37 The Lighting Angle

This exercise requested a number of lighting angles of a still life subject all with a diffused light source. The first was with the light level to the subject, moving from the camera position to almost behind (160 degrees, see diagram) then fully behind (silhouette). The second was the same positions but one with the light looking down to the subject at a 45 degree angle. The third was with the light source above the subject, positioned behind, over and then in front of the subject.

Equipment used, Nikon DSLR, 105mm lens, tripod, black background and lighting stand. Processed using Nikon NX2 and DXO.

I chose a carved wooden ornament of a man and women embarrassing, the only location I had that had enough area around it was the light marble kitchen work top. Which in hindsight has acted as a reflector for the higher lighting angle shots and I should have covered it with some black paper, but it has not materially affected the value of the results.

Diagram of setup

Lighting level with subject



This is the flattest lighting of the series, with a diffuse light from the same position as the camera. Yet it would yield a reasonable portrait, especially if a single person lit with a ring light.

45 degrees side


With the lighting now at an angle to the subject, the shadow creates a more three dimensional appearance.

90 degrees side


As the lighting comes to the 90 degree angle more surface detail is visible. This may be desirable for some shots and not for others. The image here certainly takes on a very three dimensional aspect due to the shadows cast over the subject. Even with a diffuse light source the shadows are quite dark at this angle, a reflector on the left side could be used here to bounce back some more light into the shadow. This would be my personal preference for showing 3D properties of the subject.

135 degrees side


Shadow now pronounced on unlit side, but surface detail and ‘blemishes’ clearly visible on lit side.

160 degrees


Now with the light as close to behind the subject as possible, without appearing in background. Again a lot more detail of the lit surface area is visible at this angle.

180 degrees (behind) clearly creating a silhouette


Gives a clear outline of the subject, but no detail what so ever.

Lighting at 45 degrees down



45 degrees side


90 degrees side


135 degrees side


160 degrees side


180 degrees (behind)


This series at 45 degrees down has similar qualities to the first set with more downward shadows due to lighting angle.

Lighting from above





In front


Very ‘The God Father’ (Marlon Brando office scene) where the lighting technician nearly got fired because you could not see their eyes, but made for a very dramatic and powerful part of the movie. All three shots show good surface detail of the subject.


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