professional imagemaker logo


Rolling With The BIG Dog Part 5 - part 3 of 1 2 3

by Damian McGillicuddy Published 01/04/2010

My first thought was I had to flag the light. I needed to restrict just what areas of the image the key light was to affect. The answer...some form of 'gobo'. Now I realise that that word sounds like some sort of Jim Henson creature workshop creation but it is in fact a word originated from the movie industry and is the shortened form of 'Go between'! In other words, any object used to block, obstruct, feather the totality of a unit's 'GO BETWEEN' the subject and the illuminating light.

As you can see from the set over-view image, my first choice of gobo was a simple scrim, in other words, a semi translucent fabric grid that acts in exactly the same way as either a ND (Neutral density) filter or ND gel, a tool that simply absorbs some of the lights intensity/output.

Close observers of the set-up image will notice that the scrim alone was not enough to subdue and control the fall of light that I desired. Now this is the moment that knowledge born of experience comes into play and why, if you want to accelerate photographic learning, that paying experts for their knowledge puts you ahead of the game and gives you a short cut along the learning curve. To further reduce the output and flag off the desired areas of my image from light but not effecting the quality of the illumination hitting the subject were desired, I simply clipped the carry sleeve from a Portaflex kit to the lower portion of the dish. This, did the trick, light controlled and image now as seen in my 'Mind's eye'.

Just the two grid-restricted lights left to explain. The most straight forward of the two is the light to camera left, this very simply, as you can see is lighting the background. The decision to grid the light just means I can CONTROL what area is lit and what area is left to fall off to the base illumination.

The final light to discuss is my old favorite, the 'Carving' light! Essentially a separation or rim light thus called (in the movie industry) as it 'CARVES' the subject out from the surroundings.

Now as this image has a 'Light and dark', moody, erotic concept the carving light plays a greater than normal role in this image. Not only is it set to rim light and separate the subject but I also want it to light through the subject's hair and blouse giving an ethereal and diaphanous sensitivity.

However, we're not finished with this little old light just yet. I want to include part of it in the composition so the direction of the beam draws the eye into the focal point of the composition. One has to be careful here as too much light would very quickly take over and distract, so the unit almost had to be 'Walked in', shooting and testing as we went, to achieve the desired effect. Please bear in mind that a light from behind the subject pointing toward the camera always appears about a stop brighter than it actually is. The EV of this carving unit was approximately EV +1.3 to the key light, however, the phenomenon mentioned makes the casual viewer believe far more power was used.

So hopefully this example shoot will demonstrate it's what you know, not what you've got, that along with imagination and the application of that knowledge that creates great photography!

If you want to improve...learn! Money invested in good training isn't an expense it's an investment. If you have money to spend on your photography I believe it should be spent in this ratio. First and largest amount on training because if you have 'all the gear and no idea', equipment simply becomes jewellery! The next largest amount should be spent on QUALITY light modifiers. If you can't control the raw material we use to construct images then what's the point! Your next investment should be in quality lenses and quality lights, these will serve you long after the expense has been paid off. Finally the last bit of investment goes into the camera. I may be a Luddite but when I started this was just a light tight box ;0)

You can check out everything we are doing and what upcoming training is on offer either on the 'Sticky' MMoS thread on the Societies forum or direct at , check it out, I'd love to see you there.

Until next time



Contact Damian McGillicuddy

1st Published 01/04/2010
last update 12/11/2019 13:27:13

There are 214 days to get ready for The Societies of Photographers Convention and Trade Show at The Novotel London West, Hammersmith ...
which starts on Wednesday 17th March 2021