Thursday, 26 August 2010

Assignment 4 - Lighting Techniques

Choose any subject that you can move around and take about eight photographs of it, each in a different kind of lighting. You can use any light at all, from daylight to available artificial light, to photographic lighting.

You should aim to show the following qualities of your subject, one at a time by means of lighting:

  • Shape - This quality has to do with the outline of an object
  • Form - This another way of describing the volume of an object
  • Texture - This is quality of the surface detail
  • Colour - Choose a kind of lighting and exposure setting that shows the subject's colour as strongly as possible.

The images for this assignment were taken on August 7, 8, 11, yesterday and today. As well as experimenting with different backgrounds, I also wanted to test the light at various times of day, both indoors and outdoors. I also referred to this book:


Though very technical, it helped me to think about lighting set-ups to achieve the desired results. I couldn't really digest all of the contents at this time, so I will definitely revisit it from time to time.


The subject for this assignment was an ornamental glass dish belonging to my mother. This picture was taken in my kitchen using a black backdrop and velvet 'tablecloth'. The curtains were drawn to eliminate any incidental light.
For this set-up, the camera was on a tripod and a video light, with diffuser was directly behind the object. Due to the thickness of the dish and the relatively small size of the light source, I was able to place the video light very close to it.
A solid object would have resulted in a silhouette with rim lighting, but in this instance the dish has been illuminated, which separates it from the background and (literally) highlights the shape.

This was taken outdoors, holding the dish up to the sky. I tried this shot using all of the white balance settings on my camera and finally settled on this one, which uses the shade setting.
I like the cool green against the warm background - a combination I encountered during the last (colour) assignment. The other white balance settings produced pleasing results, but I felt that those colour combinations were a little overwhelming and detracted from the shape of the dish, which was my primary focus.
I cropped the final image to a square because I think this enhances the curves and diagonals and makes for a more dynamic shot.


My main objective for this category was to show uneven lighting and contrast, which is what I would expect from a three-dimensional object. I have placed the video light on the left (just out of shot) with no fill-light, to make the contrast as stark as possible. I also took this shot with the light on the right, and the results were pretty much the same. The video light was diffused to limit the number of blown highlights.

This was shot indoors using an infrared camera. Light came from a window on the left, diffused by net curtains. I was trying to show the form of the object in an abstract way by eliminating the colour. I tilted the dish by placing it one a roll of sellotape under the velvet 'tablecloth' to change the viewpoint.


I read that in order to show texture, I would need a small light source at a low angle so that was the set up I used for this image. A video light was placed just out of shot, angled towards the dish. I also used barndoors to restrict the spread of light so that it would be concentrated on the dish.

I was trying to show the characteristics of the dish in this image, ie that it was made from glass and therefore transparent. For that reason, I decided to light it from directly above using a diffused video light. Ordinarily this type of non-directional lighting is not particularly flattering, but it served a useful purpose in this exercise.


I wanted a clean background to accentuate the colour of the object, so I opted for a white 'tablecloth' for this particular set-up. The camera was directly above the dish, on a tripod whilst light was provided by off camera flash from the top left corner. I underexposed by one third of a stop to enhance the colour of the dish, so the background is not as white as it should be but still contrasts with the dish. 


Again, I was trying to make the colour of the dish contrast from the background. This time around, I used a video light as the main light source and underexposed. As a result, the backdrop is indistinguishable from the cloth on which the dish was placed, but I think this helps make the dish stand out.

What have I learned?
Some knowledge and understanding of lighting techniques provides a useful starting point, and it's handy to know that certain results may be replicated when required, but there are no hard and fast rules for lighting a subject because there are so many variables involved.

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