How To Get A Black Background Anywhere

Here is a great “trick” if you want to shoot portraits on black in the outdoors. Photographer Glyn Dewis shows using a cheap brolli, a manual flash and the rules of physics to shut down ambient light and get a black background even if there is some light outside.

How To Get A Black Background Anywhere

The workflow is pretty basic and should work as long as your strobe can overpower the ambient light. Which should not be a problem at all on a shady location with a hot shoe speedlight.

  1. Set the camera to its max sync speed (usually 1/250, though my old faithful D70 goes all the way to 1/500)
  2. Close your aperture until your back of the LCD is 100% dark.
  3. Set the strobe inside a semi-open umbrella. Having the Brolli semi-open help tunneling the light forward rather than the usual big spread of the umbrella so it eliminates any light leaks.

For the complete run down of this method watch the video below.

[The Invisible Black Background via ISO 1200]

  • Khwaja Faraz

    best done in shadow though, if your are out in the middle of the day, expect to use 2 strobes and f16

    • Taken_From_The_Article

      …Which should not be a problem at all on a shady location …

      • Khwaja Faraz

        i should have used a full stop :)

  • Paul Davies

    Got to love those D70s

  • henrymaxm

    Great Tutorial (y)

  • Bill

    Any tips for how I can do this with my NEX-5N (no optical viewfinder) and still focus properly? Just trial and error?

    • Chris

      Focus before darking out the image…I presume your 5N will still allow you to manual focus. You’ll just likely have to work with a tripod to keep your focus consistent.

  • jason

    There is an option in the nex menu to shut off exposure preview. I don’t remember what it is called though, but it will let you focus and shoot in situations where the camera can’t see all the light that is actually in play aka studio

  • Jay

    The D70 will sync all the way to 1/8000 with external lights (though many wireless triggers don’t support that) corded with a PC cable and you’re good to go overpowering the sun at f/2 with a speedlight on 1/4 power.

  • sbode

    This is limited to profiles only? What about people with black hair? No separation with the background?

    • Dan

      Add a hair light.

  • jenny

    I am new to digital photography, but have a lighting assignment for school and I’d love to give this a try! What do I need to do it if I don’t have pocket wizard? Also, how do you get the light in the dark photo? how do you combine the two exposures? Please forgive me if these are silly questions…I am very new to all of this. Just got my camera last month! Thanks!

  • Great photos

    Best selection of background images


  • ♔Qween B ♔

    i have a canon t3i 1 stroble light and only the sync cord how can i do this process