Lighting with Cookies to Create Big Shadows with Little Lights

DIY Cookies

Outside of using your surroundings, both natural and structural, there’s always the option to get creative and build your own shadows from scratch. The professional movie set cookies are quite heavy duty and often made of plywood with random shapes cut out for the light to pass through. The standard soft cookies are made from mesh or screen and offer similar shapes, but produce a much more diffusedshadow pattern. I prefer to go lighter still and make my own. All you need is an X-ACTO Knife and some black foam core or poster board. Trace out the desired pattern and cut away. You can easily mimic the look of vertical blinds or leaves or window frames. It’s also a lot more cost-effective and you can toss them when you’re done. 

If you think outside the box, just about anything will produce a neat shadow. Here’s an image that was lit with a single flash shot through a piece of poster board, and another image that was shot through some camouflage netting I found at the local Army Navy store. 

The goal is to not let our thinking end on the lighting side of our subjects. Carry that creativity into the background of your images. Set the scene, make it if you have to, and then place your subject in it. Much like studying the master painters will help expand your grasp on portrait lighting, the great movie men and women will blow your mind with ideas and techniques to bring your settings to life. It’s important that we look outside of our own industry for inspiration. Next time you’re watching TV or a movie, keep an eye out for how each scene is lit and you’ll start seeing signs of lighting with cookies everywhere. Hungry yet?;


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[tps_footer]Editor’s Note: Erik has lots more knowledge to share! Come and check out his course on about Outdoor Lifestyle Portraits. It might be just what you need. You can see more cookies in action over on Joe McNally’s Blog.[/tps_footer]

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