If you didn’t already know, the term Gobo is an acronym that literally means ‘Goes Before Optics’. What does that mean then exactly? Well, it’s simply something that goes in front of a light source, casting a shadow or pattern. This ingenious portrait series by Spanish photographer Alfredo González uses a hat as a gobo. Here’s how he shot it.
What makes a portrait dramatic? If you search the internet you’ll get quite a few answers, ranging from the practical to the abstract. Suggestions such as creating a mood, dark backgrounds and using fog or smoke all feature. As does using a characterful subject, often dressing the part. While these things certainly do contribute to a dramatic moody feel in an image, fundamentally for me, it’s all about the lighting. And that’s exactly what Slovenia-based photographer David Keinne harnessed to achieve this stunning low key portrait.
Sometimes we see something that makes you stop scrolling, sit up, and take note. That is exactly what happened when we saw these dramatic silhouettes shot by photographer Jennifer Arce from Florida. We caught up with Jennifer to find out how she created these because all is not what it seems.
Unbelievably soft lighting is actually trickier to do than many think. Sure we can place a large softbox in front of our subject to light them, but does that really look good?
No, I’m not trying to trigger anyone here and I’m genuinely curious because, to me, the classic softbox look is a unique look to studio-style lighting. Does that softbox light really look like daylight? If that’s the look you’re after, is a softbox really the best solution we have?
I wanted a device that can throw light patterns onto a wall or a model. There are some commercially available but they are quite expensive and I this was only for occasional use. I thought that this is something that can be 3D printed. I bought a Bowens mounting ring and some cheap macro extension tubes (For the Nikon F mount since I already have lenses for it) from eBay and designed an adapter between them.
The adapter that I made has slots for different kinds of gobos between the strobe and the lens
When photographers use terms like ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ light, it’s actually incredibly vague. You would rarely describe your meal as simply a ‘meat’ dish, so when a photographer says they are using hard light in a portrait, it’s just as open to interpretation as your mystery-meat.
Hard light can be anything from strong sunlight, to snoots, grids or even simple barn doors in a studio. But even with all that, none come close to the true crisp, brilliantly contrasty light of ‘Optical Snoots’.
Sometimes an experimental idea turns out to be a stunning success. This was something like that.
If I look back at how I learned to take pictures, the path isn’t straight at all. But this isn’t necessarily just because I took wrong turns (yes including selective colour, and cheap tripod). It’s also down to my goals changing. Constantly. One of the things that has changed significantly over the years are my goals for light.
I remember when I first saw someone take pictures of a model, he was using a big soft-box and was really impressed by the technical quality of the result – pin sharp due to a very small aperture, which in turn was made possible by tonnes of light. The light was also big so the result was perfectly even but directional light with soft shadow transitions.
Gobos can be wonderful things. They’re essentially stencils or templates that go between the light and your subject. They’re designed to help shape the light and project patterns. But you don’t have to cut them out of card yourself. You can use pretty much anything to cast a shadow on your subject or the backdrop. In this video from photographer Bill Lawson, we see 7 household items that we can turn into DIY gobos.
Shooting indoors, especially in somebody’s home, often leads to some rather dull backgrounds. Usually, you’re stuck with just a bare solid coloured wall. But whether you’re using flash or continuous light, there are things you can do to make things more interesting.
This video from photographer, Svitlana Vronska shows us one way to make things more interesting. With the help of a large sheet of white board from the dollar store.