light # 12 – contrast and shadow fill


Set up a simple still-life shot. You will not need to move the light around so the background can be whatever you want. Leave room for access at the sides of the set, and make sure that neither side is close to a wall. Shoot from the same level as the object, with the camera on a tripod. Fix the light at about two to three feet to one side of the object and at its level, so that it is aimed at right angles to the camera’s view. Take the first photograph without a diffuser in front of the lamp, and the second with the diffuser.

Follow these with a series of five exposures. The light and camera remain unchanged. Take the white card and place it three feet/one metre away from the object, on the opposite side from the light and facing it. Take a photograph. Then move the white card twice as close to the object, and take another photograph.Tear off a piece of the aluminium foil sufficient to cover the area of the white card and place it against the card, with the dull side facing the object. Make an exposure. For the next shot turn the foil round so that the shiny side is facing out. For the last shot crumple the foil in your hand and then smooth it out again. Place it once more against the card, with the shiny side facing out. Compare the results and arrange them in order of contrast, from the one with the biggest difference between the lit and shaded parts, to the least. You can see now why the expression ‘shadow fill’ is used. In a simple lighting arrangement like this, the lamp is set up first and then, if necessary, the shadows are filled in with a reflector.

– AoP Coursebook

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There is a slight difference between fig.1 and fig.2 caused by the need to move the strobe slightly out from the wall to accommodate the diffusion umbrella. The result of this was that the shadow of the hat to the left of the frame vanishes and that the light is hitting slightly more of the shadowed side of the face. I was working in a cramped space, and this sort of thing was inevitable. As, I mentioned in the previous post, it’s remarkable how much space around (sides, above) the subject you need once you start using lighting…

Not a lot of other comment to add on this. It’s a very exercisey exercise, and a good one to work through systematically, even though you “know” what’s going to happen anyway. I think I could have spent more time working on the exact angle the reflector was set at, to direct the fill at more specific bits of the dark side of the face, and I should have redone the first shot, to keep the basic angle of light the same in all the pictures. Howeve, rather than doing another late re-shoot, I’ll make a not to make sure I refine my technique more when I have the opportunity during later modules…


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