The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

Light: Contrast & Shadow fill

Module ExercisesPosted by Mike Mon, February 25, 2013 11:13:43
An exercise to establish the effect of single side lighting of a still life subject in controlled conditions, and to study the effects of diffusing the discharged light with a white diffusing umbrella, and to examine the effects of different materials and the proximity of materials to subject in terms of their resultant reflectance and effect upon shadow fill on the darker side of the subject. All the following images were photographed with studio flash.

Materials used to effect shadow fill were white card and tin foil.

1. Side lighting from camera right - no diffuser and no left side reflector

In this example the un diffused light creates a strong localised reflected area upon the nearer vase in the subject pair - to the point that there is no discernable detail in this strongly illuminated area, the opposite side of the vase is in strong shadow - resulting in strong contrast lighting of this subject. The glass is also hit by a strong localised illumination upon its upper light facing parts; the glass however is receiving some unintentional light fill in the shadow area from other bright items in the room, however there is a sense of greater contrast in this subject too.

2. Side lighting from cameras right, using diffuser, but no reflector

The immediately noticeable effect from this image is that the diffuser has softened the effect of the light hitting the subject, allowing for more discernable detail from the illuminated side (camera right). The penetration of the light upon the objects in the room which have created illumination of the darker side of the objects is also lessened, the effect of the larger diffuser (larger than the subjects) has enveloped the subjects and created a greater sense of the subjects round dimensions.

3. Diffused light source with white card reflector to camera left - 3ft away

On the whole a less 'contrasty' image, the softening of the shadows caused by the light reflectance from the large white card placed to camera left, there is also evidence of light from the reflector returning and hitting the diffuser and increasing the lighting effect upon the subjects camera right side, the glass also shows a specular reflection from the reflector on its left (camera) side.

4. Diffused light source with white card nearer to subjects

A generally brighter version of the previous, with the shadow fill reduction most marked so far. The overall image is brighter due to light bounce to and from the reflector, and the shadow contrast is markedly reduced. Arguably the lighting from the source is too powerful now and the detail in the highlights of the white vase are lost again.

5. Diffused Light source with (dull side) aluminium reflector

A darker version than the previous model with proximal white card in fill.

6. Diffused light source with (bright side) aluminium reflector

Arguably too bright, and more like the high proximity card reflector, though the tonal difference is greater than the close white card version.

7. Diffused light source and crumpled silver foil (then flattened) reflector.

Arguably the better shot, the multiple directions of reflection give a nice rounded shape due to the good tone range mixed with the odd reflectance points in the shadowed side of the subjects. If the background was appropriately lit then a usable shot would be possible.

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