Black backgrounds for horse portraits


When I first started learning how to create horse portraits, the ones where you take away the background, I used to use a jet-black colour.  The black masked everything that was to disappear in the background.

It’s a technique that is often adopted by equine photographers and it seems popular. However, how well does a photograph of a horse with a jet-black digital print?

Well, the answer is not very well. Why, because lab printers will struggle with a completely black pigment and the same goes with pure white.

Learning new skills with printing

As many people have gone out of the habit of printing their photographs, so the skills seem to have been lost too. I hadn’t realised this affected the quality of the photograph in print.  It was only when getting mentored by Kevin Pengelly, (a fabulous photographer) at The Guild of Photographers, that I learned so much more about how to print.

So today, instead of using a jet black or pure white background, for print purposes,  I choose colours that will suit your horse and complement them.  And that often is brown or dark green.

Complimentary colour

My friend, Angela, who is an artist commented recently on a post I’d placed on Facebook about this, and said, “You choose those colours because you want it to look natural. As the French Impressionist artists taught us, solid black does not appear in nature – even coal isn’t solid black. I was painting a silhouette on a sunset background with my art students and some just assumed it was pure black. But I told them to add red to the black. It was still very dark but it was more natural. Of course, if you add red to black it creates a brown which goes beautifully with the gorgeous horses.”  And I thought just how brilliant that was as a description to not using a jet-black!

Have a go yourself

So next time you experiment with taking away the background, have a think about whether it really needs to be jet-black or can you use another colour that will complement the horse’s colour a bit more, and make the image look incredible when printed x

black backgrounds for horse portraits

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