“Let’s have a black celebration
Black celebration
Depeche Mode ‘Black Celebration’

This week, I’ve been mainly listening to Depeche Mode albums, mostly ‘Music for the Masses’, ‘Black Celebration’ and ‘101’. So when thinking of a title for this update, I had ‘black separation’ running round in my head.

I was having a conversation with another photographer a little while ago about the ‘difficulty’ of photographing portraits against a black background, particularly if the subject is also wearing black. There can be a tendency for the subject to blend into the background. Actually, two of my favourite combinations happen to be black on black and white on white.

Lighting from behind

One way to avoid blending into the background is to add some separation through lighting from behind or off to the side to create a rim of light. If you’ve been following my blog for some time you’ll know that I’m an advocate of using lighting from behind, via two-point or three-point lighting, in many of my images.

I’m currently working my way through processing images from a shoot with professional model Carla, so thought these could serve as an example. Of course, it helps that Carla has blonde hair, but she was wearing a black leather jacket against a black backdrop and there was a danger of the jacket detail getting ‘lost’ without adequate separation.

You’ll see from the lighting diagram below that I opted for a tried and trusted three-light setup, with two lights behind Carla and angled forward to create a rim of light along the edge of the jacket. You can adjust the exposure of the rim lights to suit, for example just enough to notice it, but not too bright that it overpowers the image. If you haven’t experimented with lighting from behind, give it a try on your next shoot.

Click on each photo to see them bigger and feel free to post a question or comment. Thanks for visiting.

Black Separation with Carla, by Paul Jones

Black Separation with Carla, by Paul Jones

Black Separation with Carla, by Paul Jones

Black Separation with Carla, by Paul Jones

Black Separation with Carla, lighting diagram

Categories: photography

2 Responses so far.

  1. Phil Jones says:

    Hi Paul.
    Another outstanding set of images. I like every one of them!

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