“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…”
This exercise was very challenging for me. I’m keen to learn how to use artificial lighting, but of course its a very technical subject for a beginner, and I really struggled.
Here’s the contact sheet…we were asked to sketch our lighting set up, but it seemed just as easy to photograph it.
I’ve picked out a few pictures here to show my lighting set up. For my first attempt, I mostly used one light, with a white paper background, and card covered with tin foil.
Overhead light obviously reduces shadow
Lit from the side, I could vary the depth of the shadow – its quite gentle in this shot
Experimenting with the distance of the light source…
Changing the direction
The addition of a very small fill light
For the second attempt, I added a second light, in the shape of a head torch (no, I wasn’t wearing it!) and a cloth background. The head torch was brighter than I expected for its small size, so I rather lost control of it as a fill light, which was my original intention.
As you can see, it was possible to direct the lighting into the shadow of the pebble
“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.”
Although the types of lighting we have been looking at are very different, there are some common factors we can see emerge. The stronger the light source, with a high contrast between light and shadow, the more we can see form. If the light is quite diffuse, the effects are more subtle, and objects can appear flatter. Direct overhead light from either midday sun or a lamp causes a small pool of shadow. Whatever the light source, the laws of physics apply!