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Tips & Tricks

How A DIY GOBO Can Transform Your Portraiture

By Shivani Reddy on March 13th 2017

Modifying and controlling your light truly makes you the master of your scene. Cinematographers and photographers have been analyzing light and shaping it to fit the tone, mood, and story of their scene for years, but it takes an extra step of creativity to push past available light.

GOBOs are go-between-objects sandwiched between your subject and your light source. They are used heavily on Hollywood movie sets to create unique patterns or to simulate a source of light, but have you tried using them in your portraiture?

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In Lighting 201 we show you just how simple it is to use inexpensive lights & modifiers to transform any scene. GOBOs are just one way to create drama and interest in addition to the existing light. You can see how drastically a GOBO can transform an image from this BTS post on the SLRL Instagram, and click through to see how we took this image from start to finish:

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The technique we demonstrated shows the power of cutting out ambient light for dramatic effect and adding in our own key light to create something moodier. The full tutorial can be seen in Lighting 201 in SLRL Premium.

How you choose to modify your light source will inevitably dictate the mood of the scene:

1. Diffusion: a softer, more elegant look, used more for portraiture because the skin has a softer look. This can be accomplished with a multitude of options such as:

2. Grid: control the spill of your light by using a grid to cut down the light output and narrow the focus. 

3. GOBO: a go-between-object shields the light output depending on the object used. You can purchase various GOBO’s online or make your own using styrofoam boards.

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In the example above, we used a leaf to create interest and match the existing leaves in the scene, and you can click through using the arrows to see how we decreased flash power to make the shadows more apparent. Similar to the example above, we used our flash to guide the mood of the scene by increasing flash power and cutting down available light. To see more behind the scenes from this shoot, check out our Fine Art Boudoir Workshop in SLRL Premium.

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Have a creative shot using your very own GOBO? Show us in the comments below!

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Nick Morel

    Iv only attempted this technique once but I was very pleased with the results and would love to expand on it.

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  2. Casey Nyambe

    Always a pleasure reading  and learning from SLR Lounge. For a long while now,  I had been struggling with how I could create that effect and mood in my portraits. Thanks to this  article,  all is now explained with the DIY GOBO technic. Thank you so very much ?. Loved reading and watching!! 

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