Portrait Photography Tip #2: Studio Black Background

Portrait Photography Tips
Man poses for artistic portrait in black and white

A black or dark background is great for creating pictures that are more classical in style or with portray deeper feelings.  It’s not as well suited to fun family photographs partly as the lighting needs careful consideration.  However, dark backgrounds are ideal for formal family portraits.

The black background is well suited to photography that is more artistic especially where a human body is more exposed.  This could be pregnancy, newborn babies or of course nudes photography.  These are all ideal subjects for displaying as monochrome photographs.

I find black backgrounds are perfect for newborn babies photographed for black and white.  Monochrome removes almost any trace of deep red birthmarks that simply melt into the baby’s natural skin tones. Here are three reasons why baby photos look in monochrome

Mother with her newborn baby.

Mother with her newborn baby.

How to look fabulous

Assuming you’ve read portrait photography tip #1, you’ve already guessed that dark clothes are better suited to a black or dark background.  Limiting the contrast between your clothing and the background draws the viewer’s attention to you.

For example, if you wore a brilliant white shirt (or blouse) against a dark background the shirt would dominate the picture – almost certainly overwhelming you.

However, if your clothes or hair is virtually black they could blend into the background.  Sometimes this is desirable. But when it isn’t it must be fixed with additional lighting.

My son playing his "Les Paul" guitar.  The rim-light around his head brings your attention to his face.  His guitar is a powerful secondary subject within the photograph.

My son playing his "Les Paul" guitar. The rim-light around his head brings your attention to his face. His guitar is a powerful secondary subject within the photograph.

Are you looking for photography that is more creative?

I’m always keen to hear your ideas for creative photography. It’s more accessible to you than you may think.

To keep things simple all creative photography is equivalent to our makeover creation fees. And you can enter our competition to win your photo shoot – completely free.

Simply fill-in the makeover form giving your idea. It’s completely free to enter so you have nothing to loose.

Click here to enter the competition now

 

A mother-to-be poses for an artistic pregnancy photograph.  I used rim-lighting to give her separation from the background.

A mother-to-be poses for an artistic pregnancy photograph. I used rim-lighting to give her separation from the background.

Mother and father to be pose for a fine art pregnancy photograph in traditional black and white.  This even has a traditional film grain effect added.

Mother and father to be pose for a fine art pregnancy photograph in traditional black and white. This even has a traditional film grain effect added.

Proud father with his newborn baby son.

Proud father with his newborn baby son.

The black background is perfect for fine art nudes such as this modelled on a classic Edward Western photograph from the 1930s.  I used a traditional style of black and white monochrome.

The black background is perfect for fine art nudes such as this modelled on a classic Edward Western photograph from the 1930s. I used a traditional style of black and white monochrome.

Lighting is critical – bonus tip

If you’re interested in delving a little deeper

Dark background photographs rely on the visual creation of three dimensions contained within a two dimensional medium.  That medium could be an artist’s canvas, fine art paper or finest professional photographic paper.

Controlled light creates the illusion of the third dimension.

Outdoors that could be purely natural light. And artificial lighting could supplement natural light or even become the dominant light source.

In the studio, I have complete control over the lighting.  The position of the main light determines its direction and therefore your sculptured form.  In order to see the light’s affect, I need to control what happens in the unlit areas.  Unlit areas could be virtually black.  But more likely, I’ll fill these areas with a less powerful light.  Controlling the power of this fill-light dictates how dark the shadows are in your final photograph.

Did you know that photography effectively means painting with light?

The term comes from The Greek word phos, photos – light and graphos – writing. The word photography literally means writing with light or as most photographers refer to it – painting with light!

Separation from the background

As mentioned earlier it’s possible for either your clothing or hair to blend into the dark tones of the background.  When this happens, it may be desirable to create separation from the background. Then additional lights illuminate you from behind.  This creates a rim of light around you thus separating you from the background.  These are rim lights – you may have heard of them 🙂

Pat

P.S.

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top Portrait Photography Tip #2

About the author: Director, Photographer & Artist of PatB Photography. Award winning photographer and member of SWPP & SIFGP. Featured in cosmopolitan.co.uk, Photo Pro, Alt Fashion. Clients include; BT, Samurai Sports, ItalClean, KeyAgent & AutoTrader.

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