It's not just for stoner posters anymore. For this week's Shooting Challenge, you're going to elevate the blacklight to fine portraiture.

The Challenge

Take a portrait of someone in blacklight. (Preferably all glowy.)

The Technique

So what is a blacklight? Really, it's just a UV light. Invisible to the naked eye, this wavelength reacts to phosphors—any substance that emits visible light when it reacts to radiation. So the invisible UV radiation strikes the phosphors—say, a marijuana leaf on an Insane Clown Posse poster—and the phosphors glow, trippy-style.


A camera captures this phenomenon easily [brief tutorial here]. All you need is a pair of blacklights, a subject painted in reactive pigment, a tripod and probably a black backdrop to make the image pop. (UV lens filters may clean up the image a bit, but they're optional if you don't own one).


<— I love that clip, too, which is a great walkthrough from Julius Ise on taking blacklight portraits. He ups the ante a bit, mixing some visible light to help the figures pop, but the premise is no more complicated than anything you can set up in the corner of a garage.

The Example

Our lead shot is a crop of flickr's Retrofresh!. I dig the maturity of the pose, the strange coloring of the effect.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.


Send your best photo by Monday, June 18th at at 10AM Eastern to with "Blacklight" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameBlacklight.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameBlacklightWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.


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