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Build a DIY Home Studio

Lesson 19 of 20

Build DIY Gobos

Mike Hagen

Build a DIY Home Studio

Mike Hagen

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Lesson Info

19. Build DIY Gobos

Lesson Info

Build DIY Gobos

Gobo, G-O-B-O It's a funny sounding word, thank you, and it stands for go between, okay? Gobo, go between. Now, all of those cardboard boxes that I've been using in the class I don't throw any of the cardboard away because I can repurpose it and use it for a variety of reasons or variety of purposes. In this case I cut out some shapes and designs in the cardboard. What's the intent behind these shapes? Well these two, these two here, the idea is that the shape represents like a velour blinds, is that the right word? Yeah, velour, yeah you know. Whatever he said, yeah, blinds. You know, blinds at home. So sunlight is shining through the blinds this then, the light maybe your flash or something like that shines through here and then goes up against the backdrop of your photograph and it looks like light streaming through a window. So this is a gobo, it's about a foot and half wide maybe two feet wide by a foot high, that's great. Whatever lighting equipment you use for the gobo you have ...

to think about this, this is important. Your light source needs to be a single point of light for a gobo to work. In other words, you can't have a bank of light coming through here because you won't get the defined shadows. Let me rephrase it. For example, this little LED here is a single point of light and because it's a single point oh here, let's use this because it's a single point of light you can see on the backdrop I get fairly well defined shadows. That's cool. And look, check this out. As I move this closer, the shadows get bigger, move farther away the shadow gets more defined. So you can really gobos take a lot of skill to use and actually maybe even the right word is just trial and error. That's probably the better term. You're just always trying to figure out where's the position, do I move this in? And you never get the same repeated twice because your subject is moving, your human powered light stand is moving. So gobos sometimes can be difficult to use. I've got this gobo, the strips that I cut in there are about an inch and a half strips sometimes you go with skinnier strips sometimes bigger strips, just experiment. Here's another gobo. This gobo is designed to actually have the entire frame of the gobo in the photo. So let's say for example Jake was standing back here this would imply a picture frame behind him a graphic representation of a picture frame and that whole thing will be in the frame so the image will be like this, Jake will be here out in front and then you got that. Another way that you can work with the gobo is you can actually shine it on the subject so the gobo goes over the body and over the face of the subject, that's kinda cool. Here's another thing to think about with gobos. You don't just have to use just regular continuous unfiltered light you can use gels. So here I've got this nice little gel it's a company called Lee Filters, Lee gels you can find these at most camera supply stores. Now when I put the gobo on the backdrop you can see that it gives it a nice sunset feel. So I don't remember the exact color of this gobo, it doesn't say on it. But like a CTO, maybe you've heard that term before, color temperature orange. Something like an amber, that will work great for that backdrop so that backdrop just has a little bit of color and warmth. So you can see this gobo here I cut it in the shape of a different type of a window frame like maybe a church or something along those lines just to give me a different effect. Alright so that's a gobo. How do I make them? Well it's pretty obvious, you just get some cardboard and I just literally drew a shape with my sharpie pen and then I have a little razor blade, little exacto knife and chopped them out, step by step by step. I got a bunch of gobos. Gobos are awesome, you can use them for portraiture in fact that's what we're gonna do next. We're gonna set up a nice portrait scenario using gobos and using basically everything we've learned today.

Class Description

Getting started in photography and looking to go beyond natural light? Not every piece of equipment needs to hurt your wallet. Join Mike Hagen as he shows you how to create your own do it yourself home studio. He’ll show you to create a $10,000 DIY photography studio on a budget and how to utilize and still create quality looking images. 

 You’ll learn:

  • How to find and create grip equipment by shopping at your local hardware store 
  • How to create a tabletop studio in your home 
  • How to put together and light a portrait studio on a budget.
You don’t have to have your own studio space or purchase thousands of dollars worth of equipment to build your portfolio of images. Join Mike as he gets you expanding your portfolio so you can gain the clients to eventually purchase the gear you want to own!

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DIY Schematics

Lighting Diagrams

Product List for DIY Home Studio

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes



I was so glad to see Mike! He taught my first DSLR class (Nikon D70 - then Nikon D300). I love his presentation style. It is so clear and he takes care of showing details that get in the way of actually 'doing it'. And I like the way he emphasizes good manners when dealing with a model. Well done Mike!


I've watched this class a few times when it's been on-air and I realized I really need to just buy it. I find Mike so likable and engaging, and I love how he talks you through the shoot while experimenting. Sometimes the experts show you the perfect way to do it the first time but it leaves you not really able to troubleshoot when you are doing it yourself. I already own a lot of gear that his DIY equipment is emulating, but it's really artistically inspiring to see his creative approaches.


This course is fantastic! You don't need a lot of money to start a studio or go on location. Mike shows some great easy hacks anyone can use to create a studio and create professional photographs that will earn you the money to then purchase more pro equipment. I got some great ideas I'll be using on my next shoot!