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Iridescent Gift Foil as a Lighting Effect


This technique may be the easiest and cheapest light painting special effect I've come up with to date.  Crazy colors permeating an image, a wild texture applied throughout.  How do we do it?  The answer lies in a material I purchased and then let sit for months, not realizing its true potential.

What's the material?  In the gift-wrap section at Michael's I found a roll of iridescent gift wrap foil.  I got it during a phase where I was playing with iridescent glass and iridescent vinyl; I just wanted to get my hands on anything and everything that made light do weird rainbow things.  My first couple of attempts to use this went nowhere and I put this aside.

Fast forward eight months.  I had an opportunity to shoot with Kerry Elizabeth Barley and we approached the shoot with an adventurous spirit of experimentation.  I decided to try crinkling up this foil paper to see if I could shoot through it.  I crinkled it, mostly flattened it out, then draped it over the camera and then down in front of my lens.  Imagine my delight when the following image showed up a couple minutes later!

If you look closely at her shoulders and chest you can see a really neat color pattern.  That was accomplished by holding a second sheet of the foil a few inches off her skin, between her and the camera, and hitting her skin with white light.  The light is color-shifted as it passes through the near foil and color-shifted again when it passes through the foil near the camera.  The red laser was largely unaffected.  Here is another shot from a couple minutes later.


The Basic Setup

Here are some shots of the basic setup.  Essentially it's the camera, one or two sheets of foil, then your subject.  This particular shot shows the foil hanging vertically in front of my camera but the scenario described above just had them draped over the front of it.


Use one sheet for an effect.  Use two sheets for a much stronger effect!  The way I have these mounted makes it easy to swing them in or out of my work area mid-shot.


The foil reflects a lot of light, as is seen in this next picture, but if your light is on the other side of the foil then a lot of it will pass through and you won't see the reflection-style light.


This is the view from the camera side.  It's almost impossible to focus through the foil however if you focus before putting the foil in place then the focus will continue to hold after you put it back in front.  It seems counter-intuitive because that's not how it looks to your eye with the lights on but it works!


Some More Examples

The following three images were shot with only a white light source (through a fluorescent light diffraction cover) and the foil.




This final shot is another with the bitwhip, the acrylic rod and white lighting.