How to Use DIY Gobos for Great Lighting in a Home Portrait Studio

Tired of shooting the same ol’ portrait style over and over again but unsure of what you can do in studio without investing in more equipment? Consider this DIY technique from photographer Gavin Hoey that allows you to create amazing shadows using simple things you can find around the house:

There are a number of elements that are key to any good photograph, and the nature of the shadows is up at the top of the list–especially for portraiture. As Hoey says,

“Whilst photography needs light, it also needs shadows to give depth and interest to a shot. That applies just as much to studio photography as it does to location shoots, and that’s where gobos can really help.”

To use Hoey’s gobo technique, you simply place a light-porous object in front of a light source. It’s that simple. You an use this technique both on the subject and on the background and just about anything that lets light through in some places and not others can be used. The only trick is to find a way to fix the object in place.

DIY shadows

Sprucing up a drab background with a little light splash.

If you already have a studio set-up, you probably won’t need much extra. A key light and a background light are really all you need. If, on the other hand, you’ve yet to set up your studio or you’re looking for more gear, the list below is a great place to start.

Equipment List

Creating interesting shadows

Whatever set-up you choose to use, adding amazing shadows to your portraits is limited only by willingness to experiment and your sense of creativity.

As Hoey says,

“With gobos (or cookies) it’s all about the shadows. How you create those is entirely up to you.”

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