Saturday, February 28, 2009

How I Lit It: Manray, the snoot and the cookie

More lighting experimentation, originally uploaded by calanan.

Salt Lake City, UT
Nikon D200
Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D

Nikon SB-800 camera right, TTL, homemade snoot
Nikon SB-600 behind model, Manual 1/16 power, cookied through a houseplant

Wait, "cookied through a houseplant?" What the?

Notice the light and dark pattern behind my wife, Manray? The light from my Nikon SB-600 is being broken up by the leaves of a small houseplant creating a random pattern of light and shadow.

Interested in recreating the look of some old Hollywood portraits taken by photographers like George Hurrell I got the idea to shoot a light through a plant from the Strobist article "Fourth and Long? Drop Back and Punt with a Plant". In the article, David Hobby writes:

"One of my favorite tricks is using a plant as a 'cookie' to add a layer of interest to a photo.

Cookie, in this case, is short for 'kookaloris,' which is genuine photo jargon. It is generally a piece of black cardboard with a pattern of holes in it that you shoot a light through to get a cool pattern on a background."

Also, here's an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on kookaloris - or cucoloris or however the heck-all you spell it:

"In lighting for film, theatre and still photography, a cuculoris (occasionally also spelled cucoloris, kookaloris or cucalorus) is a device for casting shadows or silhouettes to produce patterned illumination. The word is sometimes shortened to cookie or coo-koo. The cookie is used to create a more natural look by breaking up the light from a man made source. It can be used to simulate movement by passing shadows or light coming through a leafy canopy."

In the photo above I'm also firing a Nikon SB-800 located above and to the left of Manray that has a homemade, cardboard snoot or tube mounted on the Speedlight to narrow the light's beam into a tight circle.

The two-light setup, with the SB-600 and small plant located below, behind and to the left of Manray and the snooted SB-800 on a stand in front of her can be seen below:

The setup

And here's a close-up of the SB-600 and houseplant:


Here's a lighting diagram of the setup as seen from above, thanks to


Sadly, as much as I like the look of a cookied light I just haven't made any more portraits using the technique since Manray and I shot these photos. Thankfully, the process of going through my archives to find lighting examples for "How I Lit It" has reminded me about this technique and has renewed my interest in experimenting with it.

I'll update this post with samples one I've made some some new portraits but for now I'll end this post with another pose of Manray:

More lighting experimentation


Anonymous said...

Cool info @calanan, I appreciate the quick tutorial. Great ideas...

waxy said...

really great stuff

calanan said...

Thanks for letting me know, guys!

Anonymous said...

Great job. I love the "How I Lit it" series.

Anonymous said...

This is a great use of the cookie Mike! Hurrell has always been a favourite of mine, although it's possibly his subject matter as much as his ability!