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Lighting with Black Background

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Jeffrey Gould
Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 27, 2009 at 6:23:07 pm

Hi, I got a call from a new client who wants to shoot an instructional video on a medical device with a dummy and a persons hands (not full body) on a black background and a black table cloth. I've shot interviews in the past with a black BG and just lit it from the sides with RIFA lights using egg crates and a hair light? Do the same principles apply for product shots? I'm going to try and keep the talent far from the background so there is no spill. If I do have the space to keep talent away from BG, am I better off just lighting head on? Any other thoughts or tips? Thanmks

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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Mark D'Agostino
Re: Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 28, 2009 at 12:32:46 pm

I've shot a lot of tabletop on black and would suggest using a sheet of black formica rather than cloth. The surface will look slicker and smoother and you won't have the texture of the fabric to deal with. If you have to move anything on the surface you don't have to worry about trying to keep cloth flat.

Mark D'Agostino
http://www.synergeticproductions.com


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Rick Wise
Re: Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 28, 2009 at 6:38:21 pm

I couldn't agree more with Mark. Black Formica makes a terrific background for table top. There's only one problem with it, actually two: every spec of dust tends to show up so you spend a lot of time just before rolling blowing/brushing away those specs, and it scratches easily. One of the reasons it looks so good is that it acts like a mirror (though that also means you have to be careful of any reflections.) Place or drop a product on it, and you get a slick, darker mirror reflection.

Rick Wise
director of photography
San Francisco Bay Area
and part-time instructor lighting and camera
grad school, SF Academy of Art University/Film and Video
http://www.RickWiseDP.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/rwise
email: Rick@RickWiseDP.com


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Mark D'Agostino
Re: Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 28, 2009 at 7:25:09 pm

Rick, I've gone through a lot of dustoff through the years but it was worth it. I've also used matte black formica/wilsonart as well as various textured blacks. For those I've wiped a dryer sheet over the surface and that has helped to repel the dust.

Mark D'Agostino
http://www.synergeticproductions.com


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Mark Suszko
Re: Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 29, 2009 at 3:10:48 pm

The previous posts covered the tabletop pretty well. I would just want to suggest that besides flagging off spill and using negative fill, lighting things close-up that have a lot of reflective surfaces or metal on them means you need to give the object a source of specular highlights and specular reflection.

Probably a big Rifa without the eggcrate could do this for you, or more typically, a bounce off a white foamcore card. Cards, you can shape and position to put the reflections where you like them most.

Glass and metal and shiny plastic can't show off contours unless it has a specular source to distort with. Otherwise they will look very flat and dull, no matter how much light you throw at them. Its not necessarily about how MUCH light, but WHERE it goes. Or doesn't go.


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denton adkinson
Re: Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 29, 2009 at 5:28:31 pm

I agree with Mark Suszko about the importance of the placement of the light. Take a look at any car commercial and notice the square light reflections on the car. They are not necessarily the focus of the image, but imagine how the car would look without them.

As for the surface, for a shoot I built a cheap, but highly effective table out of an old office chair base and a 36" table top from Home Depot. I had to creatively mount the table to the chair and level it, but the outcome was a table surface that could be very subtlety rotated in the shot. I think it cost me about $40 to make, and it looked awesome through the camera.

Best of luck with the shoot,

Denton


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Jeffrey Gould
Re: Lighting with Black Background
on Jul 30, 2009 at 1:26:32 pm

Thank you guys, appreciate it. I did order the westscott Black Muslin for the backdrop and black cotton muslin for the table...but that was before I got the replies and I had to make a move. In the meantime, the shoot is being postponed one week, so I will go to Home Depot. What size sheet? The whole 4x8? and I'm assuming Matte? Thanks again and for the lighting tips Mark, I have pepper lights I could use for accents.

Jeffrey S. Gould
Action Media Productions


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