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Tips & Tricks

How To Modify Bright Backgrounds Using a Scrim With Joel Grimes

By Justin Heyes on August 10th 2016

Back when I used to work for QVC, their key lights would be flooded and at full power to provide a broad wash of light. If let unmodified each of the four to five DeSisti 5Ks aimed at the talent, would greatly overexpose them compared to the rest of the set; so each one would have different combinations of scrims in them. These scrims were wire mesh discs that would either bring down the intensity a half stop (single) or a full stop (double) and would be a better alternative than dimming.


When you dim a light it either becomes warmer (tungsten) or cooler (HMIs); scrims bring down the intensity of the light without affecting those qualities of it. The scrims in the 5Ks would make sure that the color temperature would remain the same without the talent looking like that they were radioactive.



Subject to background separation is important in most video work and portrait photography, as you don’t want your talent to blend in with the background (usually). Photographer Joel Grimes shows us how to use a scrim to change the background intensity, to give separation similar to using a flash.

To achieve the desired result Grimes used a variety of gear:

Westcott Scrim Jim 8’ x 8’ 1-Stop Diffuser

Westcott Scrim Jim 8’ x 8’ Double Net Fabric

Canon 5DS R

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8

Using a shallow depth of field he was able he was able to blur the net and create a seamless background. It is important to remember when trying this technique yourself, that a scrim does not diffuse the light, it only decreases its intensity. If you give it a try make sure your share it in the Critique Section or on our Facebook Group.

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Paul Wynn

    Great result using the net, and lovely looking natural light on the model. But that seems a lot of extra equipment to handle, surely a portable light such as the Proto B2 would be easier to manage, particularly if you were working by yourself.

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    • Hagos Rush

      I was wondering about this myself if I am being honest. It’s a great setup when you have a team but when you don’t…

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