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.
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 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…