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Tips & Tricks

Use DIY Gobos to Create Interesting Shadows In Your Portraits

By Hanssie on March 14th 2016

A gobo (or “go between”) is basically anything that goes between your light and your subject. It can be anything from a standard reflector to block direct light from hitting your subject to a Prism to get creative effects in your images.

Recently, I was in a group of thirty other photographers all shooting the same set-ups. I struggled to find an angle, a pose, anything to differentiate my image from the 29 others that would be produced. I was not feeling it until I spotted a hanging chandelier in the corner of the room. As I made my way around the rest of the photographers, I carefully unhooked one of the chandelier crystals from the ceiling and used it as a gobo to create this image:


Disclaimer: The theme was Scarface, the cigarette was NOT lit, and I didn’t set up the scene. It’s simply a prop – please don’t send me angry emails. Also, I returned the crystal back to the chandelier.


The Prism method isn’t a new one. It’s a technique that photographer Sam Hurd originated (I was told), and Pye has shared before in this article. But my mission was accomplished. My image stood out among the rest. It was so simple and didn’t require any additional effort, except maybe the balancing act of holding my camera one-handed while holding the crystal in front of the lens with my other hand.

Gear Used: Sony a6300, Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens


We all know that lighting is the most important element in an image and how light falls and the shadows it creates will make images interesting. In our Lighting 201 DVD workshop, Pye has an entire section on using grids and gobos to cut light and create shadows (If you haven’t watched Lighting 201 yet, get it here!) The next time you are on a shoot, look around and see of there are any gobos you can shoot through to make creative light patterns.

In the following AdoramaTV video below, Gavin Hoey demonstrates how he uses three different gobos in a studio setting. The first is a hole-y utensil container; the second, a piece of black lace and finally a piece of sackcloth. Check it out in the 9-minute video below:


Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Shawn Kelley

    I really like the effect of the lace in the first image and in the video – great idea for wedding shots!

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