Softening the light

This exercise requires you to set up a still-life arrangement, with any object or group of objects and in this case I chose a chest formerly owned by my grandfather.  This contains a variety of objects some of which are from auctions my Grandfather used to regularly attend, and some would appear to be family heirlooms including my grandfather’s world war one medals and my fathers swimming and boxing medals.  It therefore has quite a powerful resonance about it.

The lighting was provided by a Bowens Monospot (see below) and the diffuser was a simple cotton flannel placed over it.  The light was to the left and above the camera.


The Bowens Monospot



Bare Bulb F22 @ two seconds ISO 200


With diffuser F22 @ 10 sec ISO200

On both these and the two photos below I have made the following common adjustments in Lightroom:-  Highlights -25; Shadows +25 and Clarity +25.  Even with these adjustments, which in any event were not too significant, its easy to see the harshness of the shadows with the bare bulb.  Note how behind the pocket watch in the bare bub shot the shadow obscures the detail of the box.  Likewise the shadow of the tankard conceals the fine detail of the beads on the purse whereas in the diffused shot these can easily be made out.  It is arguable that the harsher shadows give a more three dimensional effect as our view registers that the shadows are there because of the gap between the objects.  The diffused shot while containing more detail looks somehow flatter.  As far as highlights are concerned the difference is, I think, most noticeable in the silver cigarette box at the back of the main box.  In the bare bulb shot there are areas of blown highlights whereas in the diffused shot, although some remain there is a lot more detail visible.  Colour rendition is more accurate on the diffused shot as, I think, the light is not reflected as much.

Of the two shots I think I prefer the bare bub as the harsher light does give a more three dimensional  effect but as a pure “record ” shot the diffused version gives more information about the subject.



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