How to Create a Black Background Anywhere with this Photography Trick

Many portrait photographers dream of owning a studio with all the bells and whistles. However, some photographers who work on-location in less-than-ideal surroundings are able to make their images look as if they were taken in a studio. One of these resourceful photographers, Glyn Dewis, produces outdoor portraits that have a studio look without using a backdrop. He reveals his secret for creating an invisible black background in this short tutorial:

Dewis effectively produces a studio photography look while shooting outside in a parking lot with just an umbrella and a Canon Speedlite.


Follow these steps to create the look of a black background without purchasing a backdrop or using post-production tricks:

  1. Turn off all of your flashes.
  2. Set the camera and strobes to manual mode.
  3. Choose a small aperture setting, a low ISO, and a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second (or the sync speed for your camera and flash unit).
  4. Take a test shot of your scene, and adjust your settings until the test shot results in a completely black frame (Via Petapixel & ISO1200).
  5. Keep these camera settings and beginning setting up your shot.
  6. Shoot an off-camera flash into an umbrella that’s been closed down to narrow and control the light hitting your subject.
  7. Set the strobe to full power and take a test shot. Adjust the light until you get the desired results. On bright days, you may need to use a more powerful flash or multiple strobes to use this technique.

This is a handy trick that can be used in almost any situation to make your photos look as if they were taken in a studio.

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3 responses to “How to Create a Black Background Anywhere with this Photography Trick”

  1. Daniel Lee says:

    Would it also work to use high speed sync so that you can go over 1/250 and still have a multi light set up?

  2. Robert Dombi says:

    That is exactly what I was looking for. Fantastic! Thanks for a great tip

  3. Shivani says:

    Hi, I’ve tried those settings and although the background lighting is right, the subject is coming out dark. Any tips on what I’m doing wrong?

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