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Beginner's Guide to Blacking out the Background

Updated on May 24, 2018

Have you ever wanted to black out the background in your photos? Here is a guide on how to get that black background, even if you have a white wall.

Things you will need:
A white wall, External flash (Bare flash or Reverse Umbrella), A subject to photograph, and Shoot in manual mode.

The Setup:
Find a subject and set it with the white backdrop.
Make sure your subject is not against the backdrop. I usually do 1-2 ft away.

Camera Setup:
First, put the camera in manual mode. To do this, turn the dial on top to the M. Once you're in manual mode, you will need to change your ISO, Aperture, and Shutter speed to achieve the black background.
You will need to set the camera's settings with the lowest ISO it can go. Most camera's base ISO is 100. You need to change the shutter speed to 1/200th of a second, and this is to synchronize with the external flash. Avoid going over 1/200th of a second, because it tends not to sync correctly. Next, you will need to set the aperture. Change the Aperture to F/16 this will let less light into the camera, which will help black out the white backdrop.

Now the camera's settings and your subject are in place. You need to place your flash. Make sure you get the right distance to where only the light from the flash will light up your subject, and not spill out onto the background. You need to place the flash 2 feet away from the item you are photographing. If you're using a reverse umbrella, You will need to raise it up higher than your subject. Then point it down. You will need to bring up the power by two stops because you lose two stops of light when adding the umbrella. Here is a lighting cheat sheet to help you understand lighting placement.

Power 1/8: 2 Feet. Bare Flash: F16. Umbrella: F/8
Power 1/8: 3 Feet. Bare Flash: F/11. Umbrella: F/5.6
Power 1/8: 5 Feet. Bare Flash: F/8. Umbrella: F/4
Power 1/8: 6 Feet. Bare Flash: F/5.6. Umbrella: F/2.8

When using an umbrella, Remember, it cuts back two stops of light. So you will need to add two stops of power to your flash. I hope this guide was helpful. Leave me a comment below if you would like to see more of this content.

Sample photos will be, posted below.

© 2018 James Sanders


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