2 Tips when using The Invisible Black Backdrop Technique

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: April 9, 2012

Category: General

Hi Folks…How goes it?

It sure was great last week to receive so much positive feedback from my Invisible Black Backdrop technique that Scott Kelby very kindly shared over on his Google+ page; such a simple technique and yet so effective:

Looking at it, the technique is made up of just 2 parts:

  • Set your camera to it’s lowest ISO, Maximum Sync Speed and then choose an Aperture that eventually gives you a completely black picture.
  • Bring in the flash to light up your subject.
The first time I ever used this technique ‘In the field’ was when I was photographing promo shots for a great guy by the name of Tom Colley; an up and coming Actor/Musician here in the UK. We’d been out on location but to finish off he needed some head shots that he could have in his portfolio to show at casting calls. Now there were 2 things I had to abide by: 1) No retouching could be done on the final head shots, and 2) They had to be on a black background.
Ok so no retouching I could cope with (just) and as for the black background…the Invisible Black Backdrop.
At the end of the original write up [Link], I included a couple of pointers just incase you tried the technique and weren’t quite getting the results you’d hoped for:
•     •     •
  • If you’re using this technique indoors be aware that once you introduce flash, the light might end up bouncing off light coloured walls which will then light the room up and so destroy your black backdrop. My advice when using this technique indoors would be to restrict where the light falls by using such modifiers as a Honl Speed Grid or a Lastolite EzyBox, or ‘close down’ your reflective umbrella.
  • If you’re using Speedlights outside to do this technique you may find that if you’re doing it in the middle of a bright afternoon your cameras aperture (f number) will have to be set so closed down (eg f/22) that your speedlights won’t be powerful enough to light the sensor. The answer here is to find a covered/shady area or better still wait for the sun to ease off a little. This technique can be done in the middle of the afternoon on a bright sunny day but that would call for alot more powerful lighting to be used which in turn would cost alot more money.
And that’s all there is to it…
As always if you have any questions or comments then please feel free to make use of the comments section below, but in the mean time thanks for taking the time to drop by,
Enjoy 🙂
•     •     •
Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ and get more from ‘Behind the Scenes’…

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  1. Michael

    Very useful information! Real-world application, complete with photo examples… really helpful. I must’ve missed Scott’s post, so thanks for re-sharing. (Oh – good to point out that caveat on the high noon speedlite use!)

  2. Kevin Sharpe

    Great info Glyn, I tried it just yesterday and got great results, I have put my image on my blog with a link back to this page so my readers can see just how it’s done, you explain it so much better than I could, look forward to seeing your next blog.
    Many thanks, Kevin

  3. Cecil Fuselier

    Glyn, your work is incredible. I just tried my first “Invisible Black Backdrop” using your great directions. I am going to have fun working with this technique in my indoor studio and for my outdoor portraits. How can I share the results of my first try with you on your blog…would like your feedback, allowing for the awkwardness of my first try.

    • Glyn

      Cecil…I’ve emailed you mate 😉

  4. Donna Davis

    I am a “green” photographer and I am so interested in learning new techniques so I enjoyed reading your Invisible Black Backdrop technique and can’t wait to try it!

  5. Declan

    Hi, do i really need to use the umbrella? Or would it work without? I’m new to these techniques and all and don’t have one…maybe any alternatives?

  6. Ferry Alayn

    Great info great example, can’t wait to practice

    • Glyn


      Sandy…Very kind…thanks

  7. Ian Archibald

    I saw this yesterday on Flipboard and tried it this morning using a cardboard box from a Lego set with some white paper inside it. I am so pleased with the pictures.
    Thanks a lot for sharing the technique.

    • Glyn

      Would love to see some of the results Ian 🙂

  8. Speedlight Portrait Lighting

    Great tip! To add to the advice on using this technique indoors, make sure the background is as far away as you can, especially if it’s light colored. Otherwise the background would pick up some of the light from your flash.



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