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Tips & Tricks

How Gobos Add Punch to Your Photos

By Jules Ebe on July 3rd 2013

So what is a gobo and how can you use them to add interest and dimension to your photographs?

A gobo is something that “goes between” your lighting and your subject. Aaron Nace with PHLearn describes gobos as anything and everything, “as long as it’s placed in between a light source and the subject.” Basically, you use the gobo to cast intriguing shadows as an added element to your overall image.

Using a Gobo | BTS with Phlearn

Shadow Tips


Adding distance between your gobo and light source will increase harsher shadows.

Decrease the space between the gobo and the subject to also cast harsher shadows.

In essence:

For maximum effect, have your light source as far away as possible and your model as close as possible to the gobo.

If you want a more subtle effect, just reverse the set up and place the gobo close to your light and further away from your subject.

Final Image


Lighting Breakdown



Paul C Buff Einstein

Canon 5D Mark II
Adobe Photoshop CS6
Canon BG-E6 Battery Grip
Pocketwizard Plus II

Sekonic L-758DR
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8
Canon 24-105mm f/4
Avenger Stands
Manfrotto Tripod
Seamless Background

Thanks to PHLearn for the great tutorial.

Until Next Time . . .

Stay Inspired ~ Jules


is a Southern California based Conceptual Artist and Photographer. Her work has been featured in several print publications and selections can be seen in local gallery exhibitions. Connect with her on Facebook and Google+.


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  1. Gobo Wilson

    You can find gobos here:

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  3. Adrian Wilson

    [Adrian Wilson has deleted this comment]

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  4. Joseph Prusa

    Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Matt

    According to Wikipedia both terms are used, cookie is just technically more correct…but I didn’t see an example of gobo being used to describe something used to flag off light from the lens, I usually just call that a flag.

    From Wikipedia:

    A gobo (or GOBO) derived from “Go Between” or “Goes Before Optics” is a physical template slotted inside, or placed in front of, a lighting source, used to control the shape of emitted light.

    In the design of an artificial environment in which lighting instruments are used, it is sometimes desirable to manipulate the shape of the light which is cast over a space or object. To do so, a piece of metal with patterned holes through which light passes is placed in the beam of light to allow only the desired “shape” or pattern through, while blocking the rest of the light, casting a specific shadow/light into the space.

    Though the term “gobo” has come to generally refer to any device which produces patterns of light and shadow or various pieces of equipment that go before a light (such as a gobo arm or gobo head),[1] the specific term itself also defines the device used in theatrical lighting applications because of the mandated placement of the device in ‘the gate’ or ‘point of focus’ between the light source and the lenses (or optics). This placement is important because it allows the focusing of the pattern or shape into a crisp, sharp edge (for logos, fine detail, architecture, etc.) and also the softening the edges (breakup patterns, etc.). Gobos placed in the beam of light post-optics do not have the option of such fine focus, and are more precisely called “flags” or “cookies.”

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  6. Lou Goodman

    sorry, but that’s not a gobo. A gobo goes between the light source and the camera lens preventing the light source from flaring the image. You are describing a cookie, or cookilourous(however it’s spelled).

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  7. Harish Suresh

    So, any tips for how your position a gobo ? Anything like a rule of thirds ?

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    • Lou Goodman

      to use a gobo properly as I described;the closer it is to the lens, the smaller it can be.

      1.Stand in front of your camera looking into the lens.

      2.Find the light source reflecting in the lens.
      3.position your gobo so that it blocks the light source from the lens without being in the framed image area.

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