gobo

Budget background projections (part 4)

Speedlights for the win!

Uh-oh! I am usually the "anti-speedlight" guy. I want my big boy strobes whenever I can. But in this episode of budget lighting solutions, I have to give props to the speedlight. In this case, my trusty old Canon 430EX II**. This is the fourth article in a short series about budget light modifiers. Here are links to the three previous posts:
Barn Doors
Spotlight effect 1
Spotlight effect 2

Today's post is about something I learned from my friend, Rick Sammon, a few years ago when I worked with him on a class here in Seattle. RIck was in town today for a presentation and he stopped by to take part in my Chair Project, so I decided to use his technique for his photograph in the series. If you get a chance, check out Rick's latest book Creative Visualization for Photographers**. 

It is such a simple and inexpensive technique that involves a speedlight, a color gel, and a piece of corrugated cardboard. Carefully cut out a pattern in the cardboard, mount the cardboard on a stand between your speedlight and the background. Light your subject so that no light falls on the background. I used my Einstein strobe head with a 36" octa for Rick's photo and I used a Westcott 12x50 strip bank for these mannequin examples. I then added my do-it-yourself foamcore barn doors from part 1 of this series) to keep the light from hitting the background (gray seamless paper).

For Rick's photo I placed a speedlight and gobo on each side of the set behind Rick and pointing at the background. I had a blue gel on one and an amber gel on the other (see the lighting diagram below). For the second photo, with Rick holding his Canon 5Ds I added a layer of textured bokeh to the image in Photoshop to give it a little different look.

This is another place that you can use Cinefoil in place of the cardboard, and can probably create more intricate patterns. But it will take more trial and error attempts to get something to look good. The first image below shows the mannequin lit by just the strip box, using the barn door to prevent the light from spilling onto the white seamless paper backdrop. Next I have set up the cardboard gobo and the speedlight with a red gel on it. In the third image I replaced the cardboard with a piece of Cinefoil in which I made some random cuts with a utility knife and changed to a blue gel on the speedlight. For these effects it appears that the closer the speedlight is to the gobo, the harder the edges of the light. If you try this out, be sure to experiment with placing the gobo various distances from the background and the speedlight various distances from the gobo. You may also need to block any light from the speedlight from hitting your subject. See the lighting diagram at the bottom of this post. 

Diagram for the photos of Rick Sammon

Diagram for the photos of Rick Sammon

Home-made cardboard gobo to create the projection on the background via the speedlight. In the photos of Rick Sammon I had one of these on each side of the set.

Home-made cardboard gobo to create the projection on the background via the speedlight. In the photos of Rick Sammon I had one of these on each side of the set.

Main light and fill card only

Main light and fill card only

Adding a projection to the background created by a speedlight, a cardboard gobo, and a red gel

Adding a projection to the background created by a speedlight, a cardboard gobo, and a red gel

Replaced the cardboard gobo with a piece of Cinefoil with holes cut in it and replaced the red gel with a blue gel

Replaced the cardboard gobo with a piece of Cinefoil with holes cut in it and replaced the red gel with a blue gel

I tried to get this to work with a strobe head, but had no luck at all. I tried an open 7" reflector and I also tried adding various grids (10-degree and 30-degree), but couldn't get the crsip look that I got from the small speedlight. Below are photos of the cardboard and Cinefoil gobos used to create the background in the photographs above. In addition to the gobos, you will need to add extra flags around them to block extraneous light from contaminating and diluting the background.

Cardboard gobo 9"x12"

Cardboard gobo 9"x12"

Cinefoil gobo 12"x13"

Cinefoil gobo 12"x13"

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Spot Light effects on a budget (part 2)

Foamcore Gobo

I recently wrote about budget barndoors for your lights. Today I want to show the first of two ways to simulate spot light effects on a budget. Both methods use one strobe head. While you could possibly do these effects with speedlights, having a strobe head with a modeling lamp in it is much easier as you can see what you are doing. **This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Today's method has a single strobe head with a standard 7" reflector dish off about 45-degrees to the left of the camera and pointing straight at the subject. In between the light and the subject is a 20"x30" sheet of black foamcore with a 9"x2" hole cut out of the middle of it acting as a gobo (short for Go-Between, something that goes between the light and the subject to modify the light). You can vary the size and shape of the hole to suit the effect you are going for. You can control the edge of the effect by the placement of the light and the foamcore. The closer the foamcore with its aperture is to the subject, the more defined the shadow will be. I know I always have to stop for a second to think this through. A way to remember it is to think of the sun as your source of light and the difference in shadow from an airplane crossing in front of the sun (soft edge, barely noticeable shadow) and the shadow cast by a street sign a few feet away from you (hard edged, well defined shadow). For the image to the right, the strobe head was about 5 feet away from the subject and the foamcore was a few inches away from the subject, almost coming into the frame.

In the second image, I placed a red theatrical gel** over the light for a different effect. Note that the gel is on the lamp, not on the slit in the foamcore. If the gel was on the slit, the white light from the strobe head would dilute the color as it bounced around the room.

Small sheets of foamcore or heavy-duty black card stock should be available locally at arts & crafts stores, department stores, sign shops, art supply stores, etc. Attach the board to a light stand using spring clamps. Another option is to use Cinefoil** instead of foamcore. Cinefoil is a heavy duty black aluminum foil that can be easily shaped and cut and can be used as here as a gobo, or you can make a snoot or barn doors.

Below is a photograph of the black foamcore with the hole cut out and a utility knife for scale. Below that is the lighting diagram for the example photos shown above.

20"x30" foamcore with slit cut out

20"x30" foamcore with slit cut out