Assignment four – Applying lighting techniques

The purpose of the assignment is to show our new found knowledge of lighting to bring out particular physical properties of the same subject. These were to be based on four themes; Shape, Form, Texture and Colour.

Equipment used Nikon DSLR, 105mm Micro lens, 50mm lens, tripod, 2x Nikon Speedlight flash guns, 2x light stands, 2x diffusion brollies, a snoot (tin foil), backdrop holder, reflectors white and black (card), wine bottle filled with water (holds flower better than a vase for photos; key learning here..)

First things first, to choose the subject, this was not an easy task, I went through many options before landing, almost by accident, on the Asian Lily. I considered portraits, models, ornaments, trainers, bonsai, roses, drift wood and bark to name but a few and all of which I discounted for various reasons. The Lily was the best combination for size (I have only a small area to work in), colour and texture (when more closely inspected).

Shape – This is the outline of an object.

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Above the silhouette describes the shape of the Lily perfectly, showing the outline of the twin headed stem. This was shot with two flashguns illuminating a white background and a reflector place to bounce just a little light from the right hand side to give the vaguest hint of colour to the mostly black silhouette.

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Keeping to the same point of view, just raising the camera slightly to capture the top on the front leaf. I changed the background to black and a single flash as a point light source and lit this shot form behind the subject just out of camera view. In the thumbnail image you will see the flash flaring into the lens even with a lens hood. I had to black card placed strategically between the lens and flash to stop the flare and not reflect onto the subject.

Form – the volume of an object, it’s three dimensional qualities.

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This image was to show the form of the entire subject, trying to imply its three dimensional qualities. Shot with a single flash to the left at approximately ninety degrees to the subject, using a snoot on the end of the flash to focus the light just to where I want it and stopping unwanted illumination of the background. Plus a white card placed to the right to bounce just a little light back onto the right side. Deliberately allowing shadow from the leaf on the left to cut across the one on the right, helping to emphasise depth.

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This next image was to close in on the subject, using the same lighting setup as before, but moving things around a little to place one leaf across the view of the other also to use a shallow depth of field to accentuate the distance from these foreground and background leaves. I moved the lighting around to the front slightly to accentuate the creases in the  surface of the flower bud, giving it a sense of depth and form.

Texture – fine surface details of an object.

The texture on the Lily is good but fine in detail, so for both detail images I went in close with a macro lens, however still using the flash lights at hard angles to create a lighting situation that would accentuate the fine detail.

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Single diffused flash light source from above and behind, angled at sixty degrees to facing back to the camera and subject.

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Single point light source flash at ninety degrees to the side the subject and just above level with it to produce a very oblique angle showing the ribs in the leaf, whilst just enough illumination shows the additional surface texture.

Colour – how best to show an objects colour.

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Changing again to the white background, which I felt gave a cleaner palette to show the subjects colour, this time with a single diffuse frontal flash to best capture the true colour of the Lily. With a secondary diffused flash ensures the background has no shadow. As I commented in my notes above I had only a small space to work in.

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Moving in to capture a single bud and a little more surface area of the leaf this time and hence its colour. In the thumbnail you can see I originally lit this shot, with a diffuse flash source, slightly form the right of camera position, however due the the orientation of the leaf it’s colour was darker than was accurate. The larger final shot was lit from a slightly raised left of camera position better lighting the bud and the leaf.

Overall I am very pleased with the results, this was not an easy assignment to do well. The way I approached it was to give myself a few hours to setup and take an initial set of images. Then sit down and review them on my computer, review the text for the assignment again, mark-up the images up in the categories of Shape, Form, Texture and Colour, chose a few preferred shots for each and then went back to see if I could improve on them. Through this process I came to the images you see above, end to end including, tidying up, image processing and writing up my notes took a good day.

The key problem I came across was that due to the confined space I was often unable to move the flash far enough away, mainly for the point light source shots. This meant that the contrast difference from the lit side to the shadow was often at the limits of the sensor. My solution was to use exposure compensation and shoot in RAW in increase the dynamic range. Even so this has not completely solved the problem as you can see in some of the highlights. I would be interested to learn in the feedback, a way to solve this problem.

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