Introduction: How to Make a Pure Black Photography Background

Picture of How to Make a Pure Black Photography Background

If you've seen some of my other Instructables, you would know that I'm a bit pedantic about the thumbnails of my Instructables. My pictures have to be PERFECT.

I was inspired to try a black background after practically giving up on white backgrounds. In my opinion, taking a picture on a white background is one of the best ways to make it look really professional, though, unfortunately, after months of experimenting, I'm not able to set the white balance and contrast on my DSLR camera, and even on a pure white background, with 200+ watts of LED light, the background always looks grayish bluish. Since editing all of the pictures manually is A TON of work, and still doesn't turn out well for me, I've decided that I want to experiment with a black background. Why not?

I'm really happy that I said that "Why not", because since then, I found out that pictures that are taken on black backgrounds can turn out really well too, And in this Instructable, I will show you how to create a pure black photography background, and how simple it is!

I'm also giving away a FREE PRO Membership to Instructables, so don't forget to check out the top comment (in the comments section) for more information.

Note: I am not a professional photographer-- Far from that! I've learnt all of the skills that I know through experience, while taking pictures for of my Instructables. You DO NOT need any expensive equipment to do this!

EDIT: I've also made a quick Youtube video. If you'd like, you can click here to watch my video about it. If you liked it, make sure to check out my new YouTube Channel, as I upload quick videos of my projects in action, and more!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

Picture of What You'll Need:

Below is a list for everything you'll need to complete this project. If you don't see something that you think should be here, please let me know in the comment section below. If you would like to know more about a specific tool/part that I used, feel free to ask in the comments.

Hardware & Materials:

A black desktop computer (that you don't need)

A moist paper towel

Tools (+Attachments):

Powerful lighting

Screwdriver

Electric/Power Tools:

A Computer with access to https://pixlr.com/editor/

A Camera

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Subjects: Electronics Teardowns, Photography

Approximate Time: <5 Minutes

Cost (for me): FREE

Difficulty: Simple

Step 2: Find a Black Background

Picture of Find a Black Background

If you want to photograph an object on a black background, you'll need something that is black, which will as a black background, right?

"A computer?"

Yes! I found this desktop computer (for free, obviously!), and the sides of its case are made black of black sheet metal.

We don't have a TV, but if you aren't able to find a black desktop computer, I suppose a screen, when combined with great lighting, should work too.

Step 3: Take It Apart!

Picture of Take It Apart!

Keeping the whole computer made no sense, so I used a Philips screwdriver to remove the sheet metal panel. I had to remove only two screws, but your computer might be different.

I will be taking the whole computer apart soon ;)

Step 4: Clean It!

Picture of Clean It!

The sheet metal wasn't very clean, so I used a moist paper towel to wipe off all of the dust.

Step 5: Take a Picture (Or Two... or Six!)

Picture of Take a Picture (Or Two... or Six!)

Now is a good idea to set up lighting. You will need powerful, yet fairly warm lighting. If you don't have access to the sun, I've got you covered with these awesome DIY panels!

Just take a picture, as you normally do. All of these have been taken in the sun with no previous experience.

If you look closely, you can see that they're black, but they don't look pure. Do you have this problem too? I'll show you how to fix this in the next step.

Step 6: Fixing Mistakes (<1 Minute Per Image)

Picture of Fixing Mistakes (<1 Minute Per Image)

Picture #2 - Before editing

Picture #3 - After editing! (Incredible, right?)

You might not have an amazing camera. Your background might not be pure black. Your background might have some scratches. You might not have the best lighting. What do you do? Does this mean that your picture won't turn out amazing? Absolutely not!

If your background has a some signs of wear, I recommend taking a Bokeh picture. If this still doesn't help, I recommend going over them with a black paintbrush color tool, in an editor.

If your background isn't pure black, like what I showed in the previous step, you'll need to open https://pixlr.com/editor/. After you've opened the image that you want, you need to click on Brightness and Contrast, which can be accessed through Adjustment. I find that lowering the brightness, and raising the contrast (as much as you think), make the picture look about a million times better.

Note: I am not affiliated with Pixlr in any way. I've just learned about it (the website) several weeks ago. I'm showing you what I did, which is what I recommend doing. Other editors should work just as well for tasks like these...

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I read ALL comments, and reply to as many as I can, so make sure to leave your questions, suggestions, tips, tricks, improvements, and any other ideas in the comments below! - Thanks!

Comments

Yonatan24 (author)2016-10-17

FREE PRO Membership Giveaway!:

If this tutorial has helped you, please post your "Before & After" pictures! If more than 6 members do this until 10/21/16, I will be giving out a free ONE YEAR membership to the member that posted my favorite one!

Yonatan24 (author)Yonatan242016-10-25

GIVEAWAY CLOSED!

Congrats to ThirdEarthDesign for submitting my favorite picture! :)

Meanwhile, check out my other Instructables for more free memberships!

super_me (author)2016-12-09

Just saying, dunno if the option is there, probably is, when you upload a photo to an instructable, there's an option to edit it in Pixlr, so that kinda makes things easier if you want to have a black background in instructables.

Yonatan24 (author)super_me2016-12-09

I've had several issues with that editor, so I prefer using the online Pixlr editor. It's also faster for me.

This I'ble will probably also get quite a bit of traffic in the future from Google search, so I preffered to keep it simple :)

super_me (author)Yonatan242016-12-10

I think I know what you mean - I'bles Pixlr can be a bit slow...

Anyway, great instructable, I like it - will be trying it out too.

Thought it might be a bit long when I saw it (it was in the Photography class somewhere!), I thought it would involve messing around around with photoshop or gimp or something ?, but it's quite simple....phewh...

PicsArt (author)2016-10-27

Cool instructable. It would be great to provida a similar instructable for mobile devices.

Yonatan24 (author)PicsArt2016-10-27

I think I've downloaded PicsArt for my phone once. Not sure.

Thanks, it shouldn't be very different for mobile devices. Why?

PicsArt (author)Yonatan242016-10-27

I know that it will not be very different but for the users who use mainly mobile devices it would be great to provide exact steps for mobile devices. However the instructable is really cool and I will try to make it. Thanks for answering.

Yonatan24 (author)PicsArt2016-10-27

It depends on the editing app that you use... I don't there should be any difference, other than the quality...

VioletH (author)2016-10-25

Still have to edit every photo. would be just as useful, if not more useful to use a green screen. the fabric is relatively cheap now and will rol up easier than using a piece of sheet metal. Just a suggestion. Nice work though.

Yonatan24 (author)VioletH2016-10-25

Thank you, I don't have to edit every photo, it just looks better when I edit it. I don't have a green screen, and don't know how to use one. I think editing it from green to black would be a bit harder (and I think green is a more pupular color...)

VioletH (author)Yonatan242016-10-25

green screen is not a screen, but a piece of green fabric, used as a background. It is usually a green fabric because most objects and skin tones are not similar to the color used so it can be selected as a color and edited out in a photo or video program. leaving you with empty space tha can now be any color or background you wish to insert. It is a fun trick to learn.

Yonatan24 (author)VioletH2016-10-25

Yup, I know. I've seen these being used before, but don't know how to use them...

ThirdEarthDesign (author)2016-10-18

I'd never considered using a black background before, always went with white (with varying levels of success). Will definitely give this a try for future Instructables though, should help deal with nasty shadows as well :-) thanks for sharing.

"I'd never considered using a black background before, always went with white (with varying levels of success)."Same here!

I can't sand the shadows that appear on white backgrounds too... If you have a lot of lighting, I think you should try this on your Hogwarts Coat of Arms Instructable :)

ThirdEarthDesign made it! (author)Yonatan242016-10-18

I gave it a try but as my Hogwarts Coat of Arms Ible is so big I was struggling to find anything black that was large enough. In the end I used a black plastic sheet, but this created a few issues so required more post-editing than I would have liked. I quite like the look of a black background though so I'll try it again with something smaller.

I'm a bit late, but I think this is the best picture that was shared here in the comment section.

Check your inbox. I've sent you the code for a free 3 Month PRO membership :)

This is what went through my mind when I saw your comment:

I'll take a look at the pictures first, I'll just read the actual comment later...

*I click on the first image* "Oh no! That was taken on a TRASH BAG??? It probably turned out awful, what am I going to post as a reply?"

*I click on the second image* "WHAT?!? How'd you do that?"

Seriously, that has turned out PERFECT! Did you color over the reflecting parts, or did they not cause any problems?

Ha! I know right. I did some brightness/contrast adjustments and used the Photoshop magic wand tool, followed by some manual cleaning up with the eraser. But yeah the "trash bag", lighting (direct sunlight) and my phone camera really didn't do me any favours. I have a chroma-key green screen that I use for my video projects so I'll give that a go at some point.

And you're also saying you took this with a smartphone? WOW!

If I've found your YouTube channel, I see that you take most of them on white paper. From the experiments I've done, that didn't work out really well for me (so far) :)

fs woodworking (author)2016-10-22

I am going to need this technique for sure. Thanks for sharing!!

Yonatan24 (author)fs woodworking2016-10-24

Glad you liked it! Congrats on your win!

mickryobe (author)2016-10-19

I have been taking pictures for 72 years. I have never had a problem finding suitable, cheap, matte black backgrounds.

Your arts and crafts store or stationary store is a good place to look.

So is a fabric store. But beware, some fabrics can have a shine that will appear in your photo. A polarizing filter might correct that. And don't forget your clothes closet.

A small can of black matte paint can render many objects acceptably black.

By adjusting your exposure by making it as short as possible but still properly exposing your subject you should get a proper black field. You might also try that old film users' trick....Over expose. Proper exposure. Under expose. Since you are not burning expensive film it may be worth a try.

Make sure your camera reads the exposure directly from the subject. Do not include the black background.

Photoshop or some similar computer programme can sometimes make the necessary corrections to achieve perfection.

Yonatan24 (author)mickryobe2016-10-21

Wow! You've been taking pictures for about 80 times more than me! ;)

Thanks for the great tips!

mattcintosh (author)2016-10-18

I always hated the edge bleed I got when taking a picture with a white background. My DSLR (Kodak SLR/n Pro) would get severe purple fringing if I tried to take a picture of an object outdoors on white fabric or paper.

Yonatan24 (author)mattcintosh2016-10-18

What exactly is edge bleed?

I don't recall getting purple fringing (You just taught me two new terms) with my DSLR. However, if you take a look at some of older Instructables that were taken with my phone camera (Moto G), the white background would almost always be purple. Back then, I didn't have a lot of lighting, so tat might be the case...

I hope that this black background helps! :)

mattcintosh (author)Yonatan242016-10-18

The white would be too bright and cause the nearby pixels that should be dark to be way lightened up. Kind of like if you took the 20 pixels at the edges of the object, went into "levels" and cranked it up. I'm thinking there are too many photons and they are bouncing off the sides of the lens and inside the camera body and hitting areas they shouldn't
1st image: purple fringing
2d image: chromatic aberration

mattcintosh (author)mattcintosh2016-10-18

Hmm, the images didn't show. I also added a 3rd one. CRT blooming. Basically the pixels are so bright they start to bleed into the surrounding pixels. Notice Scooge's white areas vs the lines to the right. Those stay "in the lines" while the white "colors outside the lines"

Yonatan24 (author)mattcintosh2016-10-19

I see... That chromatic aberration is really annoying. Did you see this?: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatic_aberration

mattcintosh (author)Yonatan242016-10-20

I have some rather high power eyeglasses and the plastic lenses make the colors separate on the sides. Especially those LED signs that business are putting outside. I went with glass lenses and the chromatic aberration went away. Thats part of why good camera lenses are glass.

Yonatan24 (author)mattcintosh2016-10-21

I have a cheap flashlight that does that too.

mickryobe (author)Yonatan242016-10-20

I am not familiar with this phenomenon nor with "edge bleed". From reading the responses in this thread it seems that too much brightness is causing the problem.

Would a neutral density filter(s) be of any use to you?

Mickey

xiangdo (author)2016-10-20

Logarithmic reflectance charts intended for aligning 3-channel tube-type broadcast video cameras came with a rectangular strip of black velvet mounted horizontally on the 4 x 3 aspect ratio chart, which was intended to act as the zero reflectance (black) reference for setting the baseline black level. It started out pretty black but unfortunately, it eventually got smoothed out and became too reflective. One method for getting a really dark area to replace it was to cut out the portion of the chart that was covered by the strip, then attach a box to the back of the chart, centering it over the resulting hole. The inside of the box was painted with flat, matte black paint and the box was big enough that any light shining through the hole into it from any angle other than dead-on didn't illuminate the portions that the camera could "see". Result: effectively, a "black hole" in the chart, giving a zero-reference much better than the original velvet surface. For smaller objects to be photographed, by using a large enough box and carefully-positioned lights, the same effect ought to be obtainable.

romeug (author)2016-10-18

just to save a bunch of prep time, the standard photographic black background that one desires to drop out, is black felt which is cheaply acquired at a fabric store. does not reflect at all, no scratches, and if back far enough soft focuses and makes a super even backdrop. You can get it large enough to do large items. one of the best uses is to mount your camera on a tripod, hang the felt in front of the camera, cut a slit to poke the lenss through, and photograph reflective objects without revealing the camera (or you if the felt is large enough).

Yonatan24 (author)romeug2016-10-19

I've had suggestions for using black velvet too. I might try this if I find some.

Thanks for the suggestions!

mickryobe (author)Yonatan242016-10-20

Some velvet fabrics will reflect light.

romeug's suggestion of felt is excellent.

camcat (author)romeug2016-10-18

That's fantastic advice, thank you!

colininchch (author)2016-10-19

It's really all got to do with the camera's metering system. If you take the photo using auto exposure you will get these sorts of results i.e black looking grey, white looking grey etc.

As an experiment with your camera set on auto exposure take a photo of a black sheet of paper ensuring that it fills the whole frame. It looks grey right? Now take a photo on auto of a white piece of paper so that it fills the whole frame. It looks grey as well. Now take a photo so that 1/2 the frame is filled with the white paper and 1/2 is filled with the black paper. They will now look correct. That is because the metering system takes the average rating of all the tones it reads (on the tone scale black being zero and white being 256) and says that grey is that average number.

So in the case of the separate black and white images for all black the average of black being zero is = grey and for all white the average of white being 256 is also = to grey.

The white balance will make a difference to how the colours are interpreted, the white may look a little warm or cold. Don't use AWB on your camera. Set it to the correct colour temperature or use the appropriate setting (icons in the viewer) for tungsten or fluorescent light etc.

So for best results, use manual exposure and don't use AWB.

colininchch (author)colininchch2016-10-19

that number should be white = 255 ! Brain fade

Willyd57's comment on the lighting is a good one though. That is the best way to get a pure black background. This works well in a studio for portraits etc but of course it may not that practical for these types of applications as you would have to suspend the subject matter somehow

Raitis (author)2016-10-19

For those of you too lazy or without an old computer I suggest simply buying some sheets of 700 gram black presentation paper. Somewhat pricey, but meant exactly for that.

And if you want to go completely overboard, paint a surface with Vantablack.

Yonatan24 (author)Raitis2016-10-19

That's the simple method :)

Why do I think that the video is fake? It looks edited...

Raitis (author)Yonatan242016-10-19

I don't know, from what I've read that paint is so black it doesn't look real even in person. Here's their site if you haven't looked that up yet.

Willyd57 (author)Raitis2016-10-19

That stuff will turn any surface into a light sucking monster for sure! It's great for painting flags used to block light from hitting specific areas on a subject.

Yonatan24 (author)Raitis2016-10-19

Interesting, so it's pretty much a 2D black hole!

P.j.N (author)2016-10-18

I remember when i got my first dslr. I spent months taking pictures ans slowly changing the settings until i had gotten pretty good with fstop iso and white balance. Playing with focus points as well. So i can relate. Reading books on the subject felt too much like school lol. This is a great instructable for getting a pure black backgrounds and will be harvesting a desktop soon. As far as your bluish grey pics on white. Try putting white balance right in the middle as one direction turns red and the other blue. But you probably already knew that. Just in case i gave YOU an instructable. Have a great day

Yonatan24 (author)P.j.N2016-10-19

I haven't found a way for adjusting the white balance on my camera. I searched for it on Google, but that didn't help too...

Thanks for the idea! :)

Willyd57 (author)Yonatan242016-10-19

If you don't mind me asking, what kind of camera are you using?

Yonatan24 (author)Willyd572016-10-19

I use the Nikon D3000. I couldn't find that option anywhere.

amrus2011 (author)Yonatan242016-10-19

If you still have your Nikon D3000 user manual, go to page 80 and the white balance section begins there. Fine tuning the white balance begins on page 82.

Willyd57 (author)amrus20112016-10-19

And page 83 outlines how to do a white balance preset, so he can create a custom WB for his LED light source. That is what I outlined above.

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