Black is a visually dynamic background for photography. It works for all kinds of subjects, and it also solves a lot of visual problems.
For example, at the recent Concourse d’ Elegance I photographed at Meadowbrook in Detroit, Michigan, I carried with me a piece of black velvet (I had 2 yards of it). When I wanted to photograph some of the beautiful details in the classic cars, it worked beautifully as in the photo of the tail fin of a 1959 Cadillac seen below. Distracting elements are instantly eliminated.
In addition, the monochromatic black background forces all of our attention on the subject. This is an artistic technique that has been used for centuries — making the background dark and the subject lighter to direct the eye exactly where the artist wants our focus.
I used the same technique when I photographed a beautiful dancer in Bali, Indonesia, shown below. This shot was taken outdoors in the shade. I had two people hold black velvet material behind the young girl, and the elements in the village were instantly eliminated. The exotic features and makeup of the dancer didn’t have to compete with anything behind her, and this made the portrait quite captivating in my opinion.