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best black background fabric

Anthony Bagileo , Oct 05, 2008; 10:27 p.m.

Ive been shooting table top shots with black and other colored posterboard. Black posterboard usually comes out more gray when its lit up. What is the best and darkest fabric to use to absorb the most light?


Bob Atkins , Oct 06, 2008; 01:58 a.m.

Probably black velvet, though the way to make the black background black is by choosing the correct lighting and exposure to make it black. If it comes out grey, you're overexposing it. Try some negative exposure compensation.

Don't forget that an exposure meter wants to try to make everything a mid grey tone, so if you have a lot of black background in your shot, the camera will indeed try to make it grey.

Garry Edwards , Oct 06, 2008; 09:27 a.m.

To add to Bob's answer, black velvet is about the best, it only reflects about 5% of the light from a VERTICAL surface, however a horizontal surface reflects far more, so you'll need to flag your lights to ensure that no light reaches the background, especially the horizontal parts. This will affect your light placement. Black flock only reflects about 4%.but is fairly hard to find.

Avoid fake velvet - it is often highly reflective and is generally useless. Genuine velvet is extremely expensive, a reasonable alternative is black cotton (muslin) which works fairly well. Whichever material you use, you need to steam iron it.

This is really a lighting question, and there is a lighting forum here...

Your posterboard may be black but it will also be fairly shiny, this will cause its own problems so again, you need to flag your lights.

John Vance , Oct 06, 2008; 01:19 p.m.

Black felt is also good, reflects even less light than velvet and you can't beat the price.

Jen Lambert , Oct 06, 2008; 05:45 p.m.

The downside to felt is lint. Lots and lots of lint. But it works great if you have a handy lint-roller and a clean space to work in.

Steve Lowther , Oct 06, 2008; 08:21 p.m.

You need to learn to light your subject, not go to a different background. Most low key table top photography can be done with a single light suspended horizontally from above, feathered so that the light does not fall on the background. I have done a great deal of table top work, and even have used a grey background to get black simply by feathering the light. Start off simply, and then add reflectors and lights as you need.

Garry Edwards , Oct 07, 2008; 04:57 a.m.

Although it's perfectly possible to get a black background effect with a white background (never mind a grey one) simply by using a feathered overhead softbox, this lighting setup isn't available to everyone and isn't suitable for every subject, and the question is about background materials not lighting anyway.

Anthony Bagileo , Oct 07, 2008; 12:09 p.m.

Thanks for your responses. I've been doing most of my work in a light tent or with an overhead softbox. So ive got the shadow elimination figure out now ill practice my flagging.

Steve Lowther , Oct 09, 2008; 02:23 a.m.

(Moderator's note: In the spirit of this forum, please direct responses to the original question and follow-up questions by the original poster. Please keep to a minimum internal debates with other responders and digressions from direct answers. -- Thanks, LJ)

Garry, I must disagree. It would take very little to do the lighting setup as I described. Little or no investment would be required. Why would anyone go out and buy unnecessary specialized materials if a simple lesson in lighting technique suffices? This absolutely is a case where knowledge is superior to material.

Bob O'Sullivan , Oct 11, 2008; 09:30 p.m.

Put some more distance between your subject and the background. Also, if there is a grid attachment for your softbox, use that to make the light more directional. The added distance and directionality of the light will make your flagging/goboing more effective. Also reduce or eliminate ambient light. Shoot in the dark.

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