Black on Black

Sometimes it's the simplest setups that get the best results and often the easiest to get wrong. So I thought I'd share my setup for achieving a rich black on black image within camera, without having to faff* around too much in post production.
(Click for a larger image)

The problem always lays in needing lots of light on you subject to bring out the detail, without getting too much - if any - light on the background. But not so much light, that your blacks start to turn grey. Below you can see the setup I used to achieve the image above which, whilst not the most beautiful, demonstrates a strong/rich black on black result.
To restrict the fall off from my main light source, I used a 2'x2' soft box supported by a larger silver reflector held just out of shot to serve as a fill in for the shadows/eyes. Then used umbrellaed lights (power split from one B2 pack) to act as rim lighting to hold the edges of the subject. Finally I used black 3'x9' ploy boards, to mask any rouge light from hitting the background or camera.

I hope that all made sense, let me know what you think :)

 *vb (often followed by 'about')
informal (British) to dither or fuss

1 comment:

Occasionally called Robbie said...

IndigoWrath said...
Hey, those other two guys look just like you! Amazing what you can find on eBay!
3 November 2010 12:58

ftir said...
Thanks for the inspiration and for sharing this.

It appears that the rim light is (IMO) subtle on hair and non-existent on the black shirt.
Where do you measure f/16, why did you overexpose key by half-stop and what is the distance softbox - background to avoid contamination?

And by the way, is this model for hire?

Thanks again!
4 November 2010 03:42

Occasionally called Robbie said...
Thank you for your comments!

Indigo - Bizarrely I only ordered one, but two turned up! :)

Fotis - It's a shame you can not see all the detail, it's tricky to get an image like this to look good on all the various types of screens, all I can say is that on mine, the detail is there. (If you're a laptop, try tilting the screen forward/backward)
f16 was measured from the shoulder pointing back towards the light, overexposure was to bring out more detail in the black top and the softbox was about 9ft from the background.
As for the model, he is current wanted by the FBI so has gone into hiding :)
4 November 2010 05:12

ftir said...
Thanks for all the details and the suggestion man, I recalibrated my monitor and rim-light became apparent (and beautiful)!

Well done!

Just another thought, would you prefer this set-up instead of using gridded strip-boxes to create the same rim light?

Last, but not least, is there any reward for turning in this nasty character? I've some info to share regarding his recent roundabouts..
4 November 2010 07:46

Occasionally called Robbie said...
Fotis - Yes, gridded strip boxes would be lovely! Unfortunately I do not have them :(

A reward? Most definitely! MI6 have now joined the hunt and are offering a life times supply of HP sauce to whoever helps them capture him. Good luck! =D
19 November 2010 02:58