Dark Background Portrait Photography Tips

If you’re shooting portraits on a dark backdrop and need fresh ideas, look no further. Daniel Norton demonstrates how to create dramatic portraits on a dark background:

Norton says that sometimes it’s ideal to match the background with the skin tone of your subject. In this case, Norton photographs a subject with darker skin and hair so some highlights are initially lost in the dark background. He explains how to adjust your setup for ideal results with any skin tone.

The softbox is a strip bank softbox with a grid providing light for hair and separation. The diffuser fabric provides a wash of light coming from one direction. These different pieces of gear help Norton adjust for lighting and highlights for portrait photography. He can ask the model to move her face or position to emphasize the highlights based on his settings and equipment layout.

Some changes you can make include trying different backdrops, adjusting the power of the lights, and choosing which one is the key light. In one instance, he uses his back light as the key light to bring out highlights from behind the model’s face. This places light in desirable areas for your image such as the subject’s hair, cheekbones, nose, lips, or chin. It all depends on which way they’re facing and where the light is coming from.

how to highlight portrait with dark backdrop

Throughout Norton’s video, his setup includes:

Learning to use the different equipment together to create a portrait setup is important. Take time with each tool to learn how to use it properly and to your benefit throughout all of your portrait images. Good luck!

“Quick changes can really make a difference in your images.”

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One Comment

  1. Sal De Fini says:

    All are welcome here T shirt. ….. Please don’t get political; I get enough of that on facebook

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