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How to Photograph a Black Object on a Dark Background

How to Photograph a Black Object on a Dark Background

Posted by Urs Recher on Sep 22nd 2021

Whenever I prepare for a photoshoot, I normally set my lights to illuminate something specific without influencing other elements of the setup. In this example however, I purposefully made this "mistake" for creative reasons.

Illuminating backgrounds precisely can be tricky, especially when the object is small. Here, I solved this problem by lifting the object a few centimeters above the dark background. In addition, I illuminated the back of the object very brightly through a little hole in the background using a Picolite.

Because the perfume was black, I also placed a small white cardboard behind it in order to reflect the light and perfectly illuminate the background all around the object. The position of the cardboard also defined the fall-off of the background illumination. When I left it rather high, the fall-off was slow. At a short distance, the gradation was fast. Moveover, using filters for the Picolite or a colored cardboard to reflect the light can be a great help to set the color of your background. Here, I chose a blue filter for the Picolite.

The light setup for the bottle itself is quite straightforward. A diffuser from the left (with a 35x60 cm Softbox) controlled the gradation on the round bottle. I chose to keep the other side all black, except the cap, which needed some fill-in. Using a white paper would have effected the entire object, that is why I chose a simple flat mirror (positioned very precisely) to create the fill-in on the cap. Because this fill-in is a reflection of the main light, it also showed a nice gradation on the cap.

The picture is shot with a medium format camera and a focal length of 120 mm.
The exposure time was 1/90 s and the aperture f/ 16 at ISO 100.

© broncolor, by Urs Recher