The Power of the Matt-Black Studio Box

Do you struggle to control light in your small studio? This class will help.

In this photography lighting workshop, recorded LIVE, Karl demonstrates how creating a matt-black box, or using a small black studio space, can enhance your lighting control and help you create powerful, memorable images.

If you work in a small studio space – especially a white one in which light bounce-back poses problems – this workshop will inspire you to try something different. 

Karl begins by explaining the principles and benefits of the matt-black studio, before describing how he and the team built the black box for this shoot.

As he shoots a series of portraits, making subtle adjustments to his simple lighting setup as he works, Karl demonstrates how to control shadow density with awesome precision.

You’ll cover rim and edge lighting, controlling flare, using projection attachments, shooting portraits with shallow depth of field, and more.

In this class:

  • Portrait photography in a black studio
  • How to control light and shadow
  • Softbox photography
  • Portraiture with a projection attachment
  • Rim lighting and edge lighting for portrait photography
  • Controlling flare

If you enjoy this class, check out Rim Lighting Photography for Stunning Portraits and Black-on-Black Product Photography Using Two Lights.

Questions? Please post them in the comments below.


  1. ChuckHaynes99

    Awesome video, thank you to the team! I would love to see a contrast difference between studio types. If I might make a suggestion, The next time, if there is a next time for Matt-black studio… you should leave white wall background available and do an inverse square law demonstration to see the difference in contrast in the graduation…may be a side by side comparison with white studio at the same settings…

  2. swisselle

    Yup… that helped so much. I finally realize, what the problem is most of the time when shooting low key. I only had a curtain on one side and blocked the opposite wall with a v-flat. But there’s the ceiling and there’s the rest of the studio behind me that inferes. I am off to buy some more curtains to close the shooting area off when in need.

    Question: if I would frame the model with my 2.2mx6m v-flats left/right/top, flag the light all the way to the back of the model (or use grids hehe) and put a backdrop up behind me… would that work similar or would it just trigger a models claustrophoby?

    1. Hi Swisselle, yes any form of boxing them in in black would work (as long as it’s good black) and certainly grids would help eliminate flare! 🥹

  3. jeahn

    I love working in “dark mode” lighting environments so this show was great for my soul! Thank you.

    Have you ever tried putting a piece of gaff tape on the lens hood to eliminate flair? I’ve really enjoyed this technique but I’m wondering if I may be causing some vignetting at wider apertures. With that in mind, is it always better to use a window mask or a traditional flagging method instead? Or is it alright once you get your aperture settings locked in?

    1. Hi Jeahn, any method that does the job is the best! But I was kicking myself afterwards, I think I had too much going on in my brain during the show, as the the easiest thing would have been to put a loose grid on each of the P70’s and problem solved with hardly any difference in the light results at that angle!

  4. Brian R.

    Great stuff Karl, thanks for taking the time to do this! I’m renovating a 28’L x 17’W x 8’H studio and have been thinking along the lines of what you demonstrated, but a bit unsure. Now I’m confident in the direction I want to take in how I make a black-out option.

    1. Hi Brian, that’s great to hear and it sounds like your space will be a good size if you keep it uncluttered. Definitely having some form of easy to apply black out control will give you more options but I wouldn’t consider it as the permanent option, you need to find a way to go from white to black as best as possible. I worked in a commercial studio as an assistant once, it was a tiny studio and the whole thing was painted deep matt black and even with the lights on it was a depressing place to be for any length of time!

  5. Great show Karl as always.

    The tips and tricks you mentioned here are fantastic, have tried this technique in the past for bodyscape images but feel I need to go back and try again now armed with this info.

    p.s Would love 3 or 4 people on hand on my next shoot to hold boards, cloths and soft boxes, maybe one day?

    1. Hi Jason, glad you enjoyed the shoot. Sorry you don’t have any ‘hands’ available, if my crew weren’t so busy you could borrow them 🙂

  6. Hi Karl… thanks you! The amount of control you can have with this technique is huge and the control over the image you are working on is very important to me. I’m already watching on amazon the black rugs 😀
    Have a nice evening… or day!

  7. Thanks for taking the time and energy to set all this up and demonstrate the effects… something to ponder.

    1. Thanks John. There are also other ways to achieve this; For example you can replicate a similar effect by creating a box of black fabric around your subject with C-stands and grip rods with the fabric hanging from the grip rods and then put a black foamboard or polyboard on as a lid. That would get you close.

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