Cre­ate rays of light


1 Smoke

We need to fill the air with par­ti­cles, as these catch the light and cre­ate our rays. A smoke ma­chine is an in­ex­pen­sive way that you can do this. The mains-pow­ered one we used cost about £30, plus a lit­tle ex­tra for the liq­uid it needs to cre­ate the smoke.

2 Back­light­ing

To make smoke – or any other air­borne par­ti­cle – show up, back­light it by mov­ing the light be­hind the sub­ject, an­gled to­wards the cam­era. Our Speed­light is po­si­tioned out­side the win­dow, but if you pre­fer to use the sun you’ll need the right time of day.

3 Blinds

To split the light into sep­a­rate shafts you’ll need some vene­tian blinds or shut­ters. That be­ing said, you can try all sorts of other shapes, like slat­ted pan­els for ex­am­ple. Or you could sim­ply craft your own by cut­ting some holes in a piece of card­board.

4 The sub­ject

When­ever we back­light a sub­ject like this only the edge of their fig­ure will be il­lu­mi­nated, and any parts of the body fac­ing the cam­era will be in deep shade. So a side-on pose is of­ten best, with the face an­gled to­wards the light. Strong sil­hou­et­ted body shapes also work.

5 Light rays

To cre­ate shafts of light it’s im­por­tant that the qual­ity of light is hard. Soft, dif­fused light wouldn’t work. The smaller a light source, the harder the shad­ows. So we need a small, strong source of light like the di­rect sun, or a Speed­light fired bare, like this.

6 Flash trig­ger

When us­ing a Speed­light through a win­dow we need to trig­ger it us­ing ra­dio trig­gers. An op­ti­cal slave wouldn’t be ideal here as they rely on sight line. Our Speed­light out­side of the win­dow is fit­ted with a re­ceiver, while the trans­mit­ter sits on the cam­era’s hot­shoe.

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