How to get dark (black) background

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by afilippides, May 17, 2007.

  1. How can I manage to get a BLACK background when shooting portraits or nudes?
    Does it have to do with the positioning of the mono-lights? Is it done in
    photoshop?Or is it as simple as by using a black paper backround? :) For your
    info I use two mono-lghts (one brolie and one softbox)and I shoot at a blue
    Any feedback will be appreciated.
  2. I use a synthetic velvet background. I think this would work better than paper as even black paper can be reflective. The synthetic velvet (or real velvet) absorbs light.
  3. I use only white background and simply don't light it to be dark or even black.
    You need to block the light with black flag or position the light at sharper angle.
    Using white or grey background allows to have nice gradation if needed. Some folks use
    photoshop to darken it.
  4. Distance and modifiers are probably the keys here, large umbrellas and softboxes are going to spread huge amounts of light and a lot of it is going to fall on your backdrop. You needs snoots and barndoors and distance to keep the light off the backdrop.
  5. Synthetic velvet is a good way to go or even a brushed felt. You should also keep the subject as far away from the background as possible and give a hairlight to the subject. There are a couple shots on a black background in my folio that I used brushed felt for. No editing on the background, so check it out and see if you like it!
  6. [​IMG]
    There are two ways, and you may combine them. 1. Use a background that is a dark color (black paper, black velvet, black painted wall, etc.), and 2. keep your light off the background.
    I took this shot entirely using the second way. The background was the child's cluttered playroom with colorful toys and such, lit with the normal level of ambient lighting you'd expect for a kid's playroom. I lit it with one small flash (Sunpak 383 at 1/4 power), with a tight grid on it to control the light and point a narrow beam of light ONLY at the child's face. I made the grid myself out of a bunch of black plastic drinking straws in a honeycomb arrangement. Since no flash was falling on the cluttered background, and the background was much farther from the light than the main subject, the background stayed dark enough to be effectively black. In fact, parts of the shadow side of the face and shirt show as black, and I guarantee that's not because they're intrinsically dark colored; it's because there's no appreciable light hitting them.
    A black background certainly helps, but "black" paper turns grey if you spill enough light on it. The flip side is that any background turns black if you keep it far enough from the lights and don't let light spill on it.
  7. As Ryan said, distance and modifiers are your friends. Keep a few basic rule sin mind and you will be ok.

    Light falls off as the square of the distance. So try to poistion your main light as close to the subject as possible.

    try to keep as far from the background as possible. You want separate control on each.

    Use flags or scrims to block the mainlight from falling on the background.

    Yes, you can always do it in Photoshop. But if you are like me and want to save yourself the work of retouching, get in right during the shoot.

  8. Try Photek's "Blackest Black" - it's made of velour but acts like velvet and while it's not cheap, it's cheaper than velvet. B&H carries it. Good luck!
  9. Sorry, meant to include a few links where I used Photek's Blackest Black. Some of these are implied nudes with the "naughty bits" covered:

    Anyhoo, you get the idea - the stuff really sucks up the light! ;-)
  10. You can use a black velvet background, keep the light off the background, as stated before.

    But in the studio I used to work at, we photograhped artists work and used the black velvet
    and polarizers. The polarizers on the lens and the lights gave a deep black. Not sure how it
    will work with portraits, but it's worth a try. If you want a deep, dark backgroudn, the easiest
    thing to do is give distance between the subject and the background, when there's room. If
    there's no room to move the subject away from the background, try using the different
    background materials and use gobos so that no light is spilling on the background.

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