Film Noir: Special Effects are Subject Dependent

by | May 14, 2020

Today’s Post iby Joe Farace

Before the Dot Com bust, I also wrote articles and columns for several computer magazines and one of the concepts that I dreamed up during this time was “Farace’s Laws of the Computing Universe.” I figured if Murphy and Burke’s Law (my original inspiration) could have their own laws so could I. After I began writing exclusively about photography, I brought some of those “laws” into my magazine articles, books and blog posts.

One of the more important of Farace’s Laws of the Imaging Universe is that all special effects are subject dependent. A filter or effect that may look great for one kind of subject may not look so hot when applied to another, different kind of subject.

And it just isn’t the subject matter that effects the final look but also how the image was made. Low or high key lighting and the overall mood of the photograph all respond differently to special effects filters and there’s only one to find out: Try it. As I discovered when originally testing Tiffen’s Dfx Digital Filter Suite; it’s no longer available but a replacement product is available from Digital Film Tools. (You can try it yourself. Scroll down for a 15 day fully functional trial for both photo and video/film versions.) But no matter what software you use the most important takeaway is that special effects are subject dependent.

The subject of today’s portrait is the wonderful Ashley Rae who brought a classical femme fatale look to this particular session. You can see the original image above as captured and the special effect as applied at left.

How I Made this Shot: The original image (above right) was shot in the dining room of my former home. The main light was from an LED light panel that was placed at camera left with fill coming from a window in the back door of my home that’s at camera right and out of the frame.

Camera was my old Canon EOS-1D Mark II N and my favorite lens to use for all kind of continuous light situations, the EF 85mm f/1.8 lens. Exposure was 1/250 sec at f/3.2 and ISO 400.

To produce a film noir look I first applied Dfx’s Agfa APX 100 filter from the Film Stock menu then applied (to a new layer) Venetian Blinds from the Gobo filter that’s found in the Light collection. These are many dozens of filters in this collection and some might be properly called cuculoris. But no matter what you call them, they are adjustable for placement.

Photo Trivia: A cuculoris is a device for producing patterned illumination and creates a natural look by breaking up the light from a man made source. It can be used to simulate movement by passing shadows or light coming through a leafy canopy or in this case, Venetian Blinds.


Joe is author of Joe Farace’s Glamour Photography a book featuring information about how to shoot glamour portraits in available light situations or by using minimal lighting equipment such as reflectors or speedlights. New copies are available from for $21.36, with used copies selling for $6.49 as I write this. Kindle copies are $19.99 for those preferring a digital format.