The Many Uses of Foamcore


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The Many Uses of Foamcore

Many of you may not even know what Foamcore is, or think it’s just a cheap framing substrate. It’s fantastic as a gobo and reflector.

You can get them in 4×8 foot sheets; in black and white. Foamcore is my multipurpose tool in the studio, and as a bonus it is only around $12 a sheet in Calgary.

As a reflector it creates a soft natural bounce light. Often I am using one light, shooting through a soft diffusion scrim. I have the light spill over the scrim on the front so the raw light hits the Foamcore, and it acts like a second light.  It’s so large that if I bring it in close to my subject the light is very wide and even.

This is the approach for the woman with the wings. She is nearly being lit by the indirect light of the Foamcore.

I use the black as a gobo. You can score the one side down the middle to allow bending, or you can take gaffers tape and use the black material to bind two halves together, so its easy to bend. Some of my commercial friends place the white on the inside, attaching the black to the outside to become the gobo.  Setting them up at a 90-degree angle you place two lights, stacked for a tall even light.

Works great to evenly spread the light across the white background for a high key look.

I tried doing a paper mache texture wall affect a bit back. The texture was amazing, especially all painted up. The challenge was the Foamcore warped, it was perfect for the look I was going for but the warping could cause problems if you are not expecting it.

You can make lightweight walls with it. Work with 2×2 boards to create your frame. Once attached you can paint or wallpaper it. Put in a brace where you expect your subject to lean though.

In the commercial setting working with small strips are ideal for adding light to tiny places, like backlighting a wine bottle for sparkle.

Try cutting the Foamcore up to create light shapes to add drama to your setting. Working with a harsher light you can get some very interesting shadows casting on the background or even on your subject.

When I am in a hurry, just needing a small area for the background, I will use a Foamcore to create a high key background. For example, I have used it to create a very skinny hallway for my client to pose in.

In the girl with the pink fabric I used the Foamcore as a floor and background. This is an out of the camera shot, if you look close you can see the Foamcore has dents and creases in it. When we lighten the wall up to become a high key wall and floor, those pretty much disappear, or are very easy to retouch out.

There is another product, more that double the price, Gatorboard. It’s best in the thicker sizes, half inch. It’s rigid with a hard inside core. You can paint this surface with no warping. It does not dent as easily but you can poke holes in it.

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