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Cuckoo for Cucoloris


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Cuckoo for Cucoloris

In our previous posts on light modifiers, we have discussed many of our more common modifiers that are typically seen in a studio setting. These will mostly be used on key lights and fill lights. This will vastly help to control the quality of the light (i.e. how harsh or soft it is). Both the gobo and the cucoloris are lesser-used modifiers in still photography, and you could argue either way for video and film. The key differences are that gobos and cucolorises control the shape of the light.

They aren't pariticularly bank-breaking, but considering that we're rather unfamiliar with them as a whole, it doesn't make a lot of sense to shell out for the sake of breaking into some new territory. So we do what we do best: get creative and make our own! #DIY


When using gobos you're typically trying to project a pattern or texture onto a surface. Think of the way a slide projector works: light shines from a source, passes through the image, and optics enlarge it onto your target. Our Gobo Projector works just like that:

The optic at the front end of the modifier can also be moved closer and farther from the light source, effectively allowing you to focus the image, which controls how sharp or soft the edges of the shadows are.

For our mini shoot, we used our gobo with our LED100WB light, but you could use it on anything as long as you use the appropriate insert for the mount on your light system.

Also included in the box are a variety of pre-cut shapes and slides that you can easily insert (pictured on the right), but for the sake of DIY-ing, we made our own using aluminum serving trays from the dollar store. Please note that if you decide to fabricate your own, remember to flip your image 180°, as the optic will invert your image's orientation (the same way that a camera lens does).

Here are a few gobos that we made ourselves to use with our projector:

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We used the three gobos above with the sharpest focus the optic would allow us to achieve. This allowed us make use of their shapes to emphasize or frame certain parts of our subject. In contrast, we focused the gobo below to be significantly softer, as the harsh dots all over the face wasn't terribly flattering. The softer focus gave some pleasing results, reminding me of sunlight coming in through the leaves.

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In general, the aluminum slides we made were not as sturdy as the metal slides that come with the gobo projector. It's better than using alumium foil, but still don't drop them on the ground and step on them (I'm definitely not speaking from experience here).


Of all of the light modifiers I've had the pleasure of playing around with, the cucoloris definitely has the best name. It's a modifier made of mystery, considering no one can come to a consensus of where the name even comes from, and I'm not sure how I would personally use it. While gobos are meant for projecting specific patterns onto a subject or surface, a cucoloris (also called a cookie, coo-koo or kook) is much more abstract. Take a look at any cucoloris and you'll likely find that each shape is not a uniform, cookie-cutter shape, but instead each blob is different from the one next to it.

A true cucoloris is usually pretty sturdy (made of wood), but for our homemade cucoloris we cut it out of some spare cardboard from our warehouse. Right off the bat, wanted to try making a traditional cucoloris:

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The primary duty of a cucoloris is to break up what may otherwise be even light. In the example pictures in the slideshow above, we used our cucoloris to give the lighting more character, placing some more emphasis on the face. The variety of shapes on the modifier also helps make it fairly open-ended, and ultimately, the only real bounds are the creator's imagination.

At our local hardware store, we were inspired by some lattice paneling that another customer was carrying, but we decided that a 4' by 8' panel was not economical (and wouldn't fit in our car). So we made one out of cardboard as well:

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This cucoloris might be good to simulate an outdoor garden scene, perhaps.

For the next one, we cut out slots in the cardboard in hopes of recreating the look of light coming in through a set of blinds:

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As seen in some of the later images in the slideshow, we changed the orientation of the modifier; while it didn't give us a vastly different effect, it's just another way to use it.

The cardboard was very easy to cut (just be careful to not slice a finger off), and it was light enough to be held up by a gooseneck clamp. That being said, the cardboard lacks rigidity, so if you have it mounted at too much of an angle, it'll likely slouch down from its own weight. If you like the look of a cucoloris and want more stability, I'd definitely shell out for a conventional wooden one.

As a quick Halloween bonus, we also tried using this Dollar Tree spiderweb bowl for some festive, spooky shadows:

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Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work as well as the gobo or coo-koos that we made. To truly get the effect we imagine, the bowl had to be held roughly an arm's length away from the model's face (which doesn't offer a lot of flexibility).

Final Thoughts

If you need consistent soft, even light, softboxes are the way to go and beauty dishes are great if you want a little more dimension to your images. Using a modifier like a gobo or cucoloris is really good for changing the light by introducing shadows or shaping how the light falls onto the subject.

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  • Fotodiox Staff
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