For this series here, I had planned out to create a set of segments from abstract shadow play to shadow patterns, setting a distinct mood.

All done by means of one specific tool-approach: Deploying “Gobos”.

“Gobos” are any objects that are put between the light source and your subject. “Gobo” originally stands for “GOes Before Optics.” But if used without the technique of optical usage, we refer to “go between” and this is exactly what I was doing here.

Boost Your Imagination The Low Budget Way!

The utilization of differently shaped Gobos, different material, different creative DIY solutions literally provides you with an infinite variety of possible visible outcomes.

Budget-wise speaking: This is a totally inexpensive set!

  1. First of all, lighting is super simple: One speedlight/strobe, boosting hard light.
  2. Secondly, Gobos can be made of anything, depending on what (= how much) you want to see and reveal on the actual images.
  3. Third, this setting can also lead to very little to no model costs at all!

Results - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

No Modeling Costs. Endless Possibilities.

In this concept we are able to work with the technique of blacking out the subject’s face (= keeping anonymity). When following along this idea you can shoot such images with your partner/friends/wife.
And if you push the post-processing concept towards an artistic narrative, you are able to seek after TFP deals, meaning you are able to shoot with newcomers and semi-pro models.

Endless Possibilities – Lighting Setup Variants - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

Besides the savings aspect, the strongest argument for such a shoot-setting in your repertoire is: This concept gives you the full spectrum and leeway for any idea you might have or that you may come across. It is totally meant to spark your creativity, to boost your imagination!

It is simple in its technical settings, endlessly repeatable and yet most variable in its outcome. Try a spaghetti strainer, a bouquet of herbs from grassland, differently patterned fabrics – simply anything you can think of!

Using Gobo – Correct Distances Are Important - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

Hard Lighting. Correct Distances.

In order to create defined (= sharp) patterns, two requirements need to be met first:

  1. The light characteristic must be hard and
  2. the Gobo must be placed very close to the subject/surface (= model) where you want the shadows to appear clearly drawn.

3D Lighting Setup Illustrations - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

I used only one speedlight (= key light) with a small silver-coated standard reflector. The distance from the flashgun to the Gobos was about 3 meters/10’, which is relatively far away. But this was totally intentional because I needed to make the light source as small as possible in relation to the Gobo (= hard lighting attempt).

Hard Lighting & Hard Shadow Cast is important - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

Light that is soft (= when it is close to a Gobo) or diffused by a modifier (softbox/umbrella) will not provide you with the necessary hardness you need to achieve the required shadow cast. The same goes for the distance from model to Gobo. The farther away the model is placed, the more the shadow edges (= transitions) get dissolved (= soften) and you lose the desired pattern. Small, hard concentrated light in a distance to the Gobo; model close to the Gobo: et voila.

My Implementation: Segment “Card Boards”

The patterns that I had cut in the card board were created by coincidence and the shadows it casted were too. Just go ahead and try out curvy-cut shapes, symmetric lines or any mix thereof.

One of the difficult parts on the set during the shoot is to find out where the shadow cast actually will fall! Because we are working with speedlights that offer no modeling lamp, it is impossible to predict where the cast (or the light) will hit on the body. The shooting is really a trial/error process.

Dan Is Shooting Segment 1 – Shadow Play with Card Board - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

You will adjust the card board in height (up/down) and also let the model turn, bend and slightly move – always on the search for the desired effect and best visual message. The process itself is fun (can also be exhausting) but the best part of it is: You get results you have never planned to achieve. And this is miraculously in and of itself!

2D Shooting Light Set Plan - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

Results: 1 Setting, 3 Segments

3 Segments of Shadow Play, BTS - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

With this “Shadow Play” conception you can develop your final images towards different stories:

  1. When using very bulky cut patterns (card board) as it was done here in segment 1, we are creating large, undefined forms. Converting the images to B&W adds immediately an artistic feel to it.
  2. For segment 2 tough I decided to let it remain in color. The shadow patterns are very filigree and posing, expression and the interplay of the model with the shadow cast is important. The colors in this series amplify the erotic flair and, for example, simulate hot, carving sunlight. Boosting and influencing skin colors and tones eventually turn your series into a completely different narrative.

    So, with the exact same (simple) lighting design, you receive entirely novel stories by simply changing the Gobo (and framing = composition).
    Note: I revealed the subject’s identity for this segment. In cases like this, you have to make precisely sure before the shoot about “how far” your subject is willing to go (for no money).

  3. Segment 3: For the third variant, I really did not use too much of my imagination. I (re)used a patterned fabric piece simply because having this prop on set. I was just curious to find out how the pattern would look on the different body parts. I must admit that I find the unique outcomes based on model Nikola’s different distances to the camera, the various angles and the bending of her body very interesting too.

The final imagery can be presented in color or B&W. This really is up to your taste and needs.

Results - Artistic Nudes - Shadow Play - Low Budget Creative Nudes

  Work On A Budget, Make Your Results Outstanding!  

I hope you found some inspiration and details for your next shoot in this article. “Shadow Play” is one out of twelve concepts from my eWorkbook “Creative Nudes On A Budget”, encompassing uniquely powerful strategies on how to create magnificent and impactful images on a budget with speedlights.

Creative Nude Photography On A Budget by Dan Hostettler

Creative Nude Photography On A Budget

Speedlights Blueprint. Simplify Anything! Be on budget! Versatile gear for everyday use, saving money with low cost model fee strategies, creative & magnificent imagery despite any limitations, endless side notes & complementary references, 12 extensive case studies. 350 pages strong! + $500 Bonuses.

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