Shooting Black Clothes

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by william_fong, Jan 26, 2008.

  1. Having a bit of a problem shooting dark clothing. I'm using a Canon 430EX flash
    + umbrella slaved to a Canon 580EX II on camera (also as master). It's either
    the clothes come out too dark or the model's head over exposes. How should I
    shoot this?

  2. Less contrasty. If you are shooting film make a thinner negative. If digital ask someone else.
  3. Yeah, I'm shooting digital (Canon 40D).

  4. Here's an example
  5. William,

    Lighting aside, are you capturing raw or as jpegs? If you capture in raw mode, most converters allow you to set your black point differently than the camera default. Moving the black point down can open up the darkest tones and soften up your blacks. You can do something similar in the camera's jpeg mode by selecting a low contrast setting and then making adjustments in your editor's image levels section, but this will result in an image inferior to that captured in raw mode. Your test image has fairly noticeable specular highlights. Is that umbrella a silver one? When shooting your final images, you might also consider a bit more makeup to keep those shiny spots within the capture range.
  6. William,

    Good news and bad news...

    Your exposure in the example looks spot on. (good news)

    Your choice of clothing and background are UGLY, especially together. (bad news)

    No matter how you set your camera you are going to record what you've placed in front of
    the lens.

    My suggestions:

    1. use a longer lens and shoot in a room big enough to get your model away from the

    2. Choose a background that is medium to dark, with some texture, which should now be
    out of focus.

    3. Think about finding more attractive clothes, if they are dark, a darker background will
    help them from looking so dark as they do against the white background.

    4. If it doesn't look attractive to your eyes, it won't look any better on camera.

    Keep trying and perhaps look up some websites about lighting as well.
  7. Hi! Thanks for the replies. To address the questions...

    Yes, I do shoot in RAW. I'm just doing the photography and there will be a graphic artist to do the actual clean up. I'm just trying to take the best picture as possible on my side so there will be less post processing to do.

    I'm going to be doing a photo shoot for a clothing company. Some of their items are completely black, but I don't have any of the samples yet. We took this picture at my place with the only black coat she had. So yep, clothing and background are just tests, but we were trying to match as close as possible to the actual outfit + background (which was going to be white). Maybe we'll change it to a gray background. I will definitely try a longer lens. I think I was using a 28mm prime on my 40D, but that's because my apartment is only so big. I was using a white satin umbrella. I seem to be able to get better results by placing the umbrella closer to the model. Just not sure if there is anything else I can do to make the black stand out better.

  8. Turn down your fill and increase exposure. To see detail in the coat you need shadow...a difference beween the main (at her left) and the fill. The lights are too equal in; see the two shadows on her neck...they show both lights to be about the same.
  9. I never dressed a model in black because black color abstracts light. It is just my thought.
  10. Your exposure here is a bit (well, more like a 1/2 stop or better ) too dark; once the curves are adjusted, the coat has more detail, but still looks too flat. When trying to capture detail in dark areas, good exposure is the first place to start. I've found the key to shooting black is to skim the fabric with light from the sides or back to bring out whatever highlights are there (you need white to show how black it is, so to speak).
  11. This is what I mean about sidelighting black fabric.
  12. The higher the subject brightness (reflective) range, the lower the light ratio needs to be.
  13. put the picture in the middle of the histogram

    add a layer in photoshop multiply mode then adjust opacity for the dark clothing

    selct layer/hide all and with a white brush paint only the dark clothing in to your taste

    In the old film days in went something like this:
    "The photograph was over exposed by one stop because the background was bright and it was a black dress"
    Arthur Elgort: in FASHION THEORY: Lustrum Press
  14. Thanks all for the tips!

    Not sure if I can do that side lighting like that though. These photos are for a fashion show, so I need to show the fronts of the garments. I'll definitely have to play with this lighting...

    Now to figure out how to shoot white clothes! haha

    Thanks again!
  15. the clothes appear dark because not enough light is hitting on it. furthermore, black materials absorb light.

    the simplest solution is to have a separate light for the clothes, possibly a soft light to fill in the details. flag the light if they are getting to the model's head.

    gd luck
  16. Hi Scott,

    We did the shoot last night, and that is exactly what I figured out. Need to just shoot the clothes and not the body with more light. Only problem is since it's a "fashion" shoot, the models like to move a lot. Not sure how to work with that, but at least I have a start lighting wise.

  17. I realize this post comes late but I'm putting it up here for the benefit of those who search the archives before asking a question. First being a more recent convert from film (20 yrs) to digital (3yrs ago) I have a habbit of trying to nail exposure correctly at capture rather than cleaning it up in post. Rand is correct your exposure is off (under). The expression "expose to the right" comes to mind. Especialy with black you want your histogram to just barely touch or even spill over the edge on the right, assuming you shoot raw and can recover highlights. But I have to respectfully dissagree with the notion that sidelighting is the answer here. Side lighting would illuminate half the model and leave the other side dark. What you need is very diffuse llight preferably from a large source above. Light coming in from sevearal angles but generally above will bring out fabric detail, stitching, wrinkles and so on. The best diffuse light for shooting black is a hazy or cloudy day outside. If you cannot do this, bounce flashes off a white ceiling or large white reflectors above and to the sides of the models. See this prom tuxedo shot for an example. The tux was actually very black. The skin tones are a tad overexposed but this is an out of camera Jpeg. I shoot Raw + Jpg usually. You can see the stock Jpeg really didn't need much tweekin on exposure although there is a bit of a Green cast WB issue due to the surroundings which I corrected in the raw version.

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