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Maybe this helps?

Feb 21

In Lighting, Uncategorized at 7:28am


A couple of folks were interested in a sketch of the lighting grid for the ballerina and the wall, so here it goes.

Now I was just starting coffee, and the twitch in my pre-dawn fingers hadn’t yet disappeared, so this artwork is less than magnificent. But hopefully you get an idea. The bed sheet is camera right, two SB units behind it. Camera and model are pretty straight up. The gaffer tape gobos I spoke of are on the wall side of the strobes, shielding the wall from spill. Always remember, when you set a flash off, those photons go everywhere. Omni-directional, in other words. They just don’t go in the direction the head is pointing. (Would that they might do that!)

So, you feather the units. There were a couple of questions about that as well. In this case, I feathered the lights by swiveling the left, towards the camera, and almost past the dancer. They are actually aimed at the empty space between the camera and the subject. Pretty radical, but the soft spill created by the bed sheet covers her well, and the feather move lets the light fall off before it hits the wall. Thus the wall is just, you know, there, and I didn’t light it up and hang a sign on it, “Here’s the wall!”

More tk…..

Billy Mitchell says:

on February 21, 2008 at 7:42 am

Joe, Do I have to use a wrinkled bed sheet? The only one I have is pressed.

David says:

on February 21, 2008 at 7:55 am

Thanks Joe, thats great, it really makes it alot clearer. God bless the Motel bedsheets :o)

Alan B. says:

on February 21, 2008 at 7:58 am

Thanks for the additional detail to help us ‘visual’ learners.

Andrew says:

on February 21, 2008 at 8:02 am

Aha, got it now. Thank you!

Paul says:

on February 21, 2008 at 8:22 am

I’m still confused by the gaffers tape gobos. Are they taped to the wall to block reflection off of it?


Tom says:

on February 21, 2008 at 8:25 am

thx for sharing

PShorten says:

on February 21, 2008 at 8:39 am

Love the term you used for the photographer…you really are funny! Not sure I have the nerve it takes to steal a bed sheet but will face that when the time comes!

Tim Thompson says:

on February 21, 2008 at 9:54 am

Thanks for your site, Joe. Your book should be arriving any day (not sold out in Canada, yet.)

I’m thinking that the gaffer tape is place right over the wall side of the strobe to block that side of the flash from spilling onto the wall. That’s what is implied, anyway, in the diagram.

Mark K. says:

on February 21, 2008 at 10:14 am

Very interesting indeed!

And even with the quick snap of the diagram, coffee mug and cat thingy looks great.

Jon says:

on February 21, 2008 at 10:33 am

Joe, thanks for these blog posts which explain the back story on an image. It’s one thing to see a beautiful image and appreciate at face value, but I think it is vastly more interesting to know how the image developed (no pun intended) and what obstacles were overcome to achieve the end result. It makes me feel much less frustrated, knowing that a seasoned veteran like yourself doesn’t just walk up to a scene, snap an image and it’s perfect on the first click.

Paul: the gaffer tape actually goes on part of the SB-800, to flag some of the light on the ‘wall’ side of the strobes.

Tom Legrady says:

on February 21, 2008 at 10:44 am

Paul … If you wanted to gobo the light off the wall, you would place a barrier betewen the light and the wall.

On a large-scale production you might have your IATSE crew fetch a stand from the truck, and a clamp, and a panel or sheet appropriate for blocking the light to the desired degree.

On a small scale production, you might velcro something to the side of the flash, or tape it there, if you weren’t one of those compulsive prepare-everything-with-velcro people.

On a quick-and-dirty, if you only need a small gobo, you take a long strip of tape and secure one end to the side of the flas, and let the rest stick out in the air a few inches.


Paul M says:

on February 21, 2008 at 10:47 am

lol @ numnuts

Thanks for the diagram!

Ron says:

on February 21, 2008 at 11:43 am

I don’t have two SB-800’s can I use two SB-600’s instead?
Oh and where do I get a Beautiful Ballerina?

Mark says:

on February 21, 2008 at 11:48 am

@Paul: The gaffers tape gobos are on the wall side of the speedlights. Since they are close to the light source (well, taped right to the light source), they do not have to be very big to block the light.

It’s amazing what a purloined bedsheet will do to a photo…

Tim says:

on February 21, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Ooooh! the lighting of the “ballerina explanation sketch” is excellent. Can you detail how you did it? :) (recursive aren’t I) As always, thanks for sharing. I’m sure that “The Moment it Clicks” will soon find it’s way to my coffee table.

Michelle Jones says:

on February 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Num nuts! ha ha ha ha

My brother’s nickname is numnuts, I spat out my coffee at that :)

simon bartell says:

on February 21, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Paul: the gobos are taped to the right (wall) side of the flashes to block the light from spilling onto the wall.

debbi smirnoff says:

on February 21, 2008 at 2:57 pm

Oh, you shot through the bedsheet… somehow I got the impression, before, that you shot at the bedsheet and bounced it onto the ballerina

Jimmy Slim says:

on February 21, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Great tip. Now we just need one that tells us how to surreptitiously escape the hotel with all those bed sheets in tow.

Nick Haskins says:

on February 21, 2008 at 7:11 pm

You and David must have gone to the same sketch school!

trunkmonkey says:

on February 21, 2008 at 9:02 pm

Thanks for the explanation!
You are getting better at photoshop, unless of course Brad’s doing all the work! Hope to see you soon.

your loving trunkmonkey.

Robyn says:

on February 21, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Now if I only knew how to use my SB-800 that came from Adorama as a demo sans manual. :(

Joe McNally says:

on February 21, 2008 at 11:19 pm

trunk monkey! what r u doin’? Get back in the trunk!

Cory Kerr says:

on February 22, 2008 at 12:35 am

rad. I love drawings. Thanks again Joe. Keep ’em coming

Glyn Dewis says:

on February 22, 2008 at 2:28 am

Hey Joe,

Thanks for the diagram … makes it alot clearer, so thanks for that.
Robyn … you might find this book useful:

Just love this blog!!!!!!

Keith says:

on February 22, 2008 at 7:15 am

@ Robyn
have a look at these web pages about the sb800… you will find most of the manual is included and they will help you get started

Billy Mitchell says:

on February 22, 2008 at 7:17 am

Robyn, Go to Nikon’s web site. They have lots of info on the SB800 flash and an instructions manual that you can download.

Tom Legrady says:

on February 22, 2008 at 9:37 am

Robyn … haev you tried going to the Nikon web site, and seeing if the SB-800 page allows you to download a pds of the manual? If not, then google for ‘SB-800 manual’.

Alex Kolyer says:

on February 22, 2008 at 1:42 pm


I can’t tell you how great it is to be able to learn from you. Your book is amazing, I haven’t been able to put it down. Thanks for sharing.

P.S. I think I saw you at the Eddie Adams Workshop from across the room. I was too shy to come over and say hi. I should have!

Robert Walters says:

on February 22, 2008 at 3:39 pm


I like the diagram. It really helps, but can I nit pick your drafting skills? The arrows should point from the annotation toward the object. The way you have them drawn, the initial impression is that the camera, subject, and photographer are somehow moving from right-to-left. Otherwise, keep ’em coming.

Oleg Shpak says:

on February 23, 2008 at 12:30 am

I just “invented” a gaffer tape gobo on the side of the flash a couple days ago when photographed still life with tulips! It is not fair! (as my daughter says)

Paul says:

on February 23, 2008 at 3:37 pm

Not to pick nits, but shouldn’t they be called Gaffer Tape Flags instead of Gobos? I think that’s why I got confused…I think of flags as things that are on the flash and gobos as things that are off the flash and between the flash and subject.

Just wondering.

Jay Mann says:

on February 23, 2008 at 11:56 pm


I see you have Dubai on your schedule for sure, ( I had heard rumors)
I have attended your classes twice ( I am a slow learner) and I find that I understand “JOE SPEAK” when you talk about the technical issues. The book and video for Scott should be a teaser for anyone who is serious about this stuff. Its even more effective in person and the book acts as a reminder of all those “nuggets”.

Joe McNally says:

on February 24, 2008 at 5:42 am

you’re right, really. over the years I have just gotten used to calling anything between the light and subject a gobo. they really are more flags, or cutters if you will. joe

Hoddo says:

on February 25, 2008 at 9:15 am

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the art work.

Gotta q for you – on your finished pic the colours are rich and beautiful, do you tweek them or is that straight from camera?

Cheers from over the pond -here in the UK

Rene says:

on February 27, 2008 at 4:11 am

Hi Joe!
May I know the zoom settings for the 2 SB-800s? Were they set at 105mm max, 14mm wide w/ a diffuser, or somewhere in between?
Many thanks in advance?
– Rene

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