Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Black Mirror

In a recent post I mentioned that I made use of a black mirror. I hadn't heard of a black mirror up until a few years ago when I was at the studio of one of my professors. He was milling about his studio picking things up and telling us what we ought to invest in if we were to make it in the field. Good ol' Vince was a bit of a dreamer, but he never stopped producing good ideas. He pulled out a black mirror and said it was definitely something we should get. Promptly I made a note of it in my sketchbook and tucked the knowledge away. Basically what it is is a reflective surface with a black backing, instead of the normal silver mirror backing. What it does though, is knock all of the values in the reflections down a couple of notches. It's particularly handy for deepening shadows.

The result of looking into a black mirror isn't too far off from this set of images. On the left we have what might be considered a normal reflection, where the one on the right has been doctored to resemble the decrease in value you can expect. Of course one could squint to condense the value patterns even further, which is what I tend to do out of habit.

I haven't really been able to find any information on the internet about where to purchase such a device, and the few glass/mirror shops I've called were equally helpful, but the premise is simple enough I figured I could approximate it effectively. I picked up the deepest black piece of matboard I could find and stuck it into an 11 x 14 frame with the really cheap and reflective glass. And that's it.

The bugger was nefariously difficult to photograph well, but you get the idea. The matboard I used is actually a "suede" board, chosen because it's a deep deep black, but the draw back is it has a bit of a mottled texture. As soon as it bothers me I'll end up just painting something black to replace it with, but it works extremely well. You can see how the darker values of my face sort of become one shape with few reflected highlights.

At any rate, this little guy cost me about $15 at my local frame shop and took all of two minutes to assemble. Yet again listening to Papa Vince has paid off.

1 comment:

Brian Bowes said...

Excellent Post! the mirror is one of those unsung heros in the studio. Another use for a regular mirror is the great effect is has when looking at one's work. It will flatten the image and give 'distance', which can allow one to see any anomalies that may be there.

Another suggestion for creating a black-mirror is to use either reflective glass or plexiglass and then simply paint the backside matte black.

However your suggestion does have a frame, and when it comes to those pesky glass edges, that's got to be good.