Alternative to Muslin?

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by tevo, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. tevo
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    tevo Recovering TPF Junkie

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    I have a backdrop setup, and I have been using a roll of seamless black paper. However for video, the black is not deep and dark enough for me. I need a deep black backdrop by next Monday, and no stores around me seem to carry black Muslin. I am likely going to go to the fabric store and get black cloth of some kind. What is the best fabric to use? Also, using 3 lights / softboxes (continuous) what is the best way to light a single subject with the backdrop relaining as dark and black as possible?
  2. Mully
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    Mully New Member

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    Look for black velvet as it i dead black ...it is a little expensive. I have bunches of this fabric as it really comes in handy
  3. Big Mike
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    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member

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    Yes, black velvet is about the most light-absorbing fabric you'll find. Real stuff is expensive, fake stuff is OK but sometimes has too much sheen to it.

    Either way, the key to getting a black background is not in the backdrop, but in your lighting control. You should be able to make a white backdrop look black...you just have to keep enough light off of it, that it doesn't show exposure at the settings used for the lighting on your subject.
  4. tevo
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    tevo Recovering TPF Junkie

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    What is the best way to do this with softboxes? I like the quality of light it gives but spill onto the backdrop is difficult to avoid.
  5. jwbryson1
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    jwbryson1 New Member

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    Shutter speed is your only independent control for ambient exposure, so you want to shoot at the maximum sync speed of your camera, probably 1/200 or 1/250. Then it's a matter of keeping the subject and the lighting as far away from the backdrop as possible. If it's still too light, you could always lower it in PP.
  6. Derrel
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    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Black FELT is actually quite good, as long as you keep it clean and free of detrius. Ikea also has some nice, very affordable black fabric on galvanized steel pipe cores in their window treatment section; not as big as 107 inch wide seamless though. As far as keeping the black "black"; keep as much light OFF of it as you can. Large flats blocking the lights from hitting the backdrop can be placed. On light modifiers, things like recessed face softboxes WITH fabric grids (aka 'eggcrates') help in keeping the light on the foreground and not spilling all the way to the background.

    In a word or two, try not to "spray light all over he((" when lighting your shots...
  7. KmH
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    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish

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    To control spill on the backdrop from the softbox you flag the softbox.

    The flag blocks light from the softbox from spilling onto the background.

    You could use a bi-fold door(s) as a flag. By moving the 2 door sections so they create a slight angle, the bi-fold doors will stand up by themselves.
  8. gryphonslair99
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    gryphonslair99 New Member

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  9. unpopular
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    I use heavy faux suede from fabric stores, one of my schools used a similar fabric called "deuvateen" or something like that. I have mine sewn to form two pockets such that I can slide sheets of styrofoam insulation into them, so I can stand them self supported.

    For white backgrounds, I use faux satin, bright white, from the bridal section.
  10. Big Mike
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    Better/easier to do it with softboxes than umbrellas. As Keith mentioned, you can flag your lights. Basically, just put something between the lights and the background, maybe clamp something to the back side of the softbox. But really, the most basic and simple way to get it done, is just to move the light farther away from the subject. If you lights are 5 feet from your subject, but 25 feet from the background...the background would reflect 25 times less light than the subject (give the same reflectivity). So if you get your lights closer to your subject (thus having to reduce your exposure settings on camera) and at the same time, move the whole set up farther from the background....you should be able to make any background come out black in a photo.
  11. SamiJoSchwirtz
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    I wouldn't get muslin. Gets wrinkly like crazy.
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  12. deeky
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    I'll second calling the theater supply stores - ask about old curtains. They may be worn along the bottom or have spots on them that make them useless as curtains, but as big as they are they may certainly have large enough good stuff for you. Just don't plan on using it as a mobile setup - it's heavy! To get more technical, you may have a shot at curtains (largest pannels), legs (narrow vertical pieces), or borders (short but the width of the stage).
  13. tevo
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    tevo Recovering TPF Junkie

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    Great call! I got black Commando Cloth from this place, and it worked perfectly. Thanks much
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  15. Vautrin
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    I had a similar problem when i started shooting. What i found was although its difficult to get a PERFECT black with a model against the backdrop, you get just that if you put the backdrop behind her a meter or two and have a depth of field shallower than that(even with flagging the lights)

    if not, its a 30 second fix in photoshop by:

    lowering the shadows slider
    painting exposure of min 20 (use a very feathered brush!)
    using smart select (keyboard shortcut W) - feather it, smart radius it, add exposure comp

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