DIY Gobos – Easy and creative portrait lighting tricks to improve your portraits and modeling shots

DIY Gobos – Easy and creative portrait lighting tricks to improve your portraits and modeling shots


did you know that a dog toy a toddlers wheelbarrow a houseplant a can of cheap hairspray and even a roll of toilet paper could be some of the best accessories that you could own for shooting portraits and models stay tuned and I’ll show you why and I’ll explain how you can use them to improve your portrait photography hey gang I know some of you are thinking I’ve taken this DIY stuff a little too far now that I’m talking about dog toys and toilet paper as photo accessories rest assured this is not a joke so follow along and by the end of the video I’m confident that you’ll be thinking of similar ideas on your own so what I really want to talk to you about our DIY gobos a gobo is a light modifier if you want to learn a bit of history of the gobos be sure to watch this video so where do you get gobos you can purchase gobo projectors like DJ’s use at wedding receptions but they’re not nearly as brightest strobes and the number of gobo designs are limited or you can purchase a gadget like the light blaster that I talked about in this video but it too has a limited amount of gobos available and while you can make your own I love the light blaster for its ability to project your own images as backgrounds or the best option for gobos is simply to make your own that way the results in your portraits and modeling shots are unique to you and your photography one of the easiest ways to make a gobo is to use the same material that we use for the Walmart reflectors foam board you can get 20 inch by 30 inch sheets at Walmart for just under $2 or get a slightly thinner version at Dollar Stores for just a buck you’ll need an exacto knife which you can find at art and office supply stores or at Amazon and a straight edge ruler it’s also a good idea to use a cutting mat or at least some old cardboard under the foam board when you cut it so that you don’t ruin your tabletop or floor simply draw out the shape that you want to use on the foam core after you draw your shape use your exacto knife to cut out the design and then place your go go between your light and the background like you see here or between the light and your subject like you see here now some of you are going to ask me how close to the light beat of the gobo and how far from the background or the subject should the gobo be there’s no single answer for that you have to experiment and play with it to see what you like I’ll show you this little tip here is that same gobo with the slits I have placed it about three feet from the background and the closer the light gets to the gobo the bigger and softer the lines appear on the background the more I move the light away from the gobo the lines get sharper but the gobo covers less of the background this part is physics folks not photography but don’t panic you don’t need to be a physics expert just pay attention to the light and experiment hopefully by now you’ve realized that you can use a cheap set of mini blinds that you can get a Amazon for 10 bucks to create window light like you see here the settings and distance will be determined by your shooting space and equipment and most of all your taste you can also add color gels to your lights like you see here I have a blue gel aimed at the background on camera left and an orange gel firing through the gobo or in this example I have the blue gel on camera left and an R gel on camera right just like in the last shot but then I taped a yellow gel over the slots of the gobo there are no rules experiment here’s a shot with the circles cut into the foam board and you can see that I just have the foam board propped up about a foot in front of my speed light and about three feet in front of a seamless grey backdrop so let’s get to the dog toy the wheelbarrow the house plant the hair spray and let’s just add in a fan for good measure here’s a recent portrait shot with three speed lights I went for a clamshell lighting with two umbrellas and I reverse them the top one I’m shooting the light through it and the bottom one I’m reflecting light off of it why did I do it this way because you can stop following the rules learn how to see light instead but here’s the cool part the interesting pattern on the background it is created by placing a blue gel on the third speedlight and putting a dog toy in front of it no adult toys were harmed in the creation of the shop but my dog buddy was very stressed about me using his toy for a photograph so please be kind your puppies if you steal their toys for studio props here’s another interesting background created with the same three light setup and a houseplant or we can try kids wheelbarrow maybe a small table fan the hairspray that I mentioned this was actually supposed to be water from a spray bottle but the nozzle clogged remember being a good photographer is being a great problem solver so I grabbed a can of my trusty Aqua Net and used it instead no I’m not spraying it on the model I laid two towels on the floor and I’m spraying behind her this time the third speedlight is on a short stand behind her head and aimed directly towards the camera well there you go the moral to the gobo story pretty much anything that you can put between a light and a background or a light and your subject can be a really cool gobo you just have to be a little creative and be willing to experiment the fact is gang you’re only limited by your own imagination so get out there and practice and oh the toilet paper seriously do I have to explain everything it’s your turn be creative and see what you come up with in fact post your results in my facebook group I have the link in the description below be sure to tag your image with a hashtag toilet paper Bobo challenge until next time gang remember that your best shot it’s your next shot so please keep learning keep thinking and keep shooting adios you [Music]


94 thoughts on “DIY Gobos – Easy and creative portrait lighting tricks to improve your portraits and modeling shots

  1. amazing tutorial…..as usual! it's like every time i receive a notification of a new tutorial u uploaded i know for sure i'm in for an awesome treat… thank you joe

  2. Tis the season….
    Cut small Xmas tree holes in some card that fits your filter holder. Then photograph wide open.

    Just small holes.

  3. Very good Tutorial. I do this for years with wooden Gobos! Thumbs up!
    Glasses with colored water are also an option!

  4. Dear Joe,

    Here are a lot of good and cheap ideas to improve our knowledge about photography. I love it. That will help me to make some very creative portraits. I started with photography about ten years ago. At the begining, I was not interested in portraits. Thanks to this video, I hope to shoot soon! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Your DIY approach is like myself when it comes to airbrush painting. If I need interesting textures my first stop is the hardware store and not the art store, lol. BTW a cheap snoot for speedlights is a Pringles can. I cut off the bottom, rinse it out of course, and the lipped end will just fit over most speedlights when bent in a oval, from there a little gaff tape to seal off light leaks and you have a snoot with a reflective surface to provide as much light as possible.

  6. Fantastic effects! A couple of thoughts from personal experience with cutting foam board (and also mat board): I use a single-edge razor blade and find it easier to control and more precise than an X-acto Knife (YMMV). For a cutting surface a poly kitchen cutting board from Walmart is a cheap solution.

  7. Thanks again for the tips Joe. I was recently looking into the light blaster, but noticed Magmod (which I already have), is coming out with a Magbeam kit that includes gobo slides. Now I'm thinking I can make my own slides and use with my existing gels.

  8. Just out of curiosity, can I use an overhead projector instead? I can draw these shapes on Powerpoint and even adjust them during the shot.

  9. I recently replaced my ten year old projector with a nice new one. After seeing this video I know what to do with it. Along with an old laptop I can put up any background image I can dream up. Thanks for nudging my brain.

  10. I started using gobos after watching a tutorial on old style Hollywood glamour lighting, house plants are my favourite look, never tried foamboard yet though, but it sure beats a plain coloured wall as a backdrop!

  11. When you use the gels on the flash for the backgrounds, is the flashes power lower than the main light or is it higher? I seem to have issues doing this and the color of the gels seem to get overpowered from the main light. Any tips you can provide? Thanks!

  12. Joe you can't imagine how helpful this has been!! I spent the last week doing some experiments with gobos and this tutorial came just in time to broaden my imagination.. What are your thoughts when it comes to speedlites Vs. continuous lights in this kind of experiment? * Pardon my english, I'm from Brazil..

  13. Another great video and the TP Challenge will be the S#!* ;). Got some ideas and just need some subjects willing to help me wipe out this challenge.

  14. wow I'm amazed with the quality of your videos. can you share what camera and conpression for youtube you used? also the scene looks well lit. nice job!

  15. GREAT video but have an IMPORTANT and UNRELATED Q about the dog shot 🙂
    How do you get a good catch light in a pet's eyes while avoiding that dreaded "zombie" eye effect ????
    i do a LOT of studio pet photography and have NEVER seen a youtube video on how to get catch lights ONLY …. it's been even harder for cats who reflect even more lights than dogs' eye catch
    …or you just doing it in post with faking it like i have done //LOL//

    even harder when outdoors and in low light situations

    any advice would be GREATLY appreciated !!!!
    ……rick in Japan

  16. Joe, thank you for the inspiration to be *creative and a rules breaker! 😉 As a new photographer at the age of 53, those pinned up creative juices from the teen years are coming alive again. Thank you! New subscriber

  17. Hi Joe! Thanks for the great video. Awesome tips. I have a question about custom white balance. Does setting the custom white balance using a grey card work for all skin tones? Is it the same for photos and video? Thanks!

  18. Brilliant as always Joe! I planning something projecting red hearts with valentines coming up this video has really helped with ideas for that. Absolutely loved the Dog toy disclaimer as well, genius 🙂

  19. Hi Joe. Just joined your channel and loving your simplistic approach to lighting etc….but…….and its a big but!!!! lol Loving that shirt your wearing…where did you get that? What!!! I like the shirt!!! So shoot me already……( with a camera of course)….

  20. Joe, this video just inspired me with unlimited possibilities. So much appreciated, and you are an amazing mentor in a lot of ways regarding to photography

  21. I think these would technically be considered cucoloris 's not gobos, which are "Go Before Optical Lens". Love the different creative approaches though, gave me some good ideas.

  22. I bought one of the 6 in 1 cheap modifier kits for speedlights which come with a snoot that has a fine grid, I’ve been cutting out cardboard disks out of mounting card to make some gobos. I’ve learnt 2 things, 1) It works, especially if you colour them black, and 2) I’m not good with a pair of scissors, modelling blade or even a pencil come that!

  23. I gotta say , I always go back to your Videos for new inspiration and Ideas. Thank you for thinking outside the box and making your videos so simple.

  24. Joe, I love this! I have a set of window blinds I'm not using that i was going to toss. Not anymore! What do you use to secure the blinds to the stand?

  25. I always carry a few sheets of blackwrap foil on shoots. Useful for shaping light and blocking glares and flares. I've made an instant gobo from time to time by poking random holes thru the black foil with a bic pen, and enlarging some of them with a fingertip. Makes a lovely stars or "clouds" pattern,depending on placement, and when I used a blue gel on one of two such gobos, I got a blue sky with puffy white clouds where the patterns overlapped. The foil is so tough, I can fold it up into a pocket square size for storage, unfold it numerous times, and it will hold shape. Pricey by the roll, but cheap by the sheet, and reusable.

  26. Thanks Joe, those are some really great ideas. I will try some different GOBOS with what I can find around the house.

  27. Years ago when I went to photography school, the first day the head of the school told us… ''You are not photographers, you are a problem solver's'' That was the best advice I ever got from that school and have kept that with me every day in my over 30 years as a professional photographer.

  28. You are just awesome Joe. Each time when I see your video I learn something new and also get inspired to do something different from my normal works and enjoy a lot doing so.From the bottom of my heart I thank you for such lovely videos. Love from India.

  29. SALUDOS JOE MUCHAS GRACIAS POR COMPARTIR TUS IDEAS Y TU TRABAJO, EL CUAL ES DE EXCELENTE. TE AGRADEZCO ADEMAS POR TENER LA TRADUCCION EN ESPAÑOL. SI ALGUN DIA VIENES A LA CIUDAD DE MEXICO A IMPARTIR CURSOS ASISTIRE CON GUSTO.

  30. Great ideas Joe. My first maternity photoshoot is coming and I am planning to experiment for an out of the usual result

  31. I had a Newton moment when I was breaking my head on how to get sharp shadow edges with gobos. Playing with the sun as my free light source.

  32. Mister Joe, parabéns muito obrigado por compartilhar conhecimento e ajudar a sair da zona de conforto, assistindo em 2019, no Brasil sensacional!

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