Photo Friday: The Power of a Black Background

As a genealogist, I want to capture the life of my ancestors. More than know their vital statistics, I want to know who they were. I believe their ‘stuff’ tells a lot about who they are/were. I have been on a quest to improve my novice photography skills to help family heirlooms and personal mementos can help tell the story of my loved ones, and myself.

During this quest, I’ve learned many things. When shooting still photography indoors:

  • Generally, do not use the flash
  • Use a tripod
  • Experiment with macro settings
  • Lower the ISO value to sharpen the image
  • Try different angles to see what lighting works best.

But this post isn’t about those things. It was nice to review them. This post is about how I believe a black background can be VERY powerful. Here is just a sampling of the photos that I have fallen in love with on a black background. (FYI: You’ll probably see these photos again in future posts, but they look really good as a collection).

Neckerchief Slide
f/3.5, exp 1/4 sec, ISO 80
Pageant Shoes
f/3.5, exp 1/80 sec, ISO 250
Academic Letter
f/7.1, exp 1/2 sec, exp bias -1, ISO 100
1980s Charm Necklace
f/3.5, exp 1/2 sec, exp bias -0.7, ISO 100
Ballet Slippers
f/5, exp 1/5 sec, exp bias -0.3, ISO 100
Prairie Diamond
f/5, exp 1/4 sec, exp bias -0.3, ISO 100

I hope you can see how amazing these items look against the black background. I wouldn’t have discovered this unless I was willing to just play around with background colors, camera settings, and more.

Since Thanksgiving is next week and many people visit their families during that time, I have a challenge for you. Gather a few family heirlooms and take a few photos of them. Use a light box or natural light. Try out different background colors in your lightbox, such as black. While you’re at it, be sure to find out the stories behind the artifacts. I can’t wait to hear the results of your Thanksgiving photo sessions.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

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