THE SET UP
Create rays of light
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.
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.
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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