Spotlight Effects on a Budget (part 3)

It's all done with mirrors

My last two posts have shown how to make home-made barndoors for your lights and how to use a sheet of foamcore to create a spotlight effect on a budget. Part three shows a technique I learned from Matthew Jordan Smith when we worked together on CreativeLive** a few years ago and it uses the same strobe head with a 7" hard dish reflector. This time we move the light around back behind the subject and use a small mirror to create the spotlight effect. This has the added benefit of providing a kicker or rim light to hightlight the hair and help separate the subject from the background. Two lights for the price of one. (**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.)

The first image off to the side shows what the scene looks like using just the one light. Not the most flattering light for our subject. But take a small hand-held mirror and place it in front of the subject to camera left and we get the spotlight look shown in the second photograph. For these images I simply held the mirror in one hand and pressed the shutter button with the other. It would be easier to have an assistant on hand to hold and aim the mirror while you look through the viewfinder and take the photograph.

Experiment with different size mirrors. For the first photo I held up a 3x4" mirror.  For the next image I used a 5x7" mirror to light a larger area of the face. And then I moved the mirror off to camera right position to give a broad light effect. Finally, back to camera left, I covered the small mirror with black tape to just have about a 2x2" surface showing to highlight one eye.  As with the previous spotlight effect, you can add a gel over the lamp head to add color. 

At the bottom of the post is the lighting diagram for the images with the alternate (camera right) position shown in gray)

Links to previous posts in this series:
Part 1, Barn Doors
Part 2, Budget Spotlight

3"x4" mirror casts a spotlight type of effect onto the subject's eyes

3"x4" mirror casts a spotlight type of effect onto the subject's eyes

5x7" mirror

5x7" mirror

Smaller mirror to highlight one eye

Smaller mirror to highlight one eye

Mirror on camera right as a broad light

Mirror on camera right as a broad light

Adding a red gel to the strobe head

Adding a red gel to the strobe head

Examples of mirrors used for these photographs

Examples of mirrors used for these photographs