When lighting a subject, one of the things you want to try to do is create drama, or a context, using the light. This often means modifying your light source. One of the easiest ways to modify your flash to create a context, or drama, is to use a gobo.
Gobos are templates that go in front of your light source (“Goes Between” your light source and the subject) that have patterns cut out that control the shape of the light. They can help add mood, create the idea of a setting or context, and add interest.
Gobos can be purchased, but often times, the available patterns may not fit your need. In addition, they are relatively easy to make yourself and thus customize as needed.
Simply go to the nearest arts and crafts store, choose a piece of black oak tag, and a razor blade or exacto knife, and cut the desired pattern out. The pattern doesn’t need to be too large, keep in mind how large the flash beam is going to be at the point that it hits the gobo.
You may need to experiment a bit with the size and distance before getting the desired effect.
I will place the flash on a light stand, and then simply use a second light stand and use an A-clamp or two to hold the gobo in place. This way I can experiment easily with how far the gobo should be from the flash, and how far from the subject or background. A magic arm attached the light stand holding the flash will also work for holding the gobo.
For the accompanying photos, I wanted to create a night time mood, light projecting through the window blinds onto the wall from a street lamp. So I simply took the piece of black oak tag and cut a series of rectangles in it. When projecting flash through it, it resembles light shining through window blinds.
There are myriad other patterns that could be used to create various moods and effects. Play around and see what you come up with!