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A Comparison of Black Seamless Paper and Midnight Black Velveteen Backdrops for Product & Portrait Photography

Mysterious and entrancing – few things add more dramatic flair to an image than a really dark background. Colored photo backgrounds are playful, high energy and always versatile, but sometimes a simple, black background is the ticket. In some cases, you may want the photo background to have a degree of reflection and play an active part in the composition, and in other cases the aim is for it to be nearly imperceptible.

Fortunately, Savage offers several black backdrop options to choose from, including vinyl, muslin, and polyester – but here we’re highlighting the unique attributes of Black Seamless Paper, and an often overlooked gem, Midnight Black Velveteen.

Black Seamless Paper

A cornerstone in nearly every photo studio, and for good reasons. Like all Savage seamless paper, it is:

  • very easy to work with
  • comes in multiple sizes (black is even available nearly 12 feet wide)
  • wrinkle-free
  • very affordable
  • recyclable, and made from recycled paper
  • doesn’t attract lint

When lit directly, paper backdrops enable you to craft beautiful, diffused, uninterrupted gradients and vignettes to highlight your subject and give mood to your composition.

Midnight Black Velveteen

Consider reaching for it if if you want to take your images to a deeper level of dark, mesmerizing richness. The eye-catching look of velvet signifies characteristics of beauty, luxury and elegance, and traditional velvet fabric can be very expensive; setting you back as much as $30 per yard. Savage Black Velveteen is much more affordable, and also:

  • creates that ultra-black background, without gradients or vignettes
  • enables maximum contrast for bright objects and vibrant, saturated color
  • is super lightweight and portable
  • stores easily
  • hangs/lays completely flat
  • is wrinkle free

Jewelers often choose velvet/velveteen for product displays to emphasize the quality and exquisite workmanship in detailed items.

Bold colors and shapes really pop against a deep black background, captivating the viewer’s attention and emphasizing texture.

Which is Right for Your Next Photo Shoot?

Here are some comparisons with the same lighting, first on Black Seamless Paper, and then on Black Velveteen. Notice the differences in texture and setting. Subjects on a paper backdrop can appear more grounded to the scene, while images on velvet stand off of the background. 

At closer working distances, macro photography can often capture slight hints of that velvety texture; showing off the soft, luxuriousness of the surface.

For portraits, with the subject a few feet from the Velveteen, the background texture completely disappears as the deep fibers soak up all the light.

Also notice that paper can show shadows of the subject, while the velvet does not.

Lighting is Key

Does this mean that you should only shoot with Midnight Black Velveteen for the darkest effect? Not necessarily. Black paper can certainly still pack plenty of ultra-dramatic impact – it is essentially a matter of lighting. When paper is lit along with the subject, the smooth organic fibers are evident and add to the play of textures between subject and background. As mentioned, this makes for gorgeous gradients and vignettes. But, if your subject style and placement allows you to add some distance between the subject and background, and constrain the lighting to the subject only, you can achieve the deepest black with paper as well.

A shallow depth of field and bright backlighting on the subject example below allows for a high shutter speed. No light reflection is picked up from the background, so this isolates the ring in the image and provides a completely black background.

Whichever black background you choose, you’re sure to achieve a look that captures attention and highlights the best attributes of your subject!

Which black background will you choose for your next dark, dramatic project?

Tell us in the comments below!