Theme for the week this week was Black Background so I thought I’d combine it with part of the food photography course that I’m doing at the moment.
Black background is something that most people with a bit of control of their camera can achieve – and also something that you’ll never achieve if you leave the camera in auto or program mode.
The reason why you won’t be able to do this in auto is that the camera is always looking to expose the scene to middle grey brightness and if your scene is predominantly black then it will over expose to turn the scene grey. This is the same reason why a snow scene goes grey when shot in auto – the camera tries to expose assuming mid-grey and this time under-exposes the white snow to achieve this.
To create a black background shot, most people decide to place something black behind the object as the easiest approach, and that’s what I did in the above photo and the one at the top. But it’s not necessary, in fact you can take a black background picture in daylight quite easily.
For optimum control you need a light source (like a flash) but you can also achieve it with natural light if the subject is brightly lit while the background is in shade, like the photo below, shot in my garden on a summer evening. And of course you need to be in manual mode on your camera.
I could try and explain the principles here, but there is an excellent video tutorial from Glyn Dewis, one of my favourite photographers. He is something of a master of the black background portrait which you will see if you take a look at his Instagram feed.
I’ve never tried this for portraits, preferring to stick to the dark screen option for most shots.
Why not have a go this weekend, get a dark piece of card or even a dark sheet if you have one. If you don’t have an off-camera flash then try with a torch and set a longer exposure – light the subject from the sides so that no light spills onto the background – they can make very striking images.