A few years ago I shot at an indoor orchid show where they had set up black backgrounds (tar paper or tentest) and the pictures were great!
This was quite a long exposure, but at f/16 and with off-camera flash (my SB-600 handheld high and to the left). The black background was already set up there by the show organizers.
This article is NOT about how to light these shots, not really. It's about the backdrop. And how to do it "on the cheap". Also I'm a lazy guy and the less I have to carry with me in the field, the better.
So here's a really cheap and dirty solution.
- Go to a fabric store and buy a square of black cloth. I bought a 1m square piece (I think it was 48"x40" actually) and it cost me $4.
- Go to a hardware store and buy 4 little A-clamps. Sometimes you can get them in a set, but I bought loose ones for $1.99 each.
- Use a couple of the clamps to hang up the black cloth behind whatever it is you want to shoot.
- You can also find two sticks, make them in the shape of an "X" and use the clamps to stretch your cloth over the sticks to make a black square thing.
- I also have a pop-up reflector that came in a black bag. You can use that as the backdrop as well for small (macro) shots.
Here's all my stuff. One black cloth, four little clamps and two sticks. They're all sitting on top of my reflector disk in its black sleeve, but you don't need that!
This is the setup with the cloth stretched over the sticks.
I shot this one a few days ago by simply hanging the black cloth from some branches behind the willow buds. The sun was behind and to the right; I made sure the lens was shaded by the cloth to avoid flare. 1/2000 sec @ f/5.6, ISO 400, 200mm
There's a good article on how to use an "invisible black backdrop" on Glyn Dewis' blog but for that you really do need flash.
My whole kit is inside my folded up reflector disk bag. Easy to take with me in the field. I'll probably use a separate tripod for positioning the off-camera flash when I go out shooting trilliums next month. I'll post some pictures over on my other blog when I do.
Here's a red trillium I shot last year with off-camera flash but no backdrop. 1/160 @ f/8, ISO 200, 200mm