It’s been a while since I did a UV photoshoot. I recently teamed up with Meghan of Meg’s War Paint, who has collaborated with me on blacklight photography projects before. I set up the UV Cannon and 4 fluorescent tubes for the shoot.
Here’s a video slideshow created with photos shot using a 400 watt UV cannon as the main light source. In an earlier post about black light photography, one of the readers suggested trying a UV cannon, a special effects light often used by clubs and DJs. In my other shoots, I used four 40 watt fluorescent tubes. They worked well, but it would be nice to have a more powerful light source to allow me to use a faster shutter speed and lower ISO.
American DJ UV Cannon
The black light cannon worked well, but was different to work with compared to the fluorescent tubes. The main advantage of the UV cannon was how is easy to set up. You just point it at the model and plug it in. It takes about 10-15 minutes to warm up and gives a good strong light. It can be moved around and repositioned, although it should be turned off and cooled down before moving it to avoid damaging the bulb.
I was surprised that it doesn’t give off as much light as I thought. I expected it to be much more powerful than the 160 watts from the 4 fluorescent tubes. In practice, it was not really more powerful than the four fluorescent tubes, mainly because I can put the tubes very close to the model most of the time, which is not practical with the UV cannon. Also, the UV cannon is a hard light source that casts a sharp shadow, making the light quality quite different than the fluorescent tubes. I surround the model with the tubes, reducing shadows and creating a more even light. I placed a white nylon diffusion panel in front of the UV cannon to help soften the light, which further reduced the power from the light.
Overall, the UV cannon would probably work best placed in front and above the model in a butterfly lighting setup. It also would be best to use when you want dramatic shadows. It’s high power would also work great for lighting backgrounds and sets. I’m continuing to explore different ways to use it.
I’m interested in hearing from other photographers who have done UV photography – any suggestions or ideas? What is your favourite UV light set up?
Here’s the same video on YouTube for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch:
Thanks also to Tiffany May Photography who collaborated on this project, providing much inspiration, creativity and assistance!
For the background, we used “Super White” seamless paper, available from Savage or B&D. It glows blue under black light. We cut different sized hearts out of pink fluorescent bristol board and hung them from the studio’s ceiling with fishing line. We set up four 48 inch 40 watt fluorescent black light tubes – one on each side of Rachel, one overhead and the fourth on the floor to surround the model with black light.
Here’s what the setup looked like (the fourth tube on the floor is not shown):
Skin tends to look very dark under black light, so to help make the model’s face more visible, we positioned a White Lightning X800 strobe with a grid in front of the model, and for some the shots we used a hand-held white LED flashlight to light the model’s face. We also used a white disk reflector, which gave off a blue glow, to help light the model.
Initially, I used ISO 100, f/1.4, 1/25th second exposure with a Sigma 30mm lens. I then wanted to get some shots with a longer focal length so I switched to my 50-200 mm using ISO 200 and 1/10 sec at f/2.8. I used a tripod and a cable release to minimized unwanted motion blur. I wanted to minimize noise by using the lowest ISO that I could get away with. Depending on your camera, you may be comfortable going to higher ISO and faster shutter speeds.
I used Lightroom 3.3 to adjust the colours, exposure, noise reduction, and some local brush adjustments. I completed the editing in Photoshop CS4 – mainly retouching and removing the visible fishing lines that the hearts were attached to.
Joleen is a Native American model and I’m inspired by First Nations (Native American) art and culture. I’m working on a fine art photography series of black light images so we collaborated with makeup artist Megan Thomas for a body painting photoshoot using Native American themes as the inspiration. Here are some of the shots:
If you are interested in purchasing prints, they’re available here.