Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lighting Project

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been trying to figure out this lighting business from David Hobby's Strobist school of lighting. In my work as school newspaper adviser, most of the photos I need are of the portrait and event variety. With our new online edition of the paper, the quality of the images is becoming more important - you can get away with a lot when reproducing on B&W from a photocopy machine, but in color and on the web, the quality is a serious issue that can detract significantly from an otherwise polished looking website.

So I need to learn some things that I can turnkey to our student photographers and have some equipment on hand for them to work with.

Anyway, I've been going through some of his Lighting 102 exercises. In these first images the point is not to create a work of art but to concentrate on how lighting affects otherwise simple subjects. This is a most elementary exercise in how the position of the light affects the image when camera and subject are constant.

Camera left (90deg), camera left (45 deg), camera axis (0 deg), camera right (45deg), camera right (90deg).

Pretty basic stuff, easily predicted or pre-visualized, but what I can't show is what went on in my head as I followed Hobby's advice to see the subject from the light's perspective compared to seeing it from the camera's perspective. Again, entirely predictable in this simple set-up, but a few days later in a more complex assignment it became an epiphany. More on that later.

The next assignment deals with specular highlights and learning how to control them. In the first image below with bare flash, you see the small, harsh highlight. The other images create larger and softer highlights by bouncing the flash off the ceiling from various angles and positions. By accident (rather than design on my part) the final image below has the highlight in a place that I find most pleasing, near the "Classic Style Globe" textbox.

I'll end today with the epiphany moment, The first "real" assignment was to photograph a kitchen utensil. Make it interesting, do focus on the artistic aspect. Not much more to the assignment than that. It's a work in progress for me, and this is draft #1. The challenge that I discovered while shooting was how to place the specular highlight exactly where I wanted it, on the brand name "Cuisinart."

I made something on the order of 20-30 images trying to get the highlight in the right place by moving the light around from one position to another (using a flashlight as a "modeling light"), and it wasn't working (scratches head a few times), when I finally realized that I was looking at the situation from the light's perspective and not the camera's. Aha. I get it now. It's a little like a bank shot in billiards - imagine the light hitting the subject and bouncing off at an angle that will hit the camera. That works.

Next steps involve adding some fill light, figuring out what to do about the background (too close to the object in this draft to go completely black), and adding another element to make it more interesting.

Update: Click here for Final Draft

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