Window Frame Shadows

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Shadows ought to be so easy, after all we see them all the time and they often intrude on our images where we don't want them. But actually creating a nice crisp shadow is based on a series of compromises.

The thing creating the shadow is called a "gobo" (short for go-between). In this case it is an empty picture frame with the "window" bars made from masking tape (using tape lets me create new variations quickly and simply).

The principal behind creating a strong, crisp shadow is as follows:

The gobo needs to be as close to the subject as possible.

The light source needs to be as far from the gobo as possible.

The light source needs to be as small as possible.

But in practice working the studio we are actually often dealing with a series of compromises. You might not have enough space to get the light really far away. You might not be able to get the gobo close enough to the subject without it intruding in shot. Yet if you move the gobo further away it may not be large enough to create all the shadow you want.

Be prepared to take some time getting this just right. It is more fiddly than it looks.

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You have to be decisive about the shadow and how it falls on the subject, particularly round the eyes. A shadow partially occluding the eye will look like a mistake. Here you can see how deliberately making the shadow cross the eyes and face is such an important part of the image.

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Changing your camera angle might be another way of getting the gobo in close without it actually getting in shot.

Notice also that with the shift in camera position I have also adjusted the angle of the gobo the shadow lines now run more diagonally in the frame for added interest.

 

key points

You can easily make gobo's from cardboard or picture frames and masking tape. Make them as large as you can, they will still be too small!

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