Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What is Subtractive Lighting using a Gobo?

Subtractive lighting simply involves the blocking of unwanted natural light to create a natural three dimensional quality to the lighting on people outside.

I've already mentioned many reasons why this lighting is superior to additive lighting (using a flash outside), but here's another very important one:

Subtractive lighting by its nature keeps the subjects married comfortably to their environment keeping the look genuine--and, well, natural!

Additive lighting, with flash outdoors, very obviously divorces your subjects from their environment--it pulls them out or appears to bring them forward to the camera--as though the natural background light repels the artificial light of the flash.

That's just how it looks and feels to me. Take a look at my portraits again here and compare them to other photographers using flash outside. Do what you think works best for your clients.

The tools I use to block unwanted light are called Gobos or Flags. (Both terms we use in the world of cinematography; not used much in the still photography world today.)

A Flag is generally a black flat and refers to something you could hold by hand or mount to a stand.

Gobos (from: go-between) as I use them are much larger things that are already on my location; either man-made, like a building, house, porch--or something natural like a tree, a forest or hedges.

So, revisiting my images from the previous 2 blogs plus a new one, I've added some data and short descriptions about the subtractive light used.  Enjoy and feel free to ask any questions on this topic.

2 kids with Dog - F6.3 @ 1/100 sec at 400 ISO, Lens 70-200/2.8 at 200mm - Gobo/trees on left with open sky on right      Family - f6.3 @ 1/100 sec at 400 ISO, Lens 70-200/2.8 at 145mm - Gobo/trees on right with open sky on left. Sun setting behind me and to right of trees/gobo.

Young Boy - f5.0 @ 1/160 sec at 400 ISO, Lens 70-200/2.8 at 175mm - Gobo/trees on left with open sky on right              Young Girl - f5.6 @ 1/125 sec at 400 ISO, Lens 80-200/2.8 at 200mm, - Distant trees on left with open sky behind me and on right. Straight natural light, too far from trees for a proper gobo effect; placed her here for the color background and bokeh I wanted.

Teenage Girl - f5.0 @ 1/125 sec at 400 ISO, Lens 24-105/4.0 at 73mm - Deep in an alley with light coming from both sides (sun setting on left) We used a black flat to gobo light on her left. Sunlight was bouncing off the tall building on right as main light.                    Teenage Boy - f5.0 @ 1/125 sec at 400 ISO, Lens 70-200/2.8 at 150mm, - Gobo/trees on left with open sky on right.            

By: Jerry W. Venz, Excerpted from my forth coming book:  The Best Light Money Can't Buy!


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