Creating foreground bokeh effects in-camera
The closer you move to a foreground object, the more it’s shape and color and opacity will affect the image … in unpredictable ways. It’s a well-established technique then to create unusual color splashes and shapes in the image by creating flare highlights. It is often called “foreground bokeh effect”.
Ulorin Vex is an unusually photogenic model that I have photographed on a few occasions. When Ulorin visited the East Coast again recently, I jumped at the opportunity to meet up with her again and play in the studio. Her striking looks and colorful latex dresses would work perfectly with this technique – the random kaleidoscope patterns and colors wouldn’t be incongruous.
With a standard lighting setup in the studio, using a beauty dish, I also added an extra light to throw light directly towards the camera. I then held up various colored objects right in front of the lens – a colorful translucent plastic flower with colorful petals and leaves worked best. Shooting through an opening between the petals and leaves of the decorative plastic flower, all kinds of interesting random patterns appeared. It was unpredictable, and that is what made the effect interesting in part – you wouldn’t quite know what you’re going to get.
If this effect appeals to you, it would make sense to collect all kinds of objects to try out – glass elements and prisms work well too. Anything that will create a pleasant visual surprise.
Photo gear (or equivalents) used in this photo session
- camera settings: 1/200 @ f/9.0 @ 200 ISO
- Nikon D800
- Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 AF-S VR II / Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
I was once again stunned at the amount of detail the 36 megapixels from the Nikon D800 delivered. I went for 200 ISO on the camera to get to f/9.0 to get enough depth-of-field. The increased resolution affects the apparent DoF when viewed at full resolution.
- (2x) Profoto D1 Air 500 Ws studio light
- Profoto beauty dish with a honeycomb grid (25 degrees)
- Profoto RFi 1’×4′ softbox with a Profoto 50 degree 1×4 soft-grid
- Manfrotto 025BS boom w/ 008BU stand & casters
- Manfrotto 1004BAC – taller, heavier light-stand
The lighting was via Profoto D1 moonlights and various modifiers. The background was lit up by a speedlight and had a colored gel over it.
- Nikon SB-910 Speedlight / Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite
- Nikon SD-9 battery pack / Canon CP-E4 battery pack
- Honl Photo Filter Kit – Hollywood
- Honl Photo Filter Kit – Autumn
- Honl speed strap
The lighting setup
The pull-back shot here shows where the lights were in relation to the basic setup – the beauty dish, as well as the 1×4 stripbox in the back to give rim-light on her. The light that is not shown here is the 1×3 stripbox that I placed to camera right, to the side and slightly back from Ulorin Vex – it was this light that shone directly onto the flower ornaments that I was holding up directly in front of the lens for the colored splashes.
There is also a speedlight on the ground with a blue gel on it to give the background some color. A blue-green tone seemed like just the right color to complement the bright red latex dress. I had the speedlight set to full power so that it had a chance to match the Profoto heads for the aperture used. I triggered the Nikon speedlight by setting to the SU-4 mode so that the light pulses would trigger it – in other words, it was an optically slaved flash.
Here is the comparison to show the way the medium-grey background would’ve appeared, compared to being lit up with a speedlight and the blue-green gel from the Honl Photo Filter Kit – Hollywood (affiliate)
A little bit of homework
- How were the lights positioned for this photo with Ulorin Vex in profile?
- What were the camera settings?
- How did I get to those settings?