Create a Perfectly Black Background in Photography

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Arranging objects, people, animals, and plants for a photograph can be quite difficult, especially if there's noise (e.g., clutter on the floor).  It's much easier to photograph an individual person or thing against a solid background and then add/subtract filler items for context.  In gardening photography, this is called a specimen shot where the only thing of interest is an individual plant, flower, or leaf, and this kind of photography can be its own separate category in a gardening photography competition.

White backgrounds show a lot of shadows and imperfections, and something white against something white doesn't really show a lot of detail.  However, something white against something black can really highlight the details that might have otherwise been missed, and it's dead easy to create a black background, too.

This Instructable shows how to create a black background in a photograph quickly and inexpensively, and while the examples involve plants, this method is not exclusive to gardening photography of specimens.  It can be easily used for photographing items, people, and animals.  Probably the best part of this method though is that there is very little editing needed.

To create a perfectly white background, please check out my latest Instructable and get tips on making subjects look shiny and wet!

Step 1: Materials for Outdoor Shots

The most inexpensive and potentially the easiest way to create a black background is to photograph outdoors.

You will need a sunny day with long shadows and architectural shade (e.g., a building or a car).  If you do not have a dark surface, you will probably want something black to put on the ground such as a sheet of black poster board or black fabric.

Step 2: Positioning the Outdoor Shot

Place the item you're photographing in the sun but right on the border of shade.

Place any necessary black material underneath or behind the item in the shade.

Angle your camera to capture the item with the black, shaded background filling the frame.  This might take a few tries to get the angle and arrangement just so.

Once you have the shot, skip to Step 5.

Step 3: Materials for Indoor Shots

You might not be able to take the shot outdoors for one reason or another, and in this case, you might have to setup something inside.

You will need something black to hang in the background and a spotlight.

Here is how I arranged the setup for my shot:
I placed a chair on the table with a piece of black poster board taped to the back of the chair.  I attached a work light with a daylight bulb to a "stick in a can" and hung a piece of old bubble wrap over it to diffuse the light.  I kept the curtains open for extra light, and I used a tripod.

Step 4: Positioning for Indoor Shots

Position the lamp so that it shines on the item but not on the background.  This might take a bit of fiddling to get the item and the lamp positioned just right.

Angle your camera to capture the item with the black background filling the frame.

Step 5: Editing in GIMP

Crop the image as necessary.

Adjust color levels.  "Pick Black Point" will more than likely take care of any adjustments you need to make.

Resize if necessary.

Save As.

Done!

4 People Made This Project!

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51 Discussions

I am pulling my hair out trying to get a decent black background. I have spent more money on black velvet that inevitably gets dirty. My problem is that I am shoot items that don't stand up, they are laid down. I am a collector of oddities, glass eyeballs, for example, need to be laid flat. Also I live on an island that isn't very sunny. I need to work fast, the car might work once but I need something simple. Also it's rains here a lot. I wish I could find a lens the way they used to make them, fast, with a short focal distance. Any suggestion would help my poor thinning weave.

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Have you considered silicone loops? They would hold round objects at any angle you like, and if paired with, say an acrylic tube or clear tube made from recycled plastic containers, you could change the elevation of the item.

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Harder than it looks.
My camera always tries to focus on the background.
Not sure how to fix this.
Any pointers?

1474213712565-1241198593.jpg
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couponchief

2 years ago

Thank you for this!

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sabu.dawdy

3 years ago

Today I will use this technique

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alcurb

4 years ago on Introduction

Thanks for the 'ible. I plan to use your technique. Seems fun to do. Added it to my collection.

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Slader-75

5 years ago on Introduction

Very interesting article! Thank you very much for having shared their knowledge. It will be very useful for anyone who has to deal with a camera. Here, too, there is interesting information as completely remove background with drawing without special programs and editors

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Websprinter

7 years ago on Introduction

Great instructable AngryRedhead !

I'm a newbie photographer and only had luck getting black backgrounds shooting in the dark (no ambient light behind object) closeup with flash. The background just disappears.

I have some navy velvet I'm going to try with your method. Now where did I put that bubble wrap? ;)

BTW, ( if you're a newbie like me) Some really good instructions for "Pick Black Point" are on
Really basic photo editing with GIMP
http://world.std.com/~mmcirvin/gimp_tutorial/levels_curves.html

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danmc91

6 years ago on Introduction

Thanks so much for taking the time to share this. I love plants and photography and you've done an excellent job with both!

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AngryRedheadtimnitro

Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

I use a Canon Rebel XTi, and I used the Auto Landscape setting and a kit lens for the example photos.

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Scarrmakerz

7 years ago on Step 5

ah GIMP..what a wonderful program...i like it better than Photoshop, only thing i miss is the magnet select

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bongodrummer

7 years ago on Introduction

Ooo, that is a very nice set of photos. I will have to start thinking more about the shots I take for ibles.

Sometimes I quite like a load of mess in the background, just so people don't get the idea that things get made 'easily', or in a clean way (by me anyway) ;)
But most of the time I am twisting about in all sorts of wacky ways to try and cut out unnecessary fussiness. I think this should help a lot.
Thanks for the clear instructions.
B.

1 reply

I think mess helps to make things look more "real" which isn't a problem IMO if the author is confident enough to show mess and the mess doesn't interfere with being able to see what's going on.  It's a judgment call depending on the message you want to convey.  You can see some mess in the 3rd step.  For one, I couldn't have done it any other way unless I got creative, and I wanted it to look real with things that most people have.  I'm not sure everyone has a huge cabinet in their living room filled with homebrew, but maybe there's something else.  :-P

Thanks for the comment!  Even if you don't use this for Instructables, the method might be useful in other ways.