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Shooting Black Clothes

William Fong , Jan 26, 2008; 07:45 p.m.

Having a bit of a problem shooting dark clothing. I'm using a Canon 430EX flash + umbrella slaved to a Canon 580EX II on camera (also as master). It's either the clothes come out too dark or the model's head over exposes. How should I shoot this?



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Bruce Cahn , Jan 26, 2008; 07:50 p.m.

Less contrasty. If you are shooting film make a thinner negative. If digital ask someone else.

William Fong , Jan 26, 2008; 08:31 p.m.

Yeah, I'm shooting digital (Canon 40D).


William Fong , Jan 26, 2008; 09:27 p.m.

Here's an example


Barry Kenstler , Jan 26, 2008; 10:09 p.m.


Lighting aside, are you capturing raw or as jpegs? If you capture in raw mode, most converters allow you to set your black point differently than the camera default. Moving the black point down can open up the darkest tones and soften up your blacks. You can do something similar in the camera's jpeg mode by selecting a low contrast setting and then making adjustments in your editor's image levels section, but this will result in an image inferior to that captured in raw mode. Your test image has fairly noticeable specular highlights. Is that umbrella a silver one? When shooting your final images, you might also consider a bit more makeup to keep those shiny spots within the capture range.

B G , Jan 26, 2008; 10:39 p.m.


Good news and bad news...

Your exposure in the example looks spot on. (good news)

Your choice of clothing and background are UGLY, especially together. (bad news)

No matter how you set your camera you are going to record what you've placed in front of the lens.

My suggestions:

1. use a longer lens and shoot in a room big enough to get your model away from the background.

2. Choose a background that is medium to dark, with some texture, which should now be out of focus.

3. Think about finding more attractive clothes, if they are dark, a darker background will help them from looking so dark as they do against the white background.

4. If it doesn't look attractive to your eyes, it won't look any better on camera.

Keep trying and perhaps look up some websites about lighting as well.

William Fong , Jan 26, 2008; 11:24 p.m.

Hi! Thanks for the replies. To address the questions...

Yes, I do shoot in RAW. I'm just doing the photography and there will be a graphic artist to do the actual clean up. I'm just trying to take the best picture as possible on my side so there will be less post processing to do.

I'm going to be doing a photo shoot for a clothing company. Some of their items are completely black, but I don't have any of the samples yet. We took this picture at my place with the only black coat she had. So yep, clothing and background are just tests, but we were trying to match as close as possible to the actual outfit + background (which was going to be white). Maybe we'll change it to a gray background. I will definitely try a longer lens. I think I was using a 28mm prime on my 40D, but that's because my apartment is only so big. I was using a white satin umbrella. I seem to be able to get better results by placing the umbrella closer to the model. Just not sure if there is anything else I can do to make the black stand out better.


Anthony Stubbs , Jan 26, 2008; 11:36 p.m.

Turn down your fill and increase exposure. To see detail in the coat you need shadow...a difference beween the main (at her left) and the fill. The lights are too equal in power...re; see the two shadows on her neck...they show both lights to be about the same.

Xiao Cai , Jan 27, 2008; 12:10 a.m.

I never dressed a model in black because black color abstracts light. It is just my thought.

Rand McNatt , Jan 27, 2008; 12:34 a.m.

Your exposure here is a bit (well, more like a 1/2 stop or better ) too dark; once the curves are adjusted, the coat has more detail, but still looks too flat. When trying to capture detail in dark areas, good exposure is the first place to start.

I've found the key to shooting black is to skim the fabric with light from the sides or back to bring out whatever highlights are there (you need white to show how black it is, so to speak).


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