look, but that’s just me.
He also made a movable golden “wall” by attaching a blanket to a large pop-up background. This allowed him to move this “wall” and change the angle of the golden background and create a very different look. The light bounces off the background, wrapping your subject in the golden light.
Third look: for the third look, Gavin chose a beauty-style shot. He placed a modified light at a 45-degree angle above the model’s face, a white reflector underneath her chin, and a second light to add a bit of light and sparkle to the background. This one’s my personal favorite.
These are only some ideas to spark inspiration and plant a creative seed. A great thing is that you can do the same kind of shots with a silver blanket, too. Or just use tinfoil. You can also add some color gels when lighting up the background and change its color completely.
I personally only used crumpled and straightened tinfoil for shooting some smaller subjects, but never as a portrait backdrop. The biggest piece of foil I used was when sculpting it for this shot. But I do love glitter and sparkle, so this seems like something I definitely should try. If you do it too, feel free to share the result!