Colour in the darkness – Black light photography

Colour in the darkness – Black light photography

The special characteristics of digital black light photography

In black light photography, the photographer determines what can and can’t be seen. The photographic staging is supported by tools with fluorescent properties, which become visible in the black light.

The wide range of tools allows for a very artistic, spectacular and colourful presentation that you don’t see in any other setting.

Conditions for black light photography

Due to the rather dark lighting atmosphere at a black light set, you should use a camera that also takes low-noise photographs in higher ISO ranges. This helps to ensure that the images meet your quality requirements and that disturbing image noise in dark areas can be avoided.

Basically, you should use a high speed lens that allows low aperture values. This allows for a larger aperture, a higher light exposure and shorter exposure times.

As the name suggests, the most important component of black light photography is the black light itself. Depending on your goals, conventional black light tubes or special black light stage lamps can be used as light sources. For selective lighting, we recommend using black light torches, which are already available at low prices.

Here you can see the fluorescent effect of the colours used. To make the colours even more prominent, both the background and the model are kept neutral in black.
Here you can see the fluorescent effect of the colours used. To make the colours even more prominent, both the background and the model are kept neutral in black.

In order to create beautiful and colourful images in black light photography, fluorescent materials are needed. Special online shops for black light accessories and the work of other photographers offer a good source of inspiration for possible combinations. The offer is varied and ranges from black light make-up to black light soap bubbles.

The right location for the black light shooting

The shooting should be carried out in a controllable environment. Any interference, such as incident light, can affect the success of the shoot and should therefore be avoided. In general, an indoor performance in the evening or at night is recommended, as possible disturbances can be prevented here. All windows and doors should be darkened for the duration of the shooting. It is best to use a neutral black background for your shots.

However, even nocturnal outdoor shots can lead to fascinating results. To avoid the influence of disturbing light sources such as lanterns or moonlight, it is preferable to take pictures in rural and light-protected environments. Due to their mobility and battery operation, the use of black light flashlights is recommended for outdoor shoots.

Eye-friendly handling of black light

For health reasons, you and others involved should avoid direct eye contact with black light sources. Since photography in a darkened environment can also be tiring and exhausting in the long run, you should avoid long glances through the viewfinder of your camera. It is more advisable to use the Live View function of the camera to view the image composition on a larger display.


Manual camera mode photography – full control over ISO, aperture and exposure time

You should select the manual camera mode for your shots, as this is the only way to adjust the ISO value, aperture value and exposure time extensively.

The ISO value should be adjusted to the brightness of the black lights used and the indirect luminosity of the fluorescent agents. If many luminous tools and black lights are used, a low ISO value can be selected. If, on the other hand, you limit yourself to the use of a few light sources, you will not be able to avoid the use of higher ISO values (up to the higher four-digit ranges). The maximum also depends on the camera model in order to avoid unpleasant image noise. Try out in test shots which ISO values are favourable.

The aperture value should be individually adjusted to the individual subjects and the desired depth of field. If you only want to shoot a single subject and make it stand out from the background, select a low aperture value. If you want to clearly display two or more subjects, you should experiment with higher aperture values. However, since the size of the aperture also determines the amount of incident light, it should also be selected in accordance with the lighting mood of your surroundings.

The exposure time should be set to ensure that the subject is always sharp and visible. The required exposure time depends on whether the subject is dynamic or static. To avoid shaky and blurred images, you should choose a sufficiently short exposure time for dynamic subjects, starting at about 1/50 second. A tripod is recommended for taking pictures of static subjects. Thus, longer exposure times, e.g. 1/5 second, can lead to sharp results and thus favour setting options such as a higher aperture value or a lower ISO value.

For better colour reproduction, it is also advisable to deliberately underexpose the image slightly. Underexposure will cause the fluorescent colours to emerge more strongly.

File type RAW – The basis for subsequent image processing

If possible, you should save the images in RAW file format. This will take up more space on the SD card, but it will also store significantly more information per image. This lets you edit RAW files more comprehensively than JPEG images.

In order to emphasise bright colours better and more expressively, it is recommended to use special image editing programs, such as Adobe Lightroom. You can change the colour of the image afterwards by adjusting the hue and saturation values. It is worth experimenting, as you can often create interesting alternative results.

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