Q&A: How do I make crisp outlines with cookies?

Q: "I've been trying to fix different cookies onto my flash unit to make interesting shadow shapes, but the shadows are really soft, not hard edged like i want them. What am I doing wrong?"

Ooh, tricky question. Ok first let's define what I think you are asking.

Let's say you want to create the effect of window blinds being shadowed onto a wall behind a subject (I'm sure I've got a picture somewhere, but I'm darned if I can find it).

So you put a flash some window blinds and you see nothing.

So you make a little cutout (a cookie) of window blinds and fix it the flash - still you see nothing.

It's all about light diffusion and the distance between the light, the cutout and the wall.

You want

a) The smallest light source you can manage

b) The longest distance between the light and cutout

c) The shortest distance between the cutout and the wall.

But, those things - especially B and C are not always possible or compatible.

So, you can try a focussing Fresnel lens on a flash - though these are expensive for strobes.

You can try using your speedlight instead of a strobe - these have a sort of Fresnel focussing lens in them - zoom it out to the longest setting (i.e. the most focussed light you can)

You can try putting a honeycomb or snoot or both on your strobe.

Then your cookie needs to be cut out of a big sheet of cardboard so you can get it as far as possible for the light source and not have any light spill around it.

None of this is easy or straightforward though it has to be said.

You might find it easier and quicker to shoot mid-tone grey and add shadows and light in photoshop afterwards.

flash cutout blinds strobe source Simon Q. Walden, FilmPhotoAcademy.com, sqw, FilmPhoto, photography

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