Back to Black

You’ve got that perfect photo taken against a black backdrop. You fiddle and diddle with it until it looks perfect. You print it, and it looks fantastic.

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Then you are asked to show a projected copy or enter into a competition on-line. Only the projector is brighter than your screen and your finely honed masterpiece looks HORRIBLE..

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If this has happened to you (and, it has happened to me), here’s how to check and fix it....

If the background is supposed to be pure black, it’s tempting to simply paint over areas where you can see some tone... this is what I did in the above (right).

However, when projected brighter than intended, those areas you thought were black turn out to be just a dark grey/colour, whilst the bits you painted are actually black – the result is that your ‘workings’ become visible.

Step 1

Add an adjustment curve above your image. I’ve used Photoshop, but any editing program will do. Pull the curve up and to the left to horribly over-expose; this is a guide only. The results should look like this.

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Step 2

You now have two (or more options).

The simplest is to add a new layer, BELOW the adjustment curve but ABOVE your image and simply paint over the areas that should be black, with a black brush.

Step 3

Once compete, with no artifacts showing, you delete or turn off the adjustment layer and you have an image where you can guarantee however bright the projection, your blacks will remain black (the rest of the subject may still look over exposed, but that’s less intrusive than a poor background!).

Alternate method.

A slightly better / more controlled approach would be to fill the new layer entirely with black (obscuring the whole of the subject), then add a layer mask and paint white on that to reveal the subject below. If you make a mistake, you simply switch to a black brush and paint back on the mask. An added bonus of using a mask is that you can soften the edge using the ‘feather’ on the mask options panel.

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