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black on black photography


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#1 gogetmagog

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 09:48 AM

I'm shooting a photo project with people in black against a black background and want to make sure the blacks blend in together so as to only have certain body parts show up. Should I use high-key lighting on their skin and then underexpose the film for the blacks? What should I look out for regarding lighting and film speed? --kt
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 11:19 AM

Are you shooting color or b&w? Negative or reversal? Is this for printing?

Sounds like what you want is more contrast so that shadow detail is completely lost.
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#3 gogetmagog

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 12:17 PM

I'm planning on shooting black and white for the project but was also interested in how it would work with color. And yes, I would need high contrast with all loss of detail in blacks. What kinds of film have a higher contrast ratio and how can I light for this effect?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 01:35 PM

I'm planning on shooting black and white for the project but was also interested in how it would work with color. And yes, I would need high contrast with all loss of detail in blacks. What kinds of film have a higher contrast ratio and how can I light for this effect?


If this is b&w still photography, there are higher contrast developers, high contrast printing papers. Start with a slow-speed stock like T-Max 100 or Plus-X 125, maybe underexposed and developed to a higher gamma. I don't know much about the other non-Kodak b&w stocks out there and whether any are more contrasty.

Color reversal film is more contrasty than color negative -- something like Fuji Velvia or Ektachrome 100HC would be good.
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#5 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 04:12 PM

I'm shooting a photo project with people in black against a black background and want to make sure the blacks blend in together so as to only have certain body parts show up. Should I use high-key lighting on their skin and then underexpose the film for the blacks? What should I look out for regarding lighting and film speed? --kt


the good news is that this is fairly easy-- people do it accidentally all the time.

if your actors have caucasion-type skintones, then light it so that the face/skin meters (reflective or spot) at least 5 stops over what the black meters, and make sure that you shoot with black at least 4 stops under your shooting stop (ie. skin meters at 11, the black at 2 -- then shoot at 8). for dark skintones, the stop difference can go down around 3 or 3.5 for skin vs. black (but the shooting stop should still be 4 stops over the black). in the tiny chance that you're going to be compositing this using an optical printer, you should ask someone familiar with that particular printer in case that machine needs higher ratios.

other stuff...

use a very non-reflective fabric for the suits/costumes, like black velvet.

i'd advise you don't use heavy backlight or kickers, unless you can control the spill enough to keep it off the costumes.

you probably wanna use hard sources, with minimal bounce or fill, since this can illuminate the backdrop & costumes.

but regardless, as long as you can keep those meter readings, you're not really limited in how you shoot or light it. you won't really need to alter the processing.

i think you'll be surprised how easy it'll be. the world is naturally too high contrast... usually all the work is spent trying to reduce contrast to fit it all within the emulsion's range.

hope this helps,
jaan
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#6 Jaan Shenberger

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 04:30 PM

wait, actually i'm not certain if those figures on stop ratios are still valid with the newer stocks' lattitude. you may have to add another stop or so to those ranges, i dunno. maybe john pytlak can chime in and set it straight.
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#7 Glenn Hanns

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Posted 01 November 2005 - 07:10 PM

Should I use high-key lighting on their skin and then underexpose the film for the blacks?


FYI High key doesn't refer to the amount of exposure in the image its a reference to the amount of white in the image. An image where most of values are in the higher ranges "white" as opposed to "low key" where most of the image resides in the blacks.
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