Photography Project: Single flower with black background


Last summer, I took a KelbyOne course by Melanie Kern-Favilla called, “Creating Breakthrough Floral Images”.  I was inspired by the images she took with black backgrounds, and proceeded to take over the kitchen table and relegate Peter to the kitchen island for his meals.

In the video she created a black three-sided box in which to shoot the flowers.  I appreciate that she focused on cheap, DIY, solutions.  The homemade box required more effort than I could muster (or convince Peter to muster), so I hacked together my own version.


  • 4 pieces of black foam core.  You need something sturdy that can stand propped up and won’t bend
  • Something to prop the foam core panels upright.  I used big thick cookbooks and stood them upright on the table with their covers opened.  I placed the boards against these and secured them with binder clips to create a makeshift stand.
  • Small pieces of black and white construction paper or lightweight poster board

In full disclosure, this wasn’t the most workable solution – the panels kept tipping over, and the light would creep into the seams.  I use these board for many different purposes and didn’t want to tape them together, so I made due with the occasional collapse.

Equipment:  Macro lens (180mm)

Post processing software:  Nik Color Effects Pro with some combination of the following effects:  Pro Contrast, Glamour Glow, Detail Extractor

Shaping the Light

I found the trickiest part of this project to be manipulating and shaping the light.  I first placed my “box” with the opening toward a window that does not receive direct light.  Then added some of the small black pieces on top of the box (in addition to the piece of black foam core that was already there because it didn’t entirely cover the top.  I moved the flower back and forth within the box to change the amount of illumination, and found farther back away from the light, worked better for me.  Trying to get more shadow on the flower, I added more small pieces of black paper to the front of the box to create a smaller opening for my camera to shoot through.  Lastly, I tried using a white piece of paper to throw more light on certain areas of the flower.

Next, I turned the opening of the box away from any window so it was not receiving light directly from a light source.  I did not have to move the flower back as far, and used less materials to shape the light.






  1. mcoray

    I’m new to the group but I took Melanie’s excellent class last summer when I began to learn macro. I contacted her to get the dimensions for the black box and she graciously provided them.

    The lesson on building a black box included two skipped steps that may have made your experience easier: (1) use black gaffers tape to seal your seams, and (2) line the interior walls of the box with black upholstery fabric and to create the curved background piece. Hope this helps.

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