PRO TIP: Negative Fill

Taught By:

Lauren Haroutunian


In this quick pro tip, Lauren demonstrates how to use negative fill when lighting a subject.

Lesson Plan

"Negative fill" is the opposite of "fill light"– in that it takes away light instead of adding it! Fill light lessens the contrast on a subject, while negative fill adds contrast, which can create more depth and dimension to an otherwise flat looking image.

Negative fill is usually made by placing a black, matte cloth next to your subject. Professionals most often use a fabric called duvetyne, stretched over frames to make flags/solids and floppies. (Duvetyne is preferred not only because it's strong and durable, but it's also more flame retardant.) But any matte, black fabric can work– a black blanket, black felt, a black hoodie, t shirt... the list goes on!

Negative fill can help you immensely when shooting outside during the day, especially on overcast days. There is light coming from all directions, all at the exact same intensity, which can make your subject appear very flat, and negative fill can help you control some of that light.

But negative fill can also help indoors, when you are shooting in a very bright, reflective space– like a white studio or bedroom with white walls.

By changing the distance between your subject and your neg fill, you can change the intensity of your neg fill to be as contrasty or as subtle as you'd like. Play around and see what looks good!

Questions for Lauren? Hit "Discuss This Lesson" above!