21 Jun 2011

Exercises: Softening the light and the lighting angle

My work in this module has now moved onto studio lighting.  This first exercise asks us to examine the different qualities of direct and diffuse studio lights.  We are then asked to practice positioning a single diffuse light source at particular angles around the subject to see how the lighting changes.

The equipment I used for this exercise was a Studio flash on a tripod stand with either a shade or soft box.

Firstly we look at hard and soft light:

With only a shade to prevent light spill this image is receiving the same hard light as might be experienced from strong sunlight.  The lamp is over head and provides direct light giving rise to hard, sharp edged shadows.  The top of the helicopter is well lit but the sides lie in partial shadow, filled slightly by light reflecting from the white cloth.

With a soft box on the lamp to randomise and diffuse the light rays, they arrive at the subject from many angles rather than just directly overhead.  This results in a graduated, smooth edge to the shadows and reveals more of the detail that was previously hidden. 

With the soft box still on the lamp, I then photographed a piece of sculpture from the same position with the camera on a tripod and moved the light around to suit the requirements of the exercise.  The plan view below gives an idea of the different positions of the strobe lamp.

The first four lighting positions had the strobe at the same level as both the camera and the subject.

Position 1 - Level, front

Position 2 - Level, side

Position 3 - Level, rear quarter

Position 4 - Level, behind

Position 1 - Above, front

Position 2 - Above, side

Position 3 - Above, rear quarter

Position 4 - Above, behind

The final set-up asked for the light to be placed overhead the object pointing down and then we were asked to take 3 photographs from directly overhead, slightly in front and slightly behind.
Slightly in front


Slightly behind

I have studied the photographs above to re-familiarise myself with the effects of lighting from one particular direction and also with the difference between direct and diffuse light.  Things that I have noted in particular is that the angle between a direct source of light and the subject is narrow, where a diffuse source has a much wider angle.  This results in the light 'creeping' around the subject to illuminate parts that wouldn't otherwise be reached.  As can be seen in this sketch:
   The qualities of this particular subject are best revealed by lighting from behind.  The rear quarter, level light set-up is very good as the edge lighting effect reveals the twists and turns of the sculpture without producing glare off the shiny leaves.  The rear quarter, above and the behind, above light is similarly good but not quite as dramatic.  I also really like the silhouette effect achieved when the light is directly behind but it does rather flatten the image.  For the best three dimensional effect the shot taken from slightly behind with an overhead source is the best at demonstrating the spiralling look of the sculpture. 

On the negative side although I took some effort with my background, changing the depth of field to try to throw it out of focus, I find the creases distracting.  Had I more freedom with the set-up I would have back lit the cloth to stop the shadows on it being so prominent.

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