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  1. #1

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    Photographing a spotlight effect

    Hi everyone,

    I am wondering if someone could point me in the right direction with a photo I am working on. I am building a little set in which I want to shine a "spotlight" down on, as in a classic theater scene where the presenter stands in front of the curtain. I am thinking I could use a strong flashlight for this, but am wondering how I might capture the beam. I have a fog machine, but even if that scattered the light, I fear that it would just make the whole scene hazy.

    I am shooting black and white film. Can anyone give me any tips or ideas?

  2. #2

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    Maglite flashlights have adjustable beams so you can match the width of the beam to your model scene. I have them in several sizes, from the "policeman special" which can be used as a club if necessary to the mini maglite which slips in you shirt pocket. You can also get color filters for the lights if you want to go for the colored spot effect.

    As for capturing the beam, you might try smoke. You blow a bit into the beam just before snapping the shutter. You can even blow the smoke through a straw. Just don't get addicted--to the smoke. It's okay to be addicted to photography.

  3. #3
    munz6869's Avatar
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    If you were in a theatre, for this effect you would use a Profile lantern - a spotlight with two focusable lenses, to give you your hard-edged beam, and for the scatter, you would use a hazer or cracker - better than a fog machine, they give you an even mist which will be as light or dense as the duration the machine is running. If you have a budget, you can hire these things... a Profile can be anything from 500W and upwards, so you could run one from a domestic powerpoint...

    for example: http://antari.com/Company%20Profile/...400/hz400.html, and http://www.seleconlight.com/classic/...t&Itemid=123-4

    Marc!
    Marc Morel
    photographie argentique!
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    http://mrmarcmorel.wordpress.com/

  4. #4
    Dan Henderson's Avatar
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    I echo Allen's recommendation for a focusable Maglite. BTW, cops only get those big 8-D cell models so they can temporarily blind suspects while resting the back end on their shoulders like they see TV cops do. (Sorry, I was a firefighter and we live to poke fun at cops.)

    I don't see why a fog machine would not work. I would have everything all set up and ready to expose, start the fog machine, then have my hand on the cable release and fire as soon as the fog seemed right. It might take some trial and error, but what the heck?


    web site: Dan Henderson, Photographer.com

    blog: https://danhendersonphotographer.wordpress.com/

    I am not anti-digital. I am pro-film.

  5. #5

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    I guess how much fog/smoke etc. you need depends on what you mean by "little set." Are we talking a 1 foot stage or a 6 foot stage?

  6. #6

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    Thanks so much for the replies everyone. The set is probably going to end up a few feet across at most. It is rather small. I think the maglight will be the most reasonable option for my situation, I'll go check out my options tonight. The smoke idea is good, I will try that (and try not to inhale through the straw). I suppose I could shoot a bit of fog and let it dissipate enough that it doesn't make the shot cloudy, but leave some scattering material. I appreciate your suggestions.

  7. #7
    Rick A's Avatar
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    For really small set-ups, I use a home made snoot on a photoflood. This gives the appearance of a hard edge spot, and makes for some dramatic single source lighting effects.
    Rick A
    Argentum aevum
    BTW: the big kid in my avatar is my hero, my son, who proudly serves us in the Navy. "SALUTE"

  8. #8

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    Thanks, Rick. I had to look up what a snoot it (not a pro at lighting equipment), and that is a perfect idea. I've been messing around with materials at home (flashlight and pringles can), and it indeed helps give a hard edge needed for the effect. Thanks!

  9. #9
    Sethasaurus's Avatar
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    You want something like this?
    Grand Central

    Dust!
    I would position a board above the set and pour flour on it. Then, rig a string or another board to it to give it enough of a bump to drop the flour. I think that would localise it pretty well and you could limit it to a thin, straight line along your beam of light.

  10. #10
    yurisrey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick A View Post
    For really small set-ups, I use a home made snoot on a photoflood. This gives the appearance of a hard edge spot, and makes for some dramatic single source lighting effects.
    I work as a dp for film and digital cinema, this has always been the preferred method to get this effect for miniatures. just make sure there's enough air circulation as I have had some bulbs burst it is not fun. fog machines help but if overdone it'll look like its underwater.
    "The real work was thinking, just thinking." - Charles Chaplin

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