It just so turned out that I am surrounded with really talented body paint artists. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I shoot a lot of modern circus performers and maybe it is just the route life planned for me. Either way, I am surrounded by wonderful body painters. I also see my share of UV body art photoshoots. The results are usually very noisy and flat. Plus it is quite hard to avoid some softness and slight blur that comes with the long exposure required to get enough light in. Light that should have made the details shine, but is lost due to blur. I was obsessed with finding a way to take good pictures of this art form that will make the fine details pop out like they should. I did it, with a big fat Sharpie.
But first, as any noob would do, my first step was research. I looked for some good reference- and so, I found Benjamin von Wong’s UV photoshoot just to find out he was using over 1,000$ worth of gear that is nowhere to be found in Israel. Plan B: I started looking into that “special” glass that only let UV light go through or as it is technically called: “Ultraviolet Transmitting, Visible Absorbing Filter” (more on that you can read in this excellent guide).
Well….. that was too technical for me, and I really wanted to use it on my Godox GS400 strobes so I can use my already existing lighting modifiers. Add to that, the face that visible absorbing filter is extremely expensive for the size of a single strobe, It was time for plan C.
I did some more research about Black light and found that the light spectrum underneath 400nm (Violet) isn’t visible but creates a fluorescence effect which is visible – this is what gives that Black Light look. While going under 400nm is not trivial, there is a small range that is near UV light which is visible, and still gives out that same glowing interaction. By adopting a strobe to emit near UV light we can get almost the same result as we would with genuine Black Light. It will not be the same, but pretty darn close. We still have to use some UV bulbs so we could get the fluorescence effect and the gelled lights would just add sharpness to the image.
Here are the four simple steps you need to make a Near UV filter:
you will need:
Once you have those:
- cut the gel to size
- paint the red side
- paint the blue side
- attach to light source with scotch tape
The main advantage of this method is that it is super easy and available for use. There aren’t much technical details involved in creating a Near UV lighting system; no taking-apart gear; and no ordering of specialty glass. A downside for this is that you do get visible light from the strobes that paints everything blue so flag off anything that you want to keep black.
My first Near UV shoot was a test, and I learned a few tips that can really help:
- White paper is the Blacklight equivalent of a 5-in-1 reflector.
- Any color that isn’t white or blue will be washed out by the gelled strobes unless you shutter drag.
- Use a tripod – even with the strobes, you still need a long exposure.
- The model needs to be comfy, and there is a chance that you will have to fiddle with the lights – Have a rob or a big blanket handy.
- Make sure you don’t have any fluorescence or white distracting objects on your set.
About The Author
Yonathan Russak is a fine art photographer who focuses on the performing arts. He plays with light, fire and magic. He Also breathes fire. Gor more of his work, you can visit his website or facebook page