You may have noticed that I am partial to a black background behind my subjects.

I love the way the lack of background forces you to focus your attention on the subject.

In the studio I use a Lastolite Black and Grey reversible background (, but when I am out in the ‘real’ world it is not practical to carry around a background.

So how is it done?

Well, sometimes I CHEAT! And use something black behind my subject…


In this instance we used a reflector bag to hide the white wall. Of course something this small really forces a tight composition.


The far more frequent method I use to produce black backgrounds is to use the cameras inability to see a brightly lit subject AND a darker area at the same time.

If we place our subject in sufficiently bright light then we can make even a moderately lit background disappear.

In this behind the scenes image (below) you can see that the variations in light from subject to background is not extreme.

iPhone behind the scenes shot

iPhone behind the scenes shot

However when we get our exposure right for the light on the subject, straight out of camera you will notice the background disappears completely. (note the model is NOT the same as the BTS)


If we pop our image into Photoshop and lighten the whole thing we can see that the background is in fact still there, you just can’t see it.


I love Photoshop, I’m just not very good at it, so my goal is to try and get an image right as best as possible so that I don’t have to use Photoshop to ‘fix’ stuff.

I can’t cut a person out of a noisy background and place them on a black one. I assure you it would look horrible with my skills.

So I am left to use the tool I am better at – the camera, and it’s built in inability to see the world the way I do. I love that failing!

The original image, straight out of camera is fine, but I do enjoy tweaking an image to get it closer to my idea of how the shot should look like so here is the finished image.

The finished image

The finished image

So there it is, the ‘secret’ to producing a black background.

The reverse can also be done of course.

Have a subject in shade and a white wall in the background lit by sunlight and you create a high key image.

If you are out shooting and looking to create a studio look then keep your eye open for these light variations and use them to your advantage.