Photography Technique: The Invisible Black Background
Photography Technique: The Invisible Black Background

Hi folks, Glyn here, you might remember a
while back I wrote a tutorial on my website called ‘The Invisible Black Background’, I’ve
had lots of questions come in so I thought it would be useful to record a video tutorial
to show how we do it. So here we are, basically we’re outside I
think it’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon, so a fairly bright day. All I’m using is, I’ve got a Nikon D800 with
a 70 to 200 and I’ve got a, it’s actually Canon flash, my Nikon flash wouldn’t work. So I’ve got a Canon flash on here, in manual
and I’ve got pocket wizards. So, invisible black background, the theory
is here, forget your flashes, so turn your flashes off. Literally just get your camera and think about
the speed that you cameras and your flash can talk to each other. Now I know we have these super duper pocket
wizards now that have fairy dust that can make things work really, really quickly, but
just think of things in their basic terms. We’ve got sync speed, so the maximum speed
that my camera and my flash can talk to each other without talking about hyper sync is
250th of a second. What I’m going to do is, I’m outside, I want
to create a completely black background and that is going to be my backdrop so I’m to
come outside, I’m going to put my camera in manual at 250th of a second and my ISO will
take down as low as it can go because I want my camera to be as least sensitive to light
as I can make it. So I’m going down to 100 ISO and I’ll just
choose something like F11. The idea here is the flashes are off, I want
to take a shot of our friend here, Gary, also a top photographer. Take a picture of him but I don’t want to
see him on the back of my screen, I want it to be completely black. So, we’ll take a shot, we’ll zoom in, take
a quick shot like so. The idea here is that nothing should be visible
on the screen and you’ll see now that we can actually see something on the back of the
screen. What I can’t do to make this darker is speed
up my camera because we’ve got the maximum speed that they can talk to each so what I
shall do is go from F11 to F16, so the eye of the camera closes down even more to let less
of this light in and make it much more darker. We’ll try that now. We’ll take a shot like so. Now we’ve got a completely blank screen or
black screen even, that is my backdrop. I don’t need to go out and buy black rolls
or anything like that, I don’t need to be in a studio. I’m outdoors now, you can hear the birds are
singing, we’re outdoors, we want to do a black background. Now I want to light Gary. This is the simple part. My flash is in manual, I’m using an umbrella,
a real cheap umbrella and I want the light to go into the umbrella and come again. The only thing we have to be careful of here
is we’ve got the shaft of the umbrella coming out, we don’t take his eye out when we get
too close to him. And I can close it down, normally the umbrellas
would be really big, I would have a load of light coming back but I want this to be a
tunnel of light, just lighting up a little bit. We can kind of make this like a soft box by
closing it down. It is almost like a cheap soft box. Now I’m on F16, this is only one of these
battery powered speed lights, they’ve only got so much power so I’m taking that to full
power. If it was a really, really bright day and
the sun was glaring which we aren’t getting that often in the UK at the moment, I’d have
to use a more powerful battery pack, something like an Elinchrom Rangers or Hensel Portys
and things like that, but this is just a normal speed light, a Canon speed light, Nikon camera. I’m on full power and we’ll take a shot. The pocket wizards are on. We’ll just do a quick test shot, so don’t
look at the light, Gary. So quick test shot and all I want to do now
is just see where my light is going to land on Gary. There we go. So now you can see on the screen, we’ll jump
over to the computer now. We’ve got a completely black background and
Gary is lit. All I would now is just move my light around
to get the kind of lighting that I want on him, so nice and simple. Nice and quick and it’s a good little trick
that you can have in your photography tool bag for when you’re out and about to get the
kind of shots that you need rather than being in a studio. Loads of questions about this. Some people have said to me, “Oh I can’t seem
to get the background really completely dark.” When they’re indoors. That might be because we’ve got a flash here,
you might be too close to the wall, even if you take a shot without the flash on it’s
completely black. The minute you turn that flash on it’s going
to bounce all around the room and you’re going to start to get some of that light in. So just make sure that you narrow that light
down and everything should be fine. Any problems, by all means give me a shout,
[email protected] Otherwise, enjoy. I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Photography Technique: The Invisible Black Background”

  1. waytallwhitey says:

    Do you have links for the umbrella and pocket wizard?

  2. browill9 says:

    awesome. thanks

  3. little bitty says:

    I have always never understand how this type of thing works. You took one photo of you black background the took another photo of your subject using your flash when on the subject but how do you get the camera to know its all one photo and not 2 photos is there a setting someplace that does this. I have a D5100. So I guess what I am saying for example when I take one photo of something then take another photo of something my camera see that as 2 photos and not a background and subject

  4. lucas Scott says:

    i get this video, but how can we create the kind of pictures you do using natural light from window, and then also having the background, and then putting them together, thats the part im confused at? cheers glyn

  5. Photography In A Click says:

    Hey Glyn enjoyed your presentation at the trade show. I will be checking more of your videos. Thanks for the great tips shazbang

  6. Victor & Nozomi says:

    Great video !

  7. Jesuzaine Ordonez says:

    How big is the umbrella your using? Does it matter the size?

  8. grozzer 21 says:

    Cheers Glyn. Had a go at this today and it's amazing! Top tip!!!

  9. Axel Inderbitzin says:

    Nice tip. Thanks!

  10. Prosper Mwakyusa says:

    Hi Glyn. Very helpful video but how did you merge the two separate photos together?

  11. Native Texan says:

    BEAUTIFULLY explained. Thank you so much good sir.

  12. George Sabapathy says:

    Nice tip, was ready to get a black curtain, gonna try this out! Thanks for a great, simple tutorial😸

  13. trog lodyte says:

    really good info

  14. Andie Johnson says:

    Thank you, very helpfull.

  15. ainat0tz says:

    does it work if ur umbrella is white?

  16. jixxxxer17 says:

    Can you shoot an apple the same way and get it suspended in complete darkness ? have you seen the portrait of the million dollar potato ?

  17. Aleps Gil says:

    really good tutorial!!! thx!

  18. James IV says:

    Thanks for the tip. Worked like a charm testing around with an off-camera flash (I should point out I am learning that still).

    Now just to do thins with the person looking at you and full frontal lighting that I can't figure out

  19. Amyth Arora says:

    Hey Glyn, This is amazing. Thanks for this tutorial. Can I use the same trick to do a video ?

  20. Fluff Pot says:

    this awesome mate! ty

  21. Ashutosh Baghel says:

    Hey Glyn. can i do this using the my built-in flash of D5200?

  22. Karam J says:

    that lens hood isn't large enough. LOL

  23. sztewe says:

    That's a pretty neat trick! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Paul Humphries says:

    Great technique, explained in the simplest of terms. Very good video tutorial Glyn!

  25. Bubble Gumboy says:

    Where can I find this umbrella and stand?

  26. Piyush Chopade says:

    Hey! I've a Canon 1200d camera. I just need to know what flash should I use to get a low key portrait photo. Is it like a flash trigger that I should use? thanks

  27. Benji Walker says:

    I used this technique last night for a shoot but modified it for a face forward Portrait and added some coloured gels. it really impressed the band and really confused them how I got a black background in a really bright room

  28. lol whittingham says:

    Another great tutorial from you again Glyn… keep'em coming  ……………………..lolwit

  29. Meyer Ardila says:

    Perfect explanation, keep up

  30. Hariprasath sp says:

    Nice trick!!! kudos!!!

  31. Bryan Mcmanus says:

    good video, I like the subject matter a lot

  32. Olga Becker says:

    nice photo technique

  33. Skyler King says:

    so im confused… did you put all the photos into a program & then layer them on top of each other?? not much detail here on really how to achieve the final picture

  34. Rebaz Ali says:

    Hi Glyn, I was wondering if you are combining the two picture in phtoshop or how you have it with the black background? Thanks, Rebaz

  35. Tina Giles says:

    Simplicity is the magic word! Excellent!

  36. Carl McPherson says:

    Can't believe how simple that was thank you very much

  37. Musicaltariq777 says:

    awesome video…what size umbrella are you using?

  38. Sandy says:

    We can do these without a flash also right? If we put one bulb inside the umbrella?

  39. Diana M Joice says:

    This is a great tutorial. Thank you for sharing.

  40. amthunder1 says:

    A quick, practical, simple explanation and demo without the usual endless, history and background of each single piece used; and without the photographer's list of achievements and family tree.
    This was the information I was looking for; without having to advance the timeline on the video to get to the pertinent part!

    THANK YOU!!!!

  41. MGTOW Slim says:

    This video is dope!

  42. Val Ewing says:

    Thank you for this, I read about it on your blog and finally got to see it in action.

  43. Ryan Hamilton says:

    that was brilliant

  44. Potter Li says:

    Thank you Glyn, this is a great tutorial. I've downsize a lot of my gear and only kept a few brolly and one flash. This is very useful technique.

  45. Dominik Piska says:

    Great Tutorial! Is it possible to get the same result with a cheap lamps with bulbs which are lighting constantly?? Thanks in advance

  46. Brigitte Gathercole-Day says:

    Oh my gosh. This is awesome. I've seen other people do this after seeing your video. Just checked it out myself. MIND BLOWN!!

  47. Apartamento 11 says:

    You are my hero.

  48. Jenny M. says:

    This was great! Thanks.

  49. Lulu Lulu says:

    Dear Glyn, I would like to ask you, how can I achieve the same result if I'm taking macro photography for example on the fields about a butterfly, or anything else (other animals or flowers)?

  50. Alan J says:

    awesome!!! thank you so much for that trick! 😀

  51. epic shortmovies ind says:

    sir,its oswm…but i want video tricks(background black)

  52. Mark McGimpsey says:

    Am I the only one who giggled when he said shaft? sorry for being such a child!
    Amazing video, really helpful!

  53. Mary D. says:

    OK, you have a new subscriber just from this video!…and shall I mention that yours is the first channel I'm subscribing?! Excellent tutorial, thanks heaps!

  54. Christopher Williams says:

    I'm a beginner and have a Nikon D3200 can I achieve the same results pre edit?

  55. Sri Digitals says:


  56. William D. Ramirez says:

    I enjoyed learning from the well planned and executed explanation of camera lenses and trick photography. Written in a conversational tone. Short and sweet tour of the terminology and techniques of contemporary Digital SLR camera lenses: "glass". The best part is the very helpful graphics that make it easy to understand basic lens concepts and secret photography.

  57. salem.fotografy says:

    Canon flash Nikon camera :)))
    That was the first photography tutorial i watched EVER.. and i loved it, this channel became the 1st to subscribe and been a staunch fan ever since… thank you so much I've learnt A LOT from you ever since.:) cheers

  58. HP L'Atlas says:

    soooooo nice thanks for this tipsssssssss

  59. सोरभ Rajput says:

    Sir can you Tell what settings you are make in last click?

  60. Rickie Peete says:


  61. Brian Ngali says:

    Good tut Glyn! Just what I needed to see.

  62. Ihsan Deeb says:

    It’s funny, I was researching on how to get the black background shot on the net, then I was like, let’s see if there’s anything I can find on YouTube, and I found your name on the net and on here. I can’t wait to use your method on how to get a black background in daylight

  63. Fariz Azhraf says:

    Can this be done using a smart phone?

  64. Robbie B says:

    I'm wondering would this work for the dreaded "hair flip" shot from the side? I'm dying to try it but am sick with the flu and it's making me want to go try it.

  65. Mohammad Wajahat says:


  66. Daliyah Official says:

    Gary is lit.

  67. Jumo says:

    Can this same effect be achieved through Photoshop ? Great Job by the way – Could anyone point me to a good tutorials to achieve the same result in photoshop ? Thanks in Advance

  68. Montsergirl says:


  69. Yago Brasil says:

    amazing my friend
    thank you

  70. Neil Callaghan says:

    Glyn, you`ve just helped me massively here, so thankyou. I`m just getting into off-camera flash portraiture stuff, and really wanted to achieve a black background. Now I know how it`s done, and so easily. Thanks again.

  71. Michael Anasakta says:

    Thanks, Glyn, for such a helpful video.

  72. Tabaahi Photography says:

    Thank you the invisible black background tutorial…. i learned something new…

  73. Tariq Osman says:

    Hello Glyn,
    I wonder if this invisible black background technique can be applied using android phone's camera.
    Thank you

  74. Ihsan Deeb says:

    Hey Glyn, I have a question, I have a neewer octagon softbox with the silver reflector inside, would that affect the shot?

  75. Totte Lundgren says:

    Gary needs to start thinking of his posture 😛

  76. Daniele Maglaque says:

    Can someone explain how did the background became black? Sorry, I'm confused.

  77. SeVzbudteHolomci says:

    Thanks for tutorial. Like advanced user I know how to do it but I forget for flash. He is like a enemy of naturally look of photo.:)

  78. Mervin Thomas says:

    Can we such a picture without the umbrella, I.e., by using the flash on DSLR

  79. Glenn McKee says:

    Gr8, very informative!

  80. TheSpitfyre says:

    Excellent.. Thanks for this exactly what u needed for that look..

  81. Martyn Jennings says:

    Hi Glyn. Just met a friend of yours Ken. We spent15min discussing "Clark Gable". If you ever back in the area i love to watch you in action. Great videos too 👍🏻

  82. Samuel Gil says:

    5 years later and after 500,000 views this video is still topical. Thank you very much for your time, this has been very helpful.

  83. Saeed Saeedi says:

    This tutorial is very interesting

  84. slimepig says:

    which pocket wizard? i have a nikon d3200 and no flash yet. what pocket wizard and flash would i need? TY

  85. Aishaa the bookworm says:

    Hey! It is a very useful tutorial but please answer this question of mine…

    How can we take pictures with black background with simple normal iphone flash? Can we actually take one?

    Hope to get a reply soon 🙂
    Love your channel😍

  86. John Skiggs says:

    Combines; light ratios & light-discipline. Very exactly what I need to get best use from my new studio strobe setup -Thank you 🙂

  87. Kennitala says:


  88. Isa Monfil says:

    Thank you, this is really helpful.

  89. Darvesh Mohideen says:

    hi – this is a great video. Just what I was looking for. One thing – to get a full black picture, can you not increase the Shutter speed and leave F stop as it is? did you mention your camera only goes up to 1/250 and hence you had to adjust the F stop.

  90. Sabine S. says:

    how can i use a Canon speedlite with a Nikon cam? and is it possible to Combine 2 speedlites of different Brands with the nikon? could you perhaps explain? thanks

  91. H R says:

    Hi, can i use a lantern for it?

  92. alain vincente says:

    Definitely giving this a try tomorrow

  93. Jipsee says:

    Omg that's incredible…so genius!! Thank you for sharing this!!

  94. Jeroen says:

    Thx! This was a really helpful video.

  95. kayla peters says:


  96. Adam Sheehan says:

    emailed you about a problem I'm having with this exercise. look forward to hearing back

  97. Angelo Cruz says:

    Will Dunfinetly have to try that

  98. Christian Martin says:

    Do you have to have a flash umbrella. I have a canon T6i and I was wondering if you could just use the build in flash. If not where can I get a flash umbrella or the equipment used here in the video to get the light shown in the video .

  99. johny bonny says:

    thanks man that was useful………keep it up

  100. Benjamin Taylor says:

    Great video. Once you have the completely black background, how do you overlay the second picture with the subjects face actually exposed?

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