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Black Photography – The Dark Side

Lighting is something essential to create Photos. There is a “Light” side of Photography and a “Dark” side. 

The Light Side

The Light Side Photography is a type of Photography which is the most common style. Well lit images with diffuse soft shadows and a high amount of details all over the place. 



As you can see in the images above the images are all bright and high detailed. Some Bloggers are thinking that this is it. There is no other way to create images for their blog and if they talk about dark photography they show images which are not really good. Or they want to show how to do it but they do it in a really bad way. 

The Dark Side

The Dark Side Photography is special. Why?, because the first step is to cut out all the light and then bring back the light but just enough to light up the object.

But first a few words about the so called beauty bloggers who think they can do Photography tutorials. If the tutorial is good and technical correct there is nothing bad to say about the tutorial and some of these bloggers are really talented. But oh boy if your main focus of your blog is decoration with flowers and cooking you should properly not doing photography tutorials. The problem is if these bloggers are so called “influencer” and many others are adapting these tutorials we get more and more bad images on the internet (flickr, instagram, facebook, blogs).

For example the following image shows how the most images with a dark background look like.

As you can see the colors are dull and the background is still visible. So lets call this image a bad image. The problem is that images like this are very common and “liked” all over the internet but no, no, no NOOOO that has nothing to do with a “special style” it is just stupid. And in my opinion there are to much bad images out there. 

A result like that is because the most of the bloggers are taking images with their smartphones and daylight video lamps. But because the standard camera app on your phone is build to adjust the lighting no matter what. 

So what can we do to make it right.

I will explain you at first the steps you have to do with an DSLR and one Speed-light. Another future post will be about how to create similar results with a common smartphone.

The Setup

The fist and the important step is to create a good setup. 


  • DSLR Camera (in my case Canon 5D Mark II)
  • Speed-light Yongnuo  (connected with a cable hot-shoe adapter)
  • Tripod
  • table
  • Dark background paper (in my case a Studio Grey)

The setup is very simple and straight forward.

For the background you don’t have to use a studio paper you can everything black as background like a piece of velvet or a black painted board. Don’t use any glossy or creased material.
Bring some distance between your object and the background.

The external Speed-light is connected via a Hot-shoe Cable and I can use it freely to find the right position for the Speedlight. The Object hangs upside down just because the cable is a good hanger and it is easy to rotate an image in your photo app or Photoshop. I have put some black cardboard on the table to prevent light spill. The Background is a Studio Background Paper. 

The Settings and Results

The first step is to cut out all the light. I use a Shutter-speed of 160/s because this it is the best to work with Speed-light which are not working with TTL or E-TTL mode(But this is another story). A really low ISO of 50 gives me really noise free result and helps me to lower the sensitivity to light. I also have dialed in a Aperture size of eight which cuts out more light and gives me a really sharp image. So if you work with your camera and your settings be aware that the first image without Speed-light should be black. Now it is time to bring in the Speed-light. I have set the Speed-light to about 1/4 of the power. 


This image is clearly a fail, because the background is still visible as a gray background and that’s not what we are looking for. I want a pure black background. One solution is to bring up the Aperture-Size to 11 or higher but then we are losing light and to compensate that we have to raise the ISO or the power of the Speed-light, but we will have the same result, maybe a little bit darker but not perfect. So another better solution is to get more distance between the object and the background. Each doubling of distance decreases the quantity of light by factor 4 (2-f-stops) and each f-stop means halving of light quantity. And this formula is the Light-Falloff rule. It is an really important rule so try to remember it.

With just 3 foot further away from the background, the background gets complete dark but the Headphones are still in a good light situation. For sure there should more work done on the lighting but remember I used just one Speed-light. So let’s look at some flowers, but this time I use something like a small Soft-box on the Speed-light. 

As you can see the blue orchid looks really cool without any distracting background. 

At finally a special guest star in my studio:


I hope that tutorial was helpful for you to create your own dark side images. For sure there is more about this topic but let’s call it a day. 


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