In between colors

By Albert Pedrosa

WHEN I’m in a studio, it is both frustrating and fulfilling at the same time. The pressure to create something artistic and visually appealing can be a frustrating situation, but when you pull it off, the satisfaction and the feeling of fulfillment is just immeasurable. In my recent shoot, the idea of playing with gobo and color gel just came to me.

My last experiment with color gel was way back five years ago. Nothing much with gobo though, mostly just to block the unwanted light. Gobo and gels are among those techniques that will either work or not. There’s nothing in between. It takes a lot of experiments and understanding of how to create the effect.

With gobo (short for go in between), aside from effectively removing unwanted light spills, it’s a technique where you play with shadows and light that would appear into the shot. It’s a bit tricky, though, because the hardness and the distance of the light affect the effect. The harder the light, the more visible it is, and the distance affects the scaling projection of the gobo.

The more you put the gobo closer to the scene, the more contrast you get, but it also means that you need a bigger gobo because the farther from the light source, the smaller the scale. You can cut your own gobo and you can always use whatever objects there are in the set as gobo, such as a ladder, branch of a plant, or just about anything.

Color gels, on the other hand, are not as complex as the gobo. It’s a straightforward color filter you put in front of your lights. Mixing the colors and controls of spills will make you spin your head though. There’s also a chance that you will wash out details since you can easily get overexposed using gels without you knowing it because we are used to see overexposure in white lights.

I normally use standard reflectors with grids when using color gels. In my setup, I would fill in some lighter color gels to the subject’s face to even out the colors a bit. The mood and concept of the scene also helps a lot when working with both color gels and gobo.

A photo studio can be a blank canvass for a photographer to cook their creative thoughts. It is important to test your lighting setup for your concept days before the shoot. You don’t just arrive in the set and start clicking away. It is your responsibility as a photographer to make sure that your setup works, otherwise you’ll be taking a lot of time both from you and the other creatives in the set.

Keep on shooting, everyone!

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