Wednesday 6 March 2024

Black Velvet Backdrop

I bought a piece of black furnishing velvet to try as a backdrop for photographing my models.

I've hung it off a frame at the back of my photo box, draped forward over the floor of the stage.

I have three fairly powerful daylight LED bulbs over the stage, which is just a translucent plastic storage crate. There is a mirror tile on either side to reflect some fill light back into the scene.

My camera (a Nikon D3500), in common with all cameras with automated exposure controls, tends to freak out a bit when a scene is overwhelmingly dark or light. Fortunately, it has pretty easy exposure compensation controls, although finding the exact degree of over- or under-exposure is generally a matter off guesswork and trial and error.

This image has been underexposed by one stop, and though the minis look a little dark, the colour card is still a little bit washed out as the camera struggles to get the right exposure.

This one has been underexposed by two stops, and everything is pretty dark.

The velvet background is nice and black, but the white of the exposure card is perceptibly grey, and the minis are very dark. I could probably bring them out with some post-processing, but I suspect there would be a lot less faffing about involved in darkening the background of the first image than in trying to get an acceptable tonal range in the minis in the second.

This guy, a 28mm monk from Reaper, was underexposed by one stop to keep the dark background from making the camera blow out the highlights. But with this one, I focused the lighting much more closely on the mini, so that almost no detail from the background was picked up at all. He's been post-processed to further darken the background.

I like this effect, and I'll probably make a lot more use of it.

This was an experiment with a modeling light setup (i.e. using light to model the surface of the subject), using a single lamp from the upper right, and a convex makeup mirror as a fill reflector.

It's probably not often that useful a lighting rig for photographing miniatures, as highlights and shadows tend to be painted in, and the lighting generally needs to be more flat and even. However, I have it in my grab-bag if I should ever need it.

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