Photography Tip - How to make a black background out of nothing but camera & strobe settings

This flower was photographed in my living room in the afternoon, black background achieved by: Nikon D300 Nikkor 105mm VR micro lens @ f/22 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 in reflective umbrella to frame leftIf you would like to photograph a subject on a black background, you do not need to have an actual black background to achieve this.  Using strobist skills and manual settings on your DSLR you can create a black background almost magically.  I set these flowers on a small table in the middle of my living room.  It was 1:21pm on a sunny afternoon with the blinds closed on both windows, but a lot of light was still filtering through.  I setup a reflective umbrella (a softbox would work even better) to the left of the flowers with a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight.  It took some fiddling to make sure none of the light from the umbrella splashed onto any of the walls, which made them visible in the shot.  The same goes for getting the settings on my DSLR to produce the results I wanted.  In the end I was able to achieve what I wanted, just the light from the speedlight exposing my subject with the ambient light in the room eliminated due to the small aperture and fast shutter speed settings.  

How to create a black background: 

  1. setup the subject in a room with as much distance from the walls as possible
  2. setup a speedlight to left or right of subject with umbrella/softbox/other light modifier
  3. start with f/16 and 1/200th & adjust from there as necessary (ISO should be at lowest setting) 

Thank you to Bill Gracey and his great flickr photostream for the inspiration for this shot.  Be sure and visit his extensive gallery of strobe lit plants.

Try this at home and be sure and post a link to your results in the comments below.  If you would like to learn how to make photographs like this first hand, I offer 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons in and around the St. Petersburg area.  Reserve your lesson today! 

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