Exercise 4.4

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.

Completing this exercise tied in well with a Portrait Photography Workshop I participated in. This workshop helped me understand how to build up the lighting for a photograph one step at a time. During the workshop we learnt several techniques, and I’ve chosen my favourite sequence from that day.

Image 1 – model in position

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Image 2 – white background, flash coming from top left-hand side as you look at the photo. The model’s chin and the right-side of the image are under-exposed.

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Image 3 – light is added below by the model holding a white light-reflecting board to light up her chin. Her hair to the right of the image is still dark.

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Image 4 – a flash is added for the right-hand side of the image. The lighting is looking a lot more complete.

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Image 5 – a white board is added to the right-hand side of the image to complete the lighting set up.

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Image 6 – between shots – model holding white light-reflecting board

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Image 7 – Final version of the portrait. Cropped version of image 5, however, for the perfect portrait, editing of her lipstick and stray hairs would be necessary.

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