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Realistic black background - how dark?

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Old 08-07-2008, 09:51 AM
canoflan canoflan is offline
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Realistic black background - how dark?

I was told by a retired pro photog that black backgrounds are okay to have some areas lighter than total black, else your portrait subjects look like they are hanging in space.


I took some formal portraits in my house with a single strobe camera left and the background was black muslin, but too close to the subjects, so light spilled all over it to make it around 75%-80% gray.

I am wondering from a portaiture stand point, not modeling or commercial, how dark should it be to be realistically black for these portraits?

I have been using viveza from Nik to select the gray back ground and gradually add Upoints to darken, especially around the subjects' heads where they all have very dark to black hair, but light was enough to separate them from the background, somewhat.

Any thoughts? I know this isn't the most objective question.

Thanks,
Pat
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Old 08-07-2008, 10:13 AM
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diggnikon diggnikon is offline
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Re: Realistic black background - how dark?

Hi Pat

background needs to be about 6ft behind the subject to get an even black.
try it out and see how you go .
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Old 08-07-2008, 10:17 AM
canoflan canoflan is offline
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Re: Realistic black background - how dark?

Quote:
Originally Posted by diggnikon View Post
Hi Pat

background needs to be about 6ft behind the subject to get an even black.
try it out and see how you go .
Gotcha, and I agree fully.

However, this is a situation where I am now in post-process mode and need to see what is allowable for similating what the proper studio situation would have achieved.

If it is agreed upon that pure black is realistic, that is fine. My question is geared toward post-processing.

Thanks,
Pat
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Old 08-07-2008, 10:38 AM
julianmarsalis julianmarsalis is offline
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Re: Realistic black background - how dark?

I basically fix in PS use D&B or levels on a new layer blend set to overlay or a adjustment layer and mask for it to just target the background.
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Old 08-07-2008, 10:59 AM
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Verywierd Verywierd is offline
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Re: Realistic black background - how dark?

As you say, it is subjective. If there is a decent backlight or keylight to separate the subject from the background, there is nothing wrong with a pure black background. A portrait shot outdoors at night could look like that too. On the other hand, it may look a little flat or artificial. It also depends on the effect you want. A subject with very dark or black hair will tend to merge into a pure black background without careful lighting, but with strong directional lighting and shadows, that could be dramatic. Sorry, I can't be more specific without seeing the actual shot.
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