How do you do the black background? 

One thing I'd like to clarify right from the start is that my backgrounds are seldom completely black.  Usually they are a mix of dark green to black.  The reason for this is because my backdrop is actually a tree line on my property.  I'm surrounded by woods and the transition area where lawn becomes trees is full of shadow pockets.  These pockets create very dark green/black backgrounds, so my preferred description is 'dark' backgrounds.



I discovered this by happy accident during the summer of 2008.  If you read the basics page, my suggestion # 7 was to MOVE when you shoot.  As I began to move, it changed my backgrounds.

If there was a beginning, then this photo is it.  My best shot of 2008 and I was so impressed with myself that I made this photo the cover shot of my website during it's creation in early 2009.  It has the horizon line that I'm less fond of today, but in 2008 I was just tickled with this picture.



By 2009 I was ready to play with it a little more.  Here are a series of photos taken of 'Envy Me' all within a 3-4 minute time frame in July of 2009.

First, your basic straight down shot.  By far, this is the single most common angle of daylily photos.


Then I moved a little and dropped my camera down around hip level.  I have one of those tilt and swivel displays so I don't need to have my eye right behind the camera.


I think I must have been crouching by the time I got to this shot.  Here you can see the end of the lawn disappearing into the tree line.


When I got even lower I was able to elevate the bloom up into the surrounding trees as can be seen by the dark green leafy area in the upper left of the photo.


I've moved a hair to the right and zoomed in on the bloom.



In the end I didn't like any of those pictures.  I wasn't even impressed enough with the dark background at the time to take much notice, because I didn't like how it made the bloom look over-exposed.  Back in the summer of 2009, I didn't know how to correct that problem with software. 

The next day I got the shot I eventually settled on.  The typical, comfortable, down on the bloom standard.  :)



A couple of weeks later I continued the practice of moving around.  Here's 'Pointer Sisters' after the rain.

Here's a recent edit of the old photo from 2009 above.




In August of 2009 I was doing the same thing with 'Mico', moving around the bloom and trying on different backgrounds.  This time the photo I settled on had a partial dark background.


I was much happier with the exposure in this shot.  The day was dreary.  It had just finished raining and the cloud cover was still thick.  While I liked the photo of the bloom itself, the green along the bottom ate away at me.  I just kept wishing I had dropped the camera angle a little more to eliminate the lawn.  I was slowly beginning to appreciate the dark background providing I had the right weather, and the right bloom.

So, what have I learned in the years since...

1.  Distance matters.  Both behind and in front of the bloom.  Ideally you'll have at least 20 feet between the bloom and the background.  The more distance you have, the more distortion you'll create in the background.  It tends to blend any imperfections.  And having 8-10 between you and your bloom allows you more options in zooming in, or cropping later.  The denser the woods the better.  I have a thin spot in one area and when I use it you can see the light between the leaves of the trees - even on an overcast day.  Poly bloom on 'Skinwalker'.



2.  Shooting down versus getting down.  I can't stress this enough.  Whenever possible, try multiple shots from multiple angles AND levels.  One thing most of us are not afraid to do is to get down on our knees in the dirt, right?  So, this is the same 'Skinwalker' bloom with photos taken within a minute of each other (you can tell by the water drop at the tip of the lowest sepal) without me touching the bloom in any way.  The first is shooting down while the second is getting down.





3.  Not all darks are created equal.  However, that doesn't mean they're less effective.  A pale and/or white, brilliant orange or yellow blooms look lovely on an obviously dark GREEN background.  Contrast is a factor.  So don't discount those dark green areas of your own garden.  Here are 'Mehta' and 'Debary Canary'.





4.  Dark blooms are also possible.  Lighting is key for dark blooms.  A brightly overcast day is ideal.  If you can't capture light on the bloom it will fade into the darkness of the background.  Take many more photos than you would usually.  Somewhere in the mix you might end up with one that has captured the light just right.  You don't get the same POP with a darker bloom... but something more like an understated elegance.  In order, 'Capulina', 'Chaco Canyon' and 'Shuffle the Deck'.







5.  Plants in pots.  Spring arrivals are always potted.  This offers me complete flexibility to capture these kinds of shots.  I can (and do) grab any pot in bloom and move it to the edge of the property to line it up with the background of my choice.  In a perfect world, all of the new garden additions have had their 'glamour' shot done before they are planted into crowded beds.




As you can see in this photo, the darkness is on the upper horizon.  All I need to do is drag it back a little more and then drop the camera angle to eliminate the pot.  Bloom is 'Small World Twister'.



6.  When all else fails - cheat!  I have some plants that are already imbedded into my over-crowded gardens.  There is absolutely no way that I can take a photo without ending up with some undesirable thing in the background, whether another bloom, hybridizing tags, deadheads or the problem of late season ratty foliage.  I certainly can't avoid the green no matter how bad I might want the dark background.  Hmmm.... what to do?  'Lee Reinke' foreground, 'Chaco Canyon' in the background.


Here's what I came up with;  I cut the live bloom off of the garden-crowded scape and I wire it onto the UNBLOOMING scape of a potted plant.  If the scape has closed buds, make sure they are compatible with the form of the bloom you're wiring onto it.  You wouldn't want to wire a spider form onto a scape with really fat, short buds.  Then I can put it where I want for the photo. 

Yup!  It's wired.  :)  I found a pot with a freshly bloomed-out scape and wired 'Mighty Highty Tighty' onto it.  At this point in time I couldn't tell you if the scape belonged to a tet or dip, spider or bagel.  It doesn't matter.  In fact, I could have cut a freshly (fresh is key as its still green) bloomed-out scape from the garden, poked it into the ground anywhere that had my desired background, wired up my bloom and still get this shot.



BTW, I have even tried using the clouds as a white background.  Personally, I'm not all that impressed with it.


So, there you have it.  Everything I can think of at the moment.  Don't neglect reading the software page.  It'll add the polish to your new 'dark' photos.  I may add some video if I can record something during the summer of 2012. 

And what about that first photo of 'Big Kiss'?  Well the original is still the website cover shot but I think I've improved on the photo over the years.  I still see things I wish I could correct... like I should have taken the photo before adding pollen, and I should have popped the dimple out of the far sepal... sigh.  I'm a little OCD I think.