Tips for still life/product photography with completely black background

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by edcculus, Nov 6, 2013.

  1. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    I'd like to take a picture of some objects (specific object doesn't really matter), and I need the background to be completely black.

    I experimented a little last night with OK results. I put down a black cloth on a chair, set my objects up and lit them. With my limited lighting setup (just shop/work lamps), I was getting way too much spill onto the surface, even though I put down a black cloth. I was able to get the background black by putting enough space between my setup and the wall and turning out the lights in the room.

    Going forward, what would be a better way to approach this? Maybe I should use a bracket of some sorts to hold my object/s up and shoot into empty space?

    FWIW, I'm shooting with an RB67 and the 90mm lens. In my camera last night was Kodak TMY.
     
  2. Robert Ley

    Robert Ley Subscriber

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    I use a background paper that is flocked. It is dead black and workers great, no high lights visible. You may also need a bit more control of your lights such as gobos to block some of the light on the background.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
     
  3. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    You can buy black velvet or fake black velvet pretty cheaply at a fabric store. It can take a lot of light and stay black. You also should try to set up your background to leave as much space as possible between subject and background. Also be sure to keep all the light blocked from your camera lens so you have zero flare.
    Dennis
     
  4. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Thanks guys. I think I do need a "blacker" fabric like velvet. Somethig with a lot of surface area that will absorb more light. I was just using a regular black woven that was probably reflecting too much light.

    Since I'm using a RB67, I do have the ability to sync with a flash at any speed. I dont really have flash that I can control that well though, which is why I'm using continuous lights. I'll try to see if I can get more control of the light as well.
     
  5. chrisaisenbrey

    chrisaisenbrey Member

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    I have quite good experience with what you call “shooting into empty space”. So the background has to be very fare away and should not get any light. The room has to be dark and perhaps you have to construct some kind of tube around your lamp to avoid scattering light into the room.

    A flash is of cause a very convenient way to darken the room. A short shutter time will remove all other light sources in the room (Your leaf shutter has no limit for the synchronizing time)
     
  6. adelorenzo

    adelorenzo Subscriber

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    Here are a few suggestions that I would try, some have already been mentioned:

    Black velvet or something that really absorbs light

    Use grids, snoots or flags on your lights (easy to DIY something) to control light spill

    Shoot at high shutter speeds with a strobe to kill ambient or shoot in the dark with your continuous lights
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 6, 2013
  7. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    This is where doing the shots in your darkroom helps, but black velvet is a must.
     
  8. Fixcinater

    Fixcinater Subscriber

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    Late to the party but: you can use a *white* backdrop and make it turn black if you light it correctly, especially if you have strobes. Work on controlling spill vs. finding a blacker cloth.
     
  9. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Depending on what your background material is made of, a polarizing filter might help.
     
  10. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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  11. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    Black velvet has been a main stay of all studios to get pure black backgrounds for years. As long as it's not extreme side lighting, it should be perfectly black, though watch out for dust!
     
  12. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Thanks Fix! I'm actually using no backdrop. I have a long kitchen. I have my setup on one side am shooting out into the open kitchen with the lights turned off. Once I worked out lighting the object correctly and turned out the lights, the background disappeared nicely. (confession, I used my d1g1t@l camera to do some testing since I've never done this before). I was having the most problems with the surface.
     
  13. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    Thanks. any advice on how to set up the lighting? I know that is really all subjective, but just some more general pointers?
     
  14. erikg

    erikg Member

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    Totally depends on what you are shooting, and how you want it to look. My advice would be to find some images that you like along the lines of what you are after and try to "reverse engineer" the lighting. Look at direction, quality, intensity. Sometimes it's not as easy as you might think and you almost always learn something as you move your lights around.
     
  15. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    S-E-P-A-R-A-T-E the background from the subject!!!
     
  16. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Since your problem is the supporting surface and not the background, have you considered working with instead of against it? For example, you can get a slab of black glass or 600x600mm polished black tile pretty cheaply and use that as your object support. Being black, it will have practically no diffuse response to your lighting but it will reflect a copy of the subject. That can look good in particular with darkfield lighting.
     
  17. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    "In my camera last night was Kodak TMY. "

    I discovered something quite by accident some time ago, TMax film really does NOT like Potassium Bromide in the developer, will drop everything from zone 5 and lower down into the shadows of zone 1 but zone 5.5. Could be interesting for a 'film noir' look, may help you with this. I don't remember if it was the old TMax or the newer version, it was a while ago, BUT a little goes a long way, maybe start with 1g/l of working solution.
     
  18. munz6869

    munz6869 Subscriber

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    Yes, what he said, and also with black perspex, which if you live near an art supplies shop, is cut into handy sizes, and less bitey.

    This is actually one of my favourite techniques for shooting things, as demonstrated here:
    http://mrmarcmorel.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/butterflies-in-a-bottle/ On a white field, and here: http://mrmarcmorel.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/from-the-vault/ doing tricky stuff with a lit backdrop...

    Marc!