Category Archives: Part 4 – Light

Assignment 4 – Tutor’s report

Here is my tutor’s report on assignment 4 with my responses where appropriate:-

Overall Comments.

For this assignment you have chosen to illustrate lighting techniques using one of your camera lenses as your subject matter. It is a good object to demonstrate the various ways in using different lighting to produce the four themes required as the lens has a distinct shape and is suitable to demonstrate its texture and form in particular.

You will see from my comments that some improvement could emphasise the effect more clearly with some of the images.

It will be interesting and satisfying to experiment with other kinds of lighting to compare these results when you have time. Try the stages using tungsten, torchlight or even candlelight. Some of the results will be less attractive, but it is enlightening to compare the various light sources.

Assessment potential

‘I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment’.

 Feedback on assignment

 Shape: Using strong back lighting to create a silhouette does show off the shape of an object to good advantage. The first image of Shape shows the top of the lens with a convincing shadow produced using natural light to reveal the shape of the object in two dimensions. The second image does this using background studio lighting to create the effect but is a little dark and if you so wish this can be improved by selecting and adding some exposure in Photoshop to create the image shown below without taking away the background lighting as originally deployed. The shape however, in the original image does depict the theme. Further selection of the background can produce an image as seen in figure 3. Your image conforms to the brief where the outline edges stand out and minimum detail visible in the object.


Tutor report 1Tutor report 2Tutor report 3 


  1.                                                 2.                                            3.

My response.  I was aiming to get a silhouette type of shot and I think if I had made it a total silhouette that may have been more effective.  As it is I agree that there’s merit in bringing in a bit more detail.


The first image of ‘Form’ illustrates the concept well and as you quite correctly point out, it lifts the object from the background giving it depth and its three dimensional effect. It also shows more clearly what the object is. You have used good lighting technique with the umbrella to avoid unwanted shadows. The second image gives even more visual information of the object shown by natural window lighting.

My response.  I think these are my strongest images in the set and possibly the most dynamic.


The first image focuses on the metallic texture of the barrel of the lens. I think perhaps slightly more exposure would improve the image without losing the detail. The image does depict wear and tear and the texture grain of the metal and paintwork.

My response.  I wanted to show the wear and tear on the lens, including the crack in the lens hood, in a small area but agree longer exposure (particularly define the crack) would have made a better shot for this section.

Your second image taken with natural light shows the length of the body of the lens in more detail and the focussing rings shows off the texture to very good effect.


The two shots of this part of the theme taken using studio flash complement the colours found on the lens and in particular emphasise the fact that the lens does show colour in more detail as a close up, as the body of the lens is dominantly of a greyish tinge. In addition, the two images also depict the texture of the object.

You have dealt with this assignment practically using different lighting techniques to show the required techniques. One can see that soft lighting does produce more detail compared to direct sunlight or harsh flash lighting.

My response.  I wondered if the subject I chose was too dull but in the selection process I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what difference, if anything, the choice of lighting can make to a relatively uninteresting subject.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

Thank you for including your exercises in the follow up from assignment 3. With Measuring exposure, higher and lower intensitivity etc. You are fully up-to-date with these exercises, which are amply illustrated. It is good to read that you have enjoyed this assignment and learnt from it giving you some added knowledge to take forward.

Keeping sketchbooks and a learning log/blog is an integral part of this and every other OCA course, not only because they constitute 20% of your marks if you choose to have your work formally assessed but they are also an excellent way to see how you are developing.

Your Blog is also up-to-date with good references from research and reflection.

Suggested reading/viewing

Have a look at these sites from fellow OCA students for inspiration.

Looked  at this and thought that it is a well presented brochure.  A lot of text is used – but used well, and I noticed that the number of images exceeded the brief of the assignment so there appears to be room for a bit of flexibility.

I liked Andy’s detailed description of the photos used (again exceeding the number recommended) and the finished result in its PDF form.  I thought the cover shot, as in the previous example, to be a crucial choice and that will be something I need to consider carefully.  My only comment is relating to the two monochrome images which seem to jar against the excellent colour shots particularly, in the case of the restaurant shot, in the use of what appears to be HDR.

Pointers for the next assignment

Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative. Page 180 explains the requirements for this assignment. You may wish to look at these student examples for comparison.

Unfortunately this post is no longer available.

I really liked the magazine format of this with its contents summary page and strong graphical elements.

This is more of a blog entry and there was no indication of the finished product so to speak.  As the wildlife shots were very good, and cover shots are indicated, it would have been interesting to see how they would have been presented.

As a measure of how effective Nicola’s magazine on the art festival at Pittenweem was, after reading I immediately wanted to find out more about the village.  I liked the use of varying sizes of shots and the choice of cover shot with its space for text (something else to consider) was excellent.  Again there were more images than the brief suggests so I am mindful that this can be exceeded if necessary.



Assignment 4 Applying lighting techniques

This assignment requires you to bring out physical properties of one object under the following categories; Shape, Form, Texture and Colour.

Due to personal circumstances I had to choose something in the house (my original choice was a monument in the cemetery I have previously visited)  After some consideration the object I chose was my zoom lens as I thought it had an interesting shape and was, I felt, relevant to the course anyway.  I photographed it both in natural light:-


and with studio lights with a lot of variations:-

Lens shots




For the first shot illustrating the shape of the lens I thought I would use the strong mid morning shadows to give a feel of the shape without giving away too much of any detail or texture.


Natural light through window to right of image.

The second shot I chose for illustrating shape was this one:-


Diffused studio light (through soft box) directly behind lens.

The portrait  setting accentuates the length of the object (in this stance) and the light, behind a diffuser, behind the lens emphasises the shape but hides the details.


Form is described as illustrating the volume of an object an a three dimensional way.  I take it to show the space it occupies.  In the previous two shots because of their two dimensionality you do not get any idea of space.  This shot on the other hand gives a much better idea the space the lens takes up and we can see some detail now but the main emphasis is on the bulk, as it were, of the lens.


Diffused studio light (through umbrella) to left of image, reflector sheet to right to bounce light into lens hood to bring detail out.

The next shot, while superficially similar to the vertical shot in Shape above, gives much information by virtue of changing the angle slightly and its possible to see the depth in the petals of the lens hood and the “roundness” of the lens.  Again because of the lighting some more detail is now visible.



Natural light to the left through window.



In both this and colour below I took this to be about highlighting the relevant bits of the object in question.   In this case the lens has seen a lot of use and has the marks/damage to show it:-


Studio light at right angles to object on the right hand side (shot through umbrella)

But it also has an interesting contrast in the smooth-ish silver of the body of the lens (which in itself is unusual and actually not that smooth when viewed closely) and the black ribbing of the zoom and focusing rings and I think this image with its highlight along the body of the lens highlights these aspects of it:-


Natural light, lens is facing the low sun (taken early in the morning.


Colour was a bit tricky in the sense that there is not a lot of it in the object and in some ways, while the following two shots indicate what colour there is, to a degree they could also be texture shots, by their close up nature.


Studio Flash (low power) through umbrella to right of subject.

The next shot highlights the gold contacts of the lens, and I like the converging curves in the shot.



Studio spot to left of subject

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I think there is a good range of composition and lighting here, with enough variety to maintain interest and give the viewer a reasonable amount of knowledge about the subject.  There were ideas I had (for instance shining a strong light through the lens) which didn’t come off but feel I have made good use of artifial lighting (which again is not something I use that often)

Quality of Outcome

I think  I’ve taken shots that cover the brief of the assignment but think that, because of the subject the colour section is probably the weakest, however I am happy with the overall results.

Demonstration of Creativity

I think this has been good with the use of both natural and artificial light (the latter being of various types) and the range of shots has been instrumental in giving a broad view of the subject.


I have re read Light Science and Magic and have been more aware of angles,reflections etc as a result.   I think I need to practice a lot more with the set ups in the book so it becomes more second nature.  I found myself spotting things after I’d taken the shot which would have been better spotted prior to taking it.

I would add that the exercises and assignment were more enjoyable to me than the previous one and they have made me more considered in the my approach to lighting I think.




Light is Location – Talk by Kate Hopewell-Smith

This talk was a free event provided by Amateur Photographer and Nikon (of whom Kate is an ambassador) and I was lucky enough to bag a ticket.

Kate’s website is here

Her talk gave a background to her career which surprisingly only began in 2007 and is, as she pointed out an example of what can be achieved in the industry (even in this time of increased competition – I would add)  I liked the quote she used – “In the right light at the right time everything is extraordinary – Aaron Rose”  – and I have to confess that I hadn’t heard of Mr Rose, but agree 100% with his comment.

What I found most interesting and clearly pertinent to the part of the course I am now doing, is her use of natural light.


Copyright by Kate Hopewell – Smith. image used with permission.

Kate explained that she used the full canvas of the setting with one powerful key-light – the sun. She pointed out that the modern digital camera, for all its strengths, is still a computer which reads reflected light and fails in tricky light conditions.  She shoots manually and does not “pre scout” locations as light cant always be anticipated, and meters for the highlights.

She had a list of some pointers for producing good natural light work:-

Front Light

  • Not good for form enhancing
  • Location should be based on direction of light
  • Overcast light not good for portraits
  • Make sure you can see the colour of the subject’s eyes
  • differentiate between portrait (ie directed) light and location light
  • flat light requires more work on composition
  • direct sun not good for portraits – squinting.
Side light (“In order for the light to shine so brightly the darkness must be present” – Francis Bacon)

Copyright by Kate Hopewell – Smith. image used with permission.


Copyright by Kate Hopewell – Smith. image used with permission.

  • Form enhancing but takes precision to get right
  • Chiaroscuro (Check out here:-
  • easier to work with individuals than groups*
  • Use window for light source (Jane Bown?)
  • Not flattering for skin

Copyright by Kate Hopewell – Smith. image used with permission.

Back light
  • rim light or silhouette
  • can give warmth (glow)
  • may need to add light if subject in shadow -reflected light – add as needed

Additional Light

Flash added using TTL fill flash not spot metered starting at -2 stops flash exposure compensation.
 She used as an example a scene from 12 Years A Slave to illustrate the power of good lighting.
*I can verify this from personal experience some years ago I tried to do a copy of the With the Beatles album with my four kids, this is the nearest I got:-
with the browns
Many thanks to Kate for allowing me to use her images.

Shiny surfaces

The exercise is designed to give an insight into one way of dealing with objects with reflective surfaces.

For the subject I used a stainless steel coffee container and while this does not have the reflective qualities of say, a mirror, it nevertheless does reflect as can be seen in this shot:-


Coffee container shot from above – the photographer is clearly visible.  1/125 sec at F5 ISO 100

The background was black card (velvet not being available)  and I have to admit to having some difficulty in getting a useable tube out of an A1 size piece of tracing paper (which is I suppose a very basic form of light tent).  However after much stapling and trimming I managed to get it to fit round both the container and the camera lens and took this shot:-



With the tracing paper cone surrounding the container. 1/40 sec at F2.8 ISO100

As can be seen the tracing paper has diffused the light and removed the reflection.


Container with tracing paper around light source is lower than the previous shot and slightly to the right so shadows being created. 1/60 sec at F2.8 ISO 100.

I also laid the container on its side to see how the curve would affect the reflection:-


Container photographed without the tracing paper surrounding it. 1/80sec at F3.5 ISO 100


Container photographed with the tracing paper surrounding it. 1/80sec at F3.5 ISO 100

I have read (and need to re-read as I’ve forgotten a lot of it) Light Science and Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua which gives a lot of useful insights into lighting techniques.  The problem is with this aspect of photography is that unless you are using lighting regularly some techniques get forgotten.



Concentrating Light

I thought for this exercise I would reuse the set up in the previous one.

I used the Bowens mono light again in order to pick out the lighter in the middle of the set which, in the previous exercise was consistently in shadow.  The adjustable and focusable spotlight style of the monolight means a relatively small are can be highlighted:-

DSC04090 DSC04094-3

The reason I reused this setup was to see if by combining the modelling light/flash to the left and Bowens on the middle whether a better overall shot could be obtained, than any of those in the previous exercise. and I think it could:-


Could do with a bit of tweaking but I think this does indicate what can be done with more than one light source.  I would also get a better background!

Contrast and shadow fill

The exercise is designed to show the effect of using a reflector.

The set up was as follows:-



Light source was a Bowens moonlight (see previous post) with curtains closed reflector (when used at right angles, and to the right of the subject.



Plain light








With diffuser

As it turned out I didn’t think the series of shots with this arrangement worked to well so I altered it slightly to improve the shadow content so to speak.   I also used a black reflector for the first two shots in this series as the white walls were reflecting too much:-


Plain light


With diffuser. Note how the ridges in the cigarette case on the right are better defined.


White card/reflector three foot to the left from subject. Some detail on the tobacco tin on the left becoming apparent.


White card about eighteen inches to the right from subject. A bit more detail now discernible.


Matt silver reflector three foot to the left of subject. Better lighting, though not perfect, on the tobacco tin.


Matt silver reflector eighteen inches to the left of subject. Again an improvement in the lighting, though still not perfect its a bit clearer as to the detail on the tin.


Crumpled silver paper three foot to the left of subjects giving a more even spread of light.


Crumpled silver paper eighteen inches to the left of subjects Compared to the previous shot there is not so much of a difference in the lighting due to nearness. I can only hypothesize but as the crumpling scatters the reflected light at all angles moving loser does not mean the light is necessarily more concentrated on the subject.


I also tried a gold reflector (to stand in for the bright silver paper) – this is at three foot from the subject.


Gold reflector at eighteen inches from subject gives a nice warm fill in effect on the tobacco tin.

The exercise then asks for the shots to be placed in order of strength of contrast and I would list them (strongest first) as shown below:-


plain light


Diffuser no reflector


White card reflector three foot away


White card reflector eighteen inches away


Gold reflector three feet away.


Matt silver reflector three feet away


Crumpled silver reflector three feet away


Crumpled silver reflector eighteen inches away


Matt silver reflector eighteen inches away


Gold reflector eighteen inches away

Interesting exercise in that it shows the reflective power (or lack thereof) of different colour surfaces/materials.  What was fascinating is how crumpling up the silver foil dramatically reduces its reflective power.




The lighting angle

The exercise asks you to keep the camera in a fixed position (on a tripod) and aimed horizontally at the subject. I decided initially to use this patinated tankard and place it on a some shoeboxes on a table to get the right level, covered by a towel. I used a plain wool blanket hung over the window to create a bright plan back ground.


Light at front of subject


Light at left hand side of frame










Light at rear and left










After doing the required number of shots I thought the tankard wasn’t showing the effects of moving the lighting well enough as it was too smooth.  So I repeated the exercise with a wooden snuff box, placed at a slight angle to the camera:-


Light in line with camera


Light at left of subject at ninety degrees







Light at rear left of subject
Light directly behind subject









light to rear and right of subject


Light to right of subject.








Front Light at 45 degrees


Light at left at 45 degrees








Light at rear left at 45 degrees


Light behind subject at 45 degrees








Light at right of subject at 45 degrees.


Light at left of camera at 45 degrees






Lit from above

Of all the shots above I think the second (shot from the left and level) is the most effective.  It brings out the detail but provides sufficient shadows to show the depth of the carving on the box and thus give a 3d effect to the image.