Tag Archives: Barn doors

The secret to a wonderful black background with moody lighting

Mastering the black background

• Mastering the black background •
With very little practice you can get a perfect black background and moody lighting.

The eye is captured by solid black.

It provides a really focussed experience for the viewer. Low key and solid black backgrounds provide a wonderful insight on detail and features. If you get this right it provides an excellent insight for portraits and helps many other aspects of your photography. This is a technique I use for product photos, still life, landscapes and flower photography.

Simplicity itself

The technique involves using a bright light (off camera flash) to overpower the ambient light. The steps are simple…

  • Set your camera to its lowest ISO setting (around ISO 100) – the sensor is least sensitive to light.
  • Set your aperture to a high f number (small aperture = low light), say f11, or higher so that the amount of light your camera lets in is very small.
  • Take a test shot to ensure your screen is black – you want nothing to show.
  • Shoot with a diffused off-camera flash at full power using a narrow beam.

This simple technique is relying on extreme underexposure. Basically you are underexposing the whole scene to blackness. But then you are introducing a very narrow beam of brightness that overcomes a limited area of the underexposed shot. This leaves your highlighted spot on the subject in a moody light with the rest in black.

Photography Technique: The Invisible Black Background

Glyn Dewis  External link - opens new tab/page introduces the technique on video. Notice the way the umbrella is creating a focussed narrow beam of light. You can do the same thing with “barn door” lights or cards either side of a reflected flash. Enjoy the video…

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Easy introduction to light modifiers – don’t miss out (pt 2)

Light modifiers manipulate light.

Photographic lights are shaped and controlled by the light modifier. With it you create the lighting you need. Use the right modifiers and you create the scene you want. Knowing which one to use is crucial. The resources set out here aim to help you understand what light modifiers are and what they can do.

In a previous post, Easy introduction to light modifiers (pt 1), we examined:

In this post we are looking at more of these useful tools for controlling light.

Grids

Much more open than the honeycomb are a variety of other types of grid. They are used in front of many different types of light source. The aim of a grid is to…

Beauty dish

The beauty dish is widely used in fashion industry. Photographers love it’s flattering light. Using this dish creates…

Barn doors

Originally used on film sets barn door light modifiers have a special function. They are normally fitted to…

New resource pages

Part one and part two (this post) have added a number of new resources about light modifiers to the photographic glossary. However, as a group of resources they can also be reached from the page of light resources…
Light and Lighting – Resource pages on Photokonnexion
Light modifier resources on Photokonnexion – A new page linked from the Light and lighting page.