Definition: Cucoloris (various spellings)

Definition: Cucoloris (also - cuculoris, kookaloris, cookaloris or cucalorus) | Glossary entry

Definition: Cucoloris

(Also, cuculoris, kookaloris, cookaloris or cucolorus. Also shortened to: cookie or coo-koo.)

The cucoloris is a device for casting shadows. It creates texture in the light thrown onto the subject of a photograph. The cucoloris is a sheet of wood or board with random holes cut into it. The photographer mounts the board in front of a light and projects a pattern of shadows and light created by the holes in the board. The effect on the subject is to provide a spread of shadows which are mottled and random. These create a shadow-texture of light on the subject. This texture breaks up the strong and consistent light from an artificial light source. The resultant mottled shadow effect on the subject is also a good way to give your subject some depth. Soft edges on the shadows will help give the appearance of a 3D effect.

A commercial cucoloris board made from wood

A commercial cucoloris board made from wood.

Cucoloris construction

A cucoloris can be made from wooden board or thick cardboard. Some commercially used ones are made of fine fabric net on a frame. The net is painted to fill in the net gaps. The painted areas therefore create shadows when light shines through the net. However, you can make a cucoloris from almost anything. It is possible to wire random shapes together in a frame to create the shadows you want. The image below shows a celo-cucoloris – a type of fabric used to create the shadow pattern and the shadow image it creates.

A fabric cucoloris

A fabric cucoloris showing the shadow pattern created by the light passing through the material. {Image sourced from Wikipedia commons cucoloris | External link - opens new tab/page}.

Control of the light through the cucoloris

Light can be passed through the cut of the board to suit your needs for the shadows it casts. If you project the light onto the cucoloris from a long distance this will tend to create a sharper edge to the shadows. This is because the light will become smaller relative to the cucoloris and therefore become a hard light source. As you move the light closer to the cucoloris the light source gets bigger relative to the board and therefore creates a softer light on the subject with softer edges to the shadows created there. Moving the cucoloris itself nearer or further from the subject will tend to make the shadows smaller or larger on the subject (ie: not softer or harder edged as that is created by the distance of the light from the cucoloris).

Patterns on a cucoloris

The pattern can be any that you as the photographer choose as appropriate to the subject. The idea of this lighting set up is to create shadow textures. If you have a particular sort of pattern in mind then custom-create a pattern to suit.

Many people consider the cucoloris to be for the creation of a random looking pattern. A fixed pattern or specific shapes are more often created by using a gobo.

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