Get an Invisible Black Background to Your Portraits - Shooting Anywhere [VIDEO] - Digital Photography School

Get an Invisible Black Background to Your Portraits – Shooting Anywhere [VIDEO]

In this video Glyn Dewis demonstrates how he gets his ‘Invisible Black Background’ effect when taking a portrait. The technique will allow you to take a low key atmospheric portrait with a black background almost anywhere – even outdoors during the day!

To get the shot Glyn just uses his DSLR, a single Speedlight Flash, a cheap umbrella and a PocketWizard to trigger the flash (although you can do this with any method of triggering a remote flash that you have).

Want to see some more examples of what can be done with this effect – check out Glyn’s blog posts on the topic here and here.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Jim Donahue

    Great Lesson. I also use this to shoot flower portraits outside on sunny days.

  • Robin

    Hi. Great Lesson. I am just wondering how to I do this at home. I have Canon T4i, 55-250mm, 50mm f1.8,18-55mm,40mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8 and 430 EXii speedlite. Do the home light need to be switched off and set the umbrella with the flash light facing inside the umbrella? I would love to take this kind of shot of my kids.
    Anyway thanks for the tips. Hope to hear from you.

  • Major Bokeh

    Great tutorial. Easy to watch and I am totally going to try it!

  • Mark

    Great tutorial, more of these please – a picture (moving) really does paint a thousand words. I’ve always had trouble with the black background look but this is an enlightenment.

  • Lucia Strougo

    Genious!
    I will try.

  • Chrystel

    Great tutorial, easily explained and a brilliant result. Thanks!

  • Sulli

    Definitely giving this a shot! Thankyou!

  • http://www.portraitinspiration.com Jai Catalano

    That was very good and one of the best tutorials that was explained perfectly.

  • http://www.raychiarellophotography.com Ray

    Clever approach, very well explained. I’ll have to give that a try.

  • https://marius-fotografie.blogspot.com marius2die4

    Excellent tips! Tkx!

  • Stu

    That was a very useful tutorial.

  • Bob Wyatt

    ROBIN- to do this at home you need to turn off anyoghts in the room and most prob have mot a real bright room. Pay attention to his discussion of ISO, aperture, and ss. You can not exceed to flash camera syjnch speed. You will also need a wireless trigger system to trip the off-camera flash. Set the shot up using the nearly collapsed reflecting umbrella- white prob best. Set the camera via the fastest ss that matches synch speed(usually 1/200 or 1/250) and adjust the sp and Iso(usually the lowest) and look for a totally dark frame. Add flash aimed towards face and adjust flash to get drsired lighting on subject as far as position and power. Yes the flash fires backwards into the umbrella with light reflected back out.

  • ArturoMM

    Thank you Darren and Glyn Dewis.

    This is why I keep coming back to DPS.

  • http://digital-photography-school.com/get-an-invisible-black-background-to-your-portraits-shooting-anywhere-video Allen

    1 Something that wasn’t mentioned, but I am assuming: Is this portrait with an Invisible Black Background done by “double exposng” the picture? If so, I don’t know if I can do that on my non-SLR camera.

    2 Are the settings for the fiinal picture of the person the same settings as for the background – ie 1/250, ISO 100, f/16 ?

    Also, I suppose the black picture used for the background could simply be done by putting the camera in a black bag and taking a picture – or a close-up of the black umbrella.

  • Carol

    Thank you , that was so clearly explained , I am going to give it a try .

  • Travis Smith

    Great easy-to-listen-to video!

  • Anne K.

    Fabulous! And you explained it “right on”! Thanks!

  • robin

    Wish i had seen this yesterday .I was doing puppy potraits and only place to do them was outside. going to redo them and use this idea. thanks

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/finlap Karen

    Well explained. I have used this technique (using a home made snoot instead of an umbrella which I don’t own) for two very different photos today; a bowl of cherries indoors and a portrait of my dog in the garden.

    In reponse to Allen a few posts above. The portrait isn’t a double exposure. The initial black photo is only taken to make sure the settings are right, ie a completely dark picture. Then you use those same settings but add the flash – the background remains black.

    Here’s a link to my cherries http://www.flickr.com/photos/finlap/9117526196/

    and my dog portrait http://www.flickr.com/photos/finlap/9115645323/

    Neither are quite perfect but I’m happy for my first try. I had to use a smaller aperture for the dog portrait, f/20 I think as when I used f/16 the photo looked dark on the camera screen but when view on the pc the background was visible. The cherries I used f/11.

  • http://digital-photography-school.com/get-an-invisible-black-background-to-your-portraits-shooting-anywhere-video Allen

    Thanks Karen for your very helpful explanation. It sorts out several confusions that existed in my mind.

    Also, I looked at the 2 picture links that you provided, and those are spectacular pictures – such creativity!

  • Dave

    What a fantastic tutorial – so simple yet so effective and watching it rather than reading it was awesome.
    Thanks heaps for teaching us all that you do

  • subhash dasgupta

    nice and easy technique , well explained.

  • Dave N

    In reponse to Allen a few posts above. The portrait isn’t a double exposure. The initial black photo is only taken to make sure the settings are right, ie a completely dark picture. Then you use those same settings but add the flash – the background remains black

    thanks for that Karen, :)
    I too didnt understand what he was doing, that was the only bit not well explained.
    I wasnt sure if he was double exposing a single frame, combining 2 frames in camera or on puter

    cheers
    Dave

  • http://jeffreydowellphotography.com/ Jeffrey Dowell

    Anyone try this technique with Yongnuo brand Flashes/transceivers? Im thinking of buying pocket wizard plus III’s, but have been reading a lot about this brand as a cheaper alternative.

  • Daryll

    I use Yongnuo flashes and transceivers. They work perfectly. I haven’t tried, nor do I have a SB flash or pocket wizard to compare to, but it works 100% of the time. This technique should work with any flash as long as it’s actually flashing enough light. The Yongnuos do this just fine, and it’s much cheaper. I love it.

  • Marco Reeuwijk

    Wow, great technique & tutorial!

  • Guest

    Got this photograph after reading this tutorial.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/gagansapra/12680301764/

  • Nate Cochrane

    It’s actually the same technique I used to make this photo https://flic.kr/p/awQ93h albeit with natural light only (i.e. no speedlite).

  • dan110024

    I own a few Yongnuo flashes (and transceivers) and they’re great for the basic things I use them for. I think I’ve read that they aren’t as powerful as the brand name flashes, so that might be an issue if you need high powered speedlites for outdoors. For all other uses, though, they’re completely fine.

  • alvin

    cool tip, I will definitely add this to my tool/trick bag! thanks for sharing

  • Teresa Trimm

    Hi. I have seen this ‘technique’ in one form or another over the internet, but never seen it explained so well. I would like to use it as a basis for an article on wikiHow.com. It is an online how to manual and is also in the top 200 in popularity. I would definitely use my words. You did a fantastic job!

  • http://www.sapphirepixels.com Tanmay Khandelwal

    These I clicked inspired from portraits like above: http://www.sapphirepixels.com/lens_portfolio/bw-portrait/

  • http://so-very.me/ Jenny

    Whyyyy do I have to watch it… would rather read it… oh well. Guess I’ll watch. Got nothing else to do.

Some older comments

  • Dave N

    June 29, 2013 04:34 pm

    In reponse to Allen a few posts above. The portrait isn’t a double exposure. The initial black photo is only taken to make sure the settings are right, ie a completely dark picture. Then you use those same settings but add the flash – the background remains black

    thanks for that Karen, :)
    I too didnt understand what he was doing, that was the only bit not well explained.
    I wasnt sure if he was double exposing a single frame, combining 2 frames in camera or on puter

    cheers
    Dave

  • subhash dasgupta

    June 29, 2013 12:23 am

    nice and easy technique , well explained.

  • Dave

    June 26, 2013 06:16 pm

    What a fantastic tutorial - so simple yet so effective and watching it rather than reading it was awesome.
    Thanks heaps for teaching us all that you do

  • Allen

    June 26, 2013 01:13 am

    Thanks Karen for your very helpful explanation. It sorts out several confusions that existed in my mind.

    Also, I looked at the 2 picture links that you provided, and those are spectacular pictures - such creativity!

  • Karen

    June 24, 2013 01:28 am

    Well explained. I have used this technique (using a home made snoot instead of an umbrella which I don't own) for two very different photos today; a bowl of cherries indoors and a portrait of my dog in the garden.

    In reponse to Allen a few posts above. The portrait isn't a double exposure. The initial black photo is only taken to make sure the settings are right, ie a completely dark picture. Then you use those same settings but add the flash - the background remains black.

    Here's a link to my cherries http://www.flickr.com/photos/finlap/9117526196/

    and my dog portrait http://www.flickr.com/photos/finlap/9115645323/

    Neither are quite perfect but I'm happy for my first try. I had to use a smaller aperture for the dog portrait, f/20 I think as when I used f/16 the photo looked dark on the camera screen but when view on the pc the background was visible. The cherries I used f/11.

  • robin

    June 23, 2013 02:59 am

    Wish i had seen this yesterday .I was doing puppy potraits and only place to do them was outside. going to redo them and use this idea. thanks

  • Anne K.

    June 22, 2013 03:03 am

    Fabulous! And you explained it "right on"! Thanks!

  • Travis Smith

    June 22, 2013 02:26 am

    Great easy-to-listen-to video!

  • Carol

    June 21, 2013 10:45 pm

    Thank you , that was so clearly explained , I am going to give it a try .

  • Allen

    June 21, 2013 09:29 am

    1 Something that wasn't mentioned, but I am assuming: Is this portrait with an Invisible Black Background done by "double exposng" the picture? If so, I don't know if I can do that on my non-SLR camera.

    2 Are the settings for the fiinal picture of the person the same settings as for the background - ie 1/250, ISO 100, f/16 ?

    Also, I suppose the black picture used for the background could simply be done by putting the camera in a black bag and taking a picture - or a close-up of the black umbrella.

  • ArturoMM

    June 21, 2013 05:42 am

    Thank you Darren and Glyn Dewis.

    This is why I keep coming back to DPS.

  • Bob Wyatt

    June 21, 2013 03:34 am

    ROBIN- to do this at home you need to turn off anyoghts in the room and most prob have mot a real bright room. Pay attention to his discussion of ISO, aperture, and ss. You can not exceed to flash camera syjnch speed. You will also need a wireless trigger system to trip the off-camera flash. Set the shot up using the nearly collapsed reflecting umbrella- white prob best. Set the camera via the fastest ss that matches synch speed(usually 1/200 or 1/250) and adjust the sp and Iso(usually the lowest) and look for a totally dark frame. Add flash aimed towards face and adjust flash to get drsired lighting on subject as far as position and power. Yes the flash fires backwards into the umbrella with light reflected back out.

  • Stu

    June 21, 2013 03:01 am

    That was a very useful tutorial.

  • marius2die4

    June 21, 2013 01:38 am

    Excellent tips! Tkx!

  • Ray

    June 21, 2013 01:24 am

    Clever approach, very well explained. I'll have to give that a try.

  • Jai Catalano

    June 20, 2013 07:51 pm

    That was very good and one of the best tutorials that was explained perfectly.

  • Sulli

    June 20, 2013 06:18 pm

    Definitely giving this a shot! Thankyou!

  • Chrystel

    June 20, 2013 01:58 pm

    Great tutorial, easily explained and a brilliant result. Thanks!

  • Lucia Strougo

    June 16, 2013 11:43 am

    Genious!
    I will try.

  • Mark

    June 15, 2013 09:56 pm

    Great tutorial, more of these please - a picture (moving) really does paint a thousand words. I've always had trouble with the black background look but this is an enlightenment.

  • Major Bokeh

    June 15, 2013 07:57 am

    Great tutorial. Easy to watch and I am totally going to try it!

  • Robin

    June 15, 2013 04:22 am

    Hi. Great Lesson. I am just wondering how to I do this at home. I have Canon T4i, 55-250mm, 50mm f1.8,18-55mm,40mm f2.8, 85mm f1.8 and 430 EXii speedlite. Do the home light need to be switched off and set the umbrella with the flash light facing inside the umbrella? I would love to take this kind of shot of my kids.
    Anyway thanks for the tips. Hope to hear from you.

  • Jim Donahue

    June 14, 2013 12:05 pm

    Great Lesson. I also use this to shoot flower portraits outside on sunny days.

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