The Light Shaper shows how to create colored shadows on the background | Profoto (NL)

The Light Shaper shows how to create colored shadows on the background

24 May, 2017

Written by: Andrea Belluso

Andrea Belluso is an experienced photographer with more than three decades in the business. He has shot everything and everyone from supermodels and celebrities to fashion, beauty and stock photography. Once a month, Andrea takes us behind the scenes of one of his most recent shoot. This time he shows us how he created colored shadows on a background. Enjoy!

Hederus is what could be described as a Swedish sports fashion brand. By that I mean they design clothes with a sporty attitude rather than actual sportswear. I was recently approached by Hederus and asked to shoot a series of images that would reflect this mixture of fashion and an active, colorful lifestyle. It was important that this came through in all aspects of the images – the styling, the model, the lighting, etc.

So, I started thinking. Pretty soon I remembered this shoot I did in the early days while assisting Bardo Fabiani. For those of you who don’t remember, Bardo was a pretty big name back then. He himself had started out assisting the legendary David Bailey. Coming from that background, Bardo was obviously meticulous and creative with his lighting. I learned a lot from him.

The shoot I remembered involved Bardo and me playing with colored shadows on the background. I used to think it was such a simple yet fun and creative thing to do, and I still do. It’s also really easy! You put colored gels on your background light. You then bleach the colored background with some hard front lighting. Finally, you place the model so that he or she prevents the bleaching main light from hitting the background and, hey presto, you have a colored shadow!

I decided to do something similar for Hederus. But I tweaked the concept and kept the colored background in a tone similar to that of the shadows. This is also quite easy to do. Just make sure your main light isn’t strong enough to bleach out the background completely. But it has to be strong and hard enough to get a distinct shadow. So how did I do that?



The main light was a single D1 monolight equipped with a Softbox RFi 1,3×2 RFi with both diffusers removed. Removing both diffusers meant that I practically ended up with a large reflector, similar to a hard reflector. It’s also worth noting that I placed the softbox quite far away from the model to make the light even harder.

Now, some of you might ask why I didn’t just use a hard reflector, such as the Magnum Reflector, the Telezoom Reflector or the WideZoom Reflector? Well, for starters, you get a much wider light spread with a stripped down RFi softbox than you do with a Magnum or TeleZoom. Secondly, the output isn’t quite as high, which was good thing in this case where I didn’t want to bleach the background too much. Finally, using the WideZoom Reflector would’ve given me a too wide and even light for this kind of shoot. The final image would just look flat. The stripped down RFi softbox, on the other hand, created a light somewhere in between these alternatives, and it was just perfect!

That was the main light. For the background I used a second D1 equipped with a Softbox RFi 2×3 RFi with a color gel and a Softgrid. The Softgrid was equipped to focus the light a bit more. It also helped keep the color gel in place. The size was chosen simply because it gave me just the right light spread and the right softness on the background.

Finally, I wanted to have a rim light on the model’s side, to give me a nice and dynamic highlight on his face and on the clothes. This was achieved with a third D1 equipped with a Zoom Reflector. Using the Zoom Reflector’s zoom function allowed me to shape the light, so that I got just the right amount of highlight on each separate shot.

Well, that was that. Hope you like the results! If you feel like trying it yourself, I’d suggest using the D1 Studio Kit 3 Heads. It contains everything you need to do this, except for the Zoom Reflector!

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to reply as soon as I can.


Andrea Belluso

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Written by: Andrea Belluso