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.

black-backdrop-trick

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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4 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?

  4. Anthony T says:

    -Shivani, I assume you’re already using the lowest ISO available on your camera. Have you tried using a larger aperture? You may have to increase your shutter speed to keep the background dark. Shutter speed controls the ambient light. Aperture controls the flash exposure. Of course ISO controls both ambient light and flash exposure.

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