Shooting Challenge: Black Card Photography

Illustration for article titled Shooting Challenge: Black Card Photography

This lead photo isn't HDR photography. Photoshop wasn't implemented to mix multiple shots. It was captured in a single exposure, and for this week's Shooting Challenge, you'll learn the technique.

The Challenge

Take a photo mixing various levels of luminescence with the black card technique. Don't mix multiple exposures in Photoshop. In fact, don't mess with Photoshop too much at all. Rely on yourself and your camera an a tiny piece of black paper.


The Technique

So here's the basic idea: you want to take a photo that has a really bright part and a really dark part, but you want the whole photo to be cohesive.

You have to expose the dark part of the image (often the landscape) longer that the bright part of the image (often a sun or sky).

To do this, you simply hold a black card to block the part of your lens that's capturing the brightest part of the image. So you might take a 30 second exposure of a scene, but only allow the brightest part of the scene to be exposed for a few seconds.


If my explanation isn't specific or clear enough, don't worry, there's a fantastic tutorial on the subject HERE.

The Example

Our lead photo is by ciccioetneo. It looks like HDR, right?

You can tell from the way the water appears as fog that it's a long exposure. And I'm guessing that he placed the black card right at the horizon.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, April 11th at 8AM Eastern to with "Black Card" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameCARD.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameCARDWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.


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Neat contest. As absolutely gorgeous as the image is, it really doesn't look like HDR at all. The rocks are jet-black and the sky is pretty 'normal' looking for an HDR. Either way, gorgeous shot.