What is a Gobo in Photograph?

Achieving the best lighting for your photos can be difficult. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, mastering the art of creatively using light is essential to capturing great images. While natural light has its benefits, there are also cases to incorporate additional studio lighting, such as a Gobo is necessary to make every photo session a perfect visual masterpiece.

What exactly is a gobo? In this article, we’ll delve into the intricacies of this lighting accessory and explain why it’s a valuable tool for photographers and videographers.

What is a Gobo?

Gobos serve as special tools for designing studio lighting. Placed between the light source and the background, this accessory allows you to manipulate light patterns to create attractive shapes and designs. Gobos are made of materials such as metal, plastic, and glass and are available in a variety of sizes.

img data-src="realestatephotoediting.jpg" alt="A Gobo Photography Setup"
A Gobo Photography Setup

As their name suggests, gobos act as shields or intermediaries, selectively blocking or directing light to cast dramatic shadows. Gobo complexity can be adjusted individually. For example, you can choose swirls to give movement and subtlety, or geometric shapes like circles or squares to increase contrast. Gobos can also take on complex shapes reminiscent of trees or leaves, adding visual interest to a scene.

Types of Gobos

There are three main types of gobos; steel, glass, and plastic. Let’s go through each one in detail. 

Steel Gobo

The steel gobo made of sturdy metal, ensuring maximum durability even in difficult conditions. Designed to withstand harsh environments and ideal for outdoor use. Unlike plastic or glass gobos, steel gobos are heavier but more durable. Its use is usually limited to outdoor environments where it can withstand harsh weather conditions.

Glass Gobo

The glass gobo features superior durability compared to standard metal or plastic variants. These highly adaptable accessories can be seamlessly combined with advanced high-end lighting solutions to project complex images onto a flat surface in unprecedented detail. The glass gobo’s premium design maintains its effectiveness even when exposed to strong light and various working conditions.

Plastic Gobo

The plastic gobo light is an advantageous choice as it provides a cost-effective solution. In addition to being affordable, these filters are versatile enough to withstand a variety of temperatures, outperforming traditional metal and glass options. This makes plastic gobos ideal for both indoor and outdoor events. Additionally, its lightweight makes it easy to store and transport, making it ideal when mobility is a priority.

Westcott Environmental Gobo Pack for Optical Spot by Lindsay Adler, 10-Pack


  • 10 environmental pattern gobos for the Optical Spot designed by Lindsay Adler
  • Create organic shapes found in nature, great for subtle backgrounds and accents
  • Mimic lighting from a window in the studio 2.6″ (6.6cm) circular metal discs with cutout design
  • Sized to fit the gobo holder included with the Optical Spot

How Does a Gobo Work?

Whether you’re in an indoor studio or on an outdoor set, proper gobo light placement is critical to projecting an even image onto all surfaces. During installation, the gobo is inserted into a metal plug-in holder or gel frame. While the sturdy metal holder is primarily designed for outdoor use, the gel frame is suitable for indoor use and allows you to attach filters and color gels before projection.

Once the gobo is securely attached to your chosen frame, you can insert it into a compact or flash light. You can adjust the angle and focus before installing. Be careful when removing the gobo from the light after a photo, as the gobo frame can get very hot, especially when shooting at high light levels for long periods of time.

When Can You Use a Gobo?

Gobo lights are a valuable tool for giving your images and recordings a unique touch and making them stand out from the crowd. These designs provide a platform for creative expression and visual appeal in photography. Additionally, it helps to separate the subject from the background. Gobo photography is an exploration of experimentation and fun, exploring different shapes and forms. Here are some examples where gobo lighting can be used effectively.

Wedding Photography and Videography

Wedding photographers and videographers can improve their skills by incorporating gobos. These creative accessories allow for innovative silhouettes and strategically placed light reflections, allowing you to create beautiful wedding photos. Gobos can help enhance the overall atmosphere and add subtle drama to your photos.

img data-src="realestatephotoediting.jpg" alt=" Model's Portrait with Gobo"
Portrait with Gobo

Event and Corporate Photography and Videography

At corporate events, creatives can use gobos to project company logos onto walls and floors, creating the ideal backdrop for dynamic shots of enthusiastic attendees. Blackout curtains ensure that light stays within the designed gobo shape, resulting in sharp, well-defined lines and visually appealing images.

img data-src="realestatephotoediting.jpg" alt=""
Background is less monotonic with Gobo

Flat-lay photography or studio settings

gobos are useful in flat-lay photography because they allow you to control the placement of light to highlight specific areas or objects in your composition. For example, a photographer can strategically place two gobos on either side of a subject to create a spotlight effect and improve the overall visual impact of the scene.

Having a versatile gobo pack in your camera bag expands your creative possibilities and is a worthwhile investment for photographers and videographers looking to improve their visual storytelling.


Gobos are a great option if you want more creative control over your lighting. Understanding how they work and what kind of light to use them in can give your photos and videos a unique look. With a variety of materials, you’re sure to find a gobo that meets your needs. So next time you set up your lighting, consider using gobos and the right lighting equipment to add some personality to your shots.


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