Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.
You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.
Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial. For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card. You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.
Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.
Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots, showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.
For this exercise I went to a workshop where the tutor was Andrew Barton who is a local photographer on the island. He gave some information at the beginning of the workshop on the sorts of lighting we would be using – continuous, side lighting and lights triggered by wireless flashes attached to our cameras. He warned us that we may need to manually focus when doing close up work.
When using flash you need to know the sync speed for the flash. He said you can set to any speed up to 250. At 250 this takes out any ambient light. He also spoke to us about colour temperatures.
He mentioned metering – centred, partial, spot and evaluative.
He said that the camera sees the light on the subject; not that which is reflected back unless the light is bounced off the ceiling. A diffuser scatters light everywhere – he recommended that you only use one if the ceiling is low.
He said you need to visualise the picture and visualise the light.
It was then time to get into the photography and experiment for ourselves.
- Continuous lighting.
Thus for this first picture the fruit was lit from the side at an approximately 45 degree angle and also from above. A blue backdrop was used. I also used a flash on the camera set at 1/64. As mentioned in the task it was hard to get the focus completely right.
2. Side lit flowers with left light triggered by flash:
For the next two photos we used flowers that had been frozen in ice – this gave a nice effect as the ice started to melt.
I also found I couldn’t use Live View to compose and take the images as the settings were deceptive and if you took a photo using Live View it came out too dark. I used a depth of field of f22 and a shutter speed of 200 for these. ISO was set to 100.
These photos show the difference made by where you place the camera.
Thus when taking the photo front on there is very little visible shadow but in the second photo where I moved round to the side of the table there was a marked shadow.
In comparison with the other photos in the previous exercises you had more control over the lighting in the studio and where you wanted it to fall and if you wanted shadows or not. In most cases the items ended up evenly lit although the strawberries and nuts had some highlights on them.