View Full Version : Photographing/postprocessing black cashmere, silk, etc.

16-Sep-2017, 15:59
Wow this is a challenge. I have an image with black cashmere, both under strobe and bright overcast natural light. Film is Portra 400 in 120. Color balance is good but the texture has me perplexed. Granted, focus is on the subject's face/eyes, and aperture was f/8 (medium format 180mm lens). I am not expecting the wardrobe to be critically sharp throughout, but I am not sure what to strive for regarding texture. Framing is both head/shoulders and full length.

Is there an approach, philosophy or technique to rendering black fabrics? Thanks!

Separate question, but similar idea - how to manage white (men's) dress shirts? What are the best resources for this?

16-Sep-2017, 16:18
Also remember that there are things that will never look sharp (like OOF looking) when photographed on film... (Some fabrics, some plastics, most glazed ceramic figurines, etc) It was often required to at least shoot a polaroid on pro shoots to see how they would render... Sometimes just using a different piece would be fine...

Using a broad light source (soft box, illuminated larger foam-core reflector, etc) that could cause micro-highlights on the fabric to reflect to the camera can create an outer form that will make it look sharper... Hard (foil) reflectors can help here... Enough light on the fabric to be able to at least reflect something is the key...

Test, and good luck!!!

Steve K

16-Sep-2017, 16:25
Thanks Steve. I used a medium softbox indoors, and soft natural overcast outdoors. The OOF image portion, combined with the non-directional cashmere fabric has given me some pause, but I think I can make it work.

16-Sep-2017, 16:40
I used a medium softbox indoors, and soft natural overcast outdoors.

IMHO, you are going to need more lighting than that. Try some hard directional light from the back or side aimed toward the fabric, not the person.
Experiment with a large reflector with a silver surface.

Google: kicker
- or -

This will add some highlights in order to give dimension to the fabric.

Here is one example where I used a kicker on a person (so you have some idea what I am talking about):
If I had not, the fabric of his right shoulder area could have merged into the dark background.

Here is the lighting setup that I used for the above portrait:

16-Sep-2017, 16:42
Try hardening up the light on the fabric portions (but with a broader source)... Bounce the light while obeying the law of incidence (light will leave reflecting off an object at the same angle it enters) so it will bounce towards the lens...

If someone is wearing the fabric, try putting a stronger key light a foot or so over the lens so the fabric can reflect back (and a good harder light for the facial features) Just not too high or the shadow under the nose turns into "Hitler's moustache"... ;-)

Steve K

16-Sep-2017, 17:37
Steve and Terry, thanks for the great suggestions. I agree that a harder light would help with the soft fabric.

Terry, nice portrait. Which aperture did you use? Guess I would also need to ask which format and focal length? Reason for the question is there appears to be more DOF than I typically use. I'm using f/8 on a 180mm lens in 6x7 format. If I used f/11 it might help with fabric rendition adjacent to the critically sharp areas.

Drew Bedo
16-Sep-2017, 19:22
I will often place a focusing target in the composition to verify plane of focus and depth of field. I move the target around to check the corners and so on. The barcode from a retail package makes a good high contrast target.

17-Sep-2017, 06:22
Thanks Drew, a focus target would be helpful.

17-Sep-2017, 23:18

Nikon D70
Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 lens
ISO 200
f/5.6 (if I remember correctly)

18-Sep-2017, 04:42
Thanks for the exposure information Terry!