How to Use GoBos

This isn’t the complete guide to using GoBos, just a practical example of how to use them to shoot subjects on dark backgrounds without using a black background piece. GoBos are things you put in between your light source (e.g. your flash) and your subject to control the quantity and quality of light falling on the subject. It can be a simple piece of card, or some elaborate pattern design for special effects. For our tutorial today, we’ll be using a simple piece of card.

In order to shoot your subject in a dark background, obviously we must make sure that light only falls on the subject and not on the rest of the room (assuming you’re shooting in a room). If we use a flash we almost always find a lot of spill going pass the subject and lighting up the entire room. This is undesirable and that’s where GoBos come into play. Also, we will be using the inverse square law to our advantage with our setup.

Shooting without GoBos
Setup without GoBos.

The picture above shows the setup without GoBos. This is a shot from the rear. The photo will be taken from the other side. As you can see, the light from the flash will bounce off the white piece of reflector and then to the subject and also because of the huge surface area of the reflector, large amount of light will be reflected to the surroundings.

Picture taken with the setup above.

When we take a picture, we can see that the wooden table behind the subject is lighted up brightly. This is actually not too bad because the rest of the room isn’t too brightly lit up. One reason is because the light source is positioned very close to the subject so power output was kept to minimum. And because of the inverse square law, any stray light reflected off to the rest of the room was too dim to register on the final image. Now we’ll try on the GoBos.

Shooting with GoBos
Setup with GoBos.

The picture above shows the setup with GoBos. The first GoBo is a simple piece of card that blocks any stray light from reflecting off the big reflector and into the surrounding. You can clearly see that the light from the flash is contained by the first GoBo. The 2nd GoBo is on the flash itself so the light is more tightly focused so it won’t hit the first GoBo and reflect off to the room. I should have used a black piece of card instead, but the white card worked anyways.

Picture taken with GoBos in place.

Now you can see the wooden table is less obvious in this photo. You can still see a bit of it, but nothing that Photoshop cannot take care of.

By adjusting the flash and the GoBos, you can completely isolate the rest of the room from the flash. Keep your flash as close to your subject as possible so the inverse square law will give you the dark background. Try to distance other objects from your subjects so they won’t be lighted up. Play around with your setup because there’s no correct setup until you’ve achieved what you really want.

So let’s recap:

  1. Keep your light source as close to the subject as possible.
  2. Keep all other unwanted objects as far from the subject as possible.
  3. Use GoBos to prevent stray light from escaping into the surroundings. Experiment with the GoBo setup until you’re satisfied that light leakage is kept to the minimum.
  4. Use Photoshop to further darken and chop out any unwanted lighted objects in the background.

And you should be left with a brightly lighted up subject against a background so dark it can rival a black hole. Good luck and happy shooting!

Honestly I think bottles look better when shot against a white background. Well, that’s a tutorial for another day. Continue reading


Sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been really busy with work and my work schedules. My DCA exam is probably coming up soon too. It’s like having to hand up assignments and preparing for the finals. I’m sure university students can relate to this very well. The only exception is that this is the biggest assignment and the biggest final of my life. Okay, maybe not, but it’s still important so I’ll be busy studying. But you can still follow my updates through Twitter which I update almost every time I’m within WiFi range.

Boring stuff aside, I’ve been off since yesterday so got plenty of stuff done. Unfortunately I have not yet watched Harry Potter.

Working in the aviation field, you tend to do more aviation related stuff. That’s why I’ve been playing Airline Manager on Facebook religiously. Playing that game has taught me the importance of fuel hedging, advertisements, aircraft selection and most importantly, load factor. Every empty seat on a flight is a loss. Working in KLIA ASU, I’ve once seen a 737 with only 18 passengers. A 737 can carry 144 passengers. So yes, some flights are not generating revenues.


I saw the above ad a few days ago. I’ve been searching high and low for those lamb cutlets (lamb racks) so I can cook them at home. All I can find are lamb shoulders, which tastes great, but I’m sure the cutlets will be even better to cook and eat.

And last but not least, something you don’t see everyday:

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