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Old February 22nd, 2013, 03:02 AM   #1
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Shooting on a black background macro shots

Not really a macro per-say.

I am trying to shoot a video demonstrating an accessory for an iPhone. I'm wanting to do it all on a black muslin background.

My problem, is even the slightest lint shows up on the muslin, no matter what I do. I guess I need more separation from the background using a shallower depth of field and pining the light exactly on the phone.

I've never tried shooting on black before. I've always done the infinite white look, which is pretty simple, and I figured black would be the same just the opposite side of the spectrum... not so.

Any tips?

I'm shooting with a 60d, can use a thrifty fifty f1.8 or f2.8 28-70 or a f2.8 70-200. I have 4 1500w softboxes. I am thinking I need something more aim-able. (barn doors)

I'm not looking to spend a million dollars on making a 30 second video clip, but I can spend some money as necessary. But I'd like to do it with what I have or can pick up at a local store like lowes, home depot, walmart. So I can get this done sooner then later.

Any advice?
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 11:22 AM   #2
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

A couple of years ago, I did some macro work similar to what you describe involving a lead shield that is placed IN a patient's eye when receiving head based radiation therapy.

Like you, we went for the black background look.

After hours of trying to get the look with pro lights ranging from Lowel ProLights and RIFAs to Ianiro Red Heads, the ultimate choice was somewhat simpler...

Both my partner and I had Maglite LED 2AA cell flashlights on our belts.

Yup. That did it.

Worked them in close, JUST out of frame, one at 45 degrees off centre from the front, one at 180 degrees opposed to the front light and dimmed slightly with an ND gel...

Worked PERFECTLY.

Sometimes less is more.

Oh, and use blackwrap if you need more directed light.
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 11:35 AM   #3
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Thanks for the tip. I think that might work very well actually. Part of the problem is I have these big lights, so aiming and controlling them is tough. Getting really close with small lights is really what I'm needing to do. Never thought about flashlights.
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 01:19 PM   #4
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

LED flashlights work great on table top stuff. I am building a nice collection of them as we speak and the best part...they're cheap plus if the power goes out at home, you'll still be able to lite up the house!
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Old February 22nd, 2013, 02:34 PM   #5
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

With stills you do as suggested up the thread, and make use of the universe square law by getting your lights in close, and your background a good distance from the subject. You choose an aperture and shoot from a great enough distance, that ensures the BG - and any lint etc. - is out of focus. The distance thing and longish focal length also ensures a narrow view angle needing the minimum amount of BG is visible, and minimises any distortion in the subject.

With video do the same, and garbage matte whatever stand you are using for the product out of the shot. I did this recently and the BG was not absolutely black, and raising the black point enough to make it so, would have messed up my subject lighting. The interface between BG and subject was _just_ visible. So I made a screen grab of the output monitor, and opened it in Photoshop. Sampled the BG colour and used it for a blank video layer. This worked perfectly, but to be on the safe side I used a 16 point garbage matte so I could make as non-regular shape as possible. AFAIK I can't feather a garbage matte with Premiere Pro.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 12:17 AM   #6
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Everything said above except the extra post work. It sounds like you do have some kind of distance between the subject and background or you would not be trying to separate with DOF. Use all of that distance to your advantage. Don't let the flashlights spill onto the black. Expose only for the subject and let the black work in your favor. It is about the only thing you can't underexpose (kind of), let it go truly black. Muslin, velvet, black paper etc. all have texture and some reflective quality when lit and exposed properly. Keep the light off it and you will be fine.

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Old March 6th, 2013, 10:10 AM   #7
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Instead of using muslin, try black velvet. The blacks appear much darker.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 10:51 AM   #8
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Getting the pure black background is more difficult than most people think. "Oh it's black and black is black". Not so. As Warren said try velvet, it'll soak up light like a sponge but it gives a flatter look. Muslin reflects some of the beams so it gives a 'shinier' look for lack of a better term. Paper reflects a lot of light so there are a lot of different things that might have to be done to get the look you want. You might need to try different backgrounds, different lighting, different lighting techniques or a combination of everything to achieve the look you want. One thing I used to do back in the 70s as a still photog doing catalog work on Deardorff view cameras was to take black seamless paper and spray it with dulling spray then put the object on it and depending on what the object was and the look the art director wanted I might lift the object off the paper an inch or so with something hidden underneath the object. This worked especially well with shiny objects. The trick of spraying the paper came to me from an old timer back then and it worked.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 11:15 AM   #9
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

I frequently shoot with black backgrounds. Make sure that your lighing the subject only and not the background. If that doest work in may be the materiel that your using. I typically use the collapsable background from Digital Juice. One side is black and the other is white.
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Old March 6th, 2013, 11:36 AM   #10
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Further to what Don and others have contributed, it was only when I started doing a BUNCH of interviews on black backgrounds in smaller-than-I-would-like spaces that I started using flags and C-Stands to keep "stray" light from striking my background.

I flag a fair bit of stuff these days...
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Old March 6th, 2013, 01:01 PM   #11
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Don forgot to tell you what some of us used for dulling spray.....the cheapest, heaviest hair spray at Walgreens works fine. And it works on everything, walls, doors, metal etc. it can knock an unwanted hot spot from a light reflection right out of your shot!

Amen Shaun. I have three Lowell kits. I don't need them all on every shoot but there is one box I NEVER leave the office without. It was an empty Lowell case I bought off of e-bay. We call it my Grip Kit. It has everything you would ever want but never think about in it. All accessory's acquired one at a time and still growing. Flags, scrims, clothes pins (C47), clamps, light hangars, gells, tough spun, barn doors, hair spray, rope, tape, card board (cut texture patterns out of), razor blade knife, black wrap (the good stuff), egg crates, and a whole lot more. I have never been on a set when we did not use something important from it and you could not buy a kit like this if you tried.

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Old March 6th, 2013, 01:50 PM   #12
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Hey I used to use that hairspray on my hair, for real. Of course now I don't worry about it at all but back then....;-)
Yep, gotta have the "kit" or as my wife calls it "the garbage box" but I wouldn' trade anything in ther for any amount of money. Well OK maybe the right amount but you know what I mean. reminds me, I need to pull it out and replenish my "scrims" (read black posterboard)

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Old March 6th, 2013, 02:33 PM   #13
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Come on Don, I would bet money there was a time when you bought more than one tube of Brill Cream!

Yes poster board. And don't forget the white foam-core for a $1.99 reflector or black for flags, scrims, and barn doors. Just don't let it melt. It really pisses off the client when you stink up his office!

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Old March 6th, 2013, 05:07 PM   #14
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

Brill Cream, also takes place of sticky gum. I love sticky gum but have found little sticky dots at a local hobby store that work almost as well but when placed on paper, you can't get them off without tearing the paper but they hold like crazy.
Foam board...staring at about 12 sheets in my office right now. Why 12? got me, it must have been on sale! ;-)
I love the smell of foam board in the morning!
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Old March 6th, 2013, 07:14 PM   #15
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Re: Shooting on a black background macro shots

I'm surrounded by old dudes! <wink>

Yup, used to use a TON of hairspray back in the day myself and NOT for dulling...

Most of us folks that have been at this a while have collected up our own little goodie bag/box... and sometimes we STILL end up improvising with duct tape and cardboard (when we are fresh out of gaff tape!)
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