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01/06/07 12:08 PM
Photo backgrounds & lighting  

Garry and Judy and I had been discussing photo backgrounds in a thread where it wouldn't be easily found (in the Showcase topic), so I thought I'd post a couple of them here, in case anyone's searching for ideas.

Yeah, black background are my favorite. Just wish I could find a black photo-taking background that would blend perfectly with the digital black. I've tried various fabrics (my camera picks up EVERY speck of lint and then I spend too much time cloning them out of the image), and all the paper backgrounds I've tried, no matter how matte they appear to my eyes, apparently have enough reflectivity to bounce light back and make them photograph as grayish or silverish. And this is just with natural light. Anyone have a great, totally nonreflective, lint-free, black photo background they use?

[See the Showcase topic under "Local History" for the rest of this discussion]

Then Garry found this great step-by-step for making a light box:

And I replied as follows:

I called a bunch of camera shops, and they all had some sort of black paper for photo backgrounds, but most had only very large rolls which they said was really just ordinary black paper. I think one had something called Super Black, but the guy said it looked the same as the standard black. I didn't call any college photo departments, and I didn't locate any of the newsprint divider sheets you suggested.

I had thought there might be something technically innovative at the camera shops, like cardboard coated with tiny black glass beads that would break up the light and eliminate reflections, but no one had heard of such a thing.

So I ended up just using velvet board -- the kind of stuff they often use for the easel-backs of photo frames. It works ok, but it's a lint magnet, so I end up using a lint roller (works better than the canned air) between every shot. And even velvet board will reflect light if I use a flash.

I can get a good, absolute black background with a little editing so that it totally matches my digital-black background (at least it looks good on my monitor). Here's an example where it turned out just so-so:

And here's one that looks quite good, but you can still see minute lint particles along the bottom of the picture:

The light-box idea is great -- cheap and gets very good results. I made some lighting devices about a year ago that use a similar idea to avoid glaring, direct light. I got three, large Rubbermaid juice pitchers in a translucent white plastic (you might find small wastebaskets in this kind of plastic). I drilled holes in the bottom and installed sockets for hundred-watt bulbs, then ran each cord to a power strip so I can turn them all on/off at once (if anyone wants more details, let me know). Generally, I take my pics during the day using natural light, but when I want to take shots at night or on dark, cloudy days, these lights produce a very bright but diffuse light -- no shadows.

I still have not solved the black-background problem. There ought to be a paint (blackboard paint? some sort of texture paint?) that could be sprayed on glass to produce a deep, rich, slightly textured black that would eliminate all reflectivity. I'm still keeping an eye out for the solution.


(old hand)
01/06/07 12:24 PM
Re: Photo backgrounds & lighting new [re: tictictic_OnEbay]  


My staff and I did try moving lighting around a bit. It has helped but I am going to add one more light.

I have 12 foot ceilings in the back room here at the store. So I got the bright idea of climbing up in the bar joist and hanging a light up there. One of those reflective lights with a huge spotlight in it. Works really good. The staff thinks I need to add one more. Notice they think "I' should add another. No one else is brave enough to climb up there.


01/07/07 06:38 AM
Re: Photo backgrounds & lighting new [re: tictictic_OnEbay]  

I'm glad the light box file was helpful. I remember telling you about the heavy black paper that came in boxes of lithography film for newspapers and printers. However, yesterday I think I found something so close to it that it will work for you. It's a long and involved story but I had to take my mom to a "crafter's" store for more supplies for her scrapbooking and cross stitch stuff. We went to a Michael's store and I think they are a chain so may be available where you are located. I found the perfect black heavy weight no-reflective and it appears to be not lint receptive. Also as we walked by the place where they frame your pictures they had a ton of Black Mat Board - some of it would be perfect for what you are lookihg for and again it is lint free.

Just a couple of ideas where you can find the stuff. Remember also if the fabric you are using for photos now has lint on it - the depth of field of the camera will get rid of the lint in the image because the background is out of the range of focus. Focus only on the object you are photographing and not on the background. This will allow the object to be clear and sharp and the background black and clean. You can accomplish this through trial and error by moving the camera back away from the object you want to photograph.


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