lighting question : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I want to photograph a dark/light object (black leather and aluminum) against a dark background. I want the form/outline of the black part of the object to be well-defined against the background, which should be nearly invisible. I tried this once in bright overcast light against very dark paint, but didnt get the form definition that I want. The edges tended to blend in with the background, giving a shapeless black lump. I guess I'm looking for sort of a pepper #30 effect, without the pepper. I would prefer to use only natural light, as its readily available and still free in my area. Ideas on lighting and/or backgrounds are sought.

-- Wayne (, February 23, 2002


I'm certainly no expert in lighting, but I would use a large, white board (foamboard, or cardboard covered with white paper) to bounce light back onto the subject. It's essentially like a "hair light" in portraiture. Also, I'd keep the subject fairly far away from the background so that I would have room to use the board. Also, black velvet may make a darker background. Again, I have very little experience with this, and I don't know whether or not it will create the effect that you mentioned, but it's the first thing that I would use.

-- Matthew Runde (, February 23, 2002.

Matthew is certainly on the right track - you need rimlighting to separate the subject from the background. You may try erecting a tent or arch over the subject with translucent plastic sheeting. This will give a broad expanse of "white" that can illuminate and reflect off of the edge of your subject.

-- Wayne DeWitt (, February 24, 2002.

If you are looking for edge definition ofthe black subject against the black background trying using some bounce panels around all the edges you want defined. Ametallic surfaces will bounce back more light than white surfaces and you will have to play with the angling of the panels to get the most acute effect. This is at least a start and can be used with any kind of light. get the panels as closeo the subject as possible without them being in the frame. It would help to actually see an image of the object. Also get the object as far from the background as possible.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, February 24, 2002.

>>It would help to actually see an image of the object.

Ahh, if it turns out well, THEN you can see it! ;-) I'm sure you've seen many of them before, theres one in most homes or garages

Thanks for the ideas, I'll give them a try.

-- Wayne (, February 25, 2002.

If you look at Pepper 30 you will notice the difference in reflectivity of the two surfaces. The surface of the pepper was shiny and the surface of the background was flat. Like shiny leather and flat black velvet or flannel. That is how you need to approach this project. All the reflector panels in the world won't help you if 1. the subject and the background are too close to each other and 2. the subject and the background have the same reflectivity. The pepper was close to the background but had a different reflectivity quotient. James

-- james (, February 25, 2002.

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