Exercise 4.4

Exercise 4.4

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.

You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.

Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial. For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card. You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.

Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.

Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.


Photo 1: ISO 800, 85mm, F4.5, 1/125 seconds.

Photo 2: ISO800, 85mm, F10, 1/30 Seconds

Photo 3: ISO800, 68mm, F10, 1/8 Second

Photo 4: ISO800, 85mm, F10, 1/30 seconds


I used a construction site light as the light source (at night so no other light present) for these photos and shot them indoors with a white background.

  • The quality of light varies depending on its distance to the object, when it was closer it created stronger shadows and more contrast.
  • Using no fill and altering the direction of light will increase the contrast. Which can help you focus in on the detail.
  • The more sideways lighting created focus and detail which then contrasted to the other side being photographed.
  • When using a gold reflector, it created a warm, ambient effect with the lighting and removed some of the shadows. It also helped to reveal detail upon the side which was not directly lit.
  • When using a different coloured light, it brought out some of the colours differently in the object. In this project the colour is quite subtle, but I can imagine how using a stronger colour light source, could create quite a dramatic effect.
  • The white reflector was useful as a fill to create a more even light source for the object. It did not alter the light in any way.
  • It was also useful to note that the quality of light also depended on where I was taking the photograph from. The closer I got, the effect of lighting on the object were more apparent. I can therefore see the difference in this project in comparison to my landscape photos in 4.2. The light had less of a dramatic or detailed effect on the landscape as it was even and spread over a large area.
  • There is a similarity in the daytime shots to the shot when I use a white reflector and an almost head on lighting source.
  • My shutter speeds were slower just like the artificial light shots in 4.3.  I had to take care with these shots when keeping the camera steady so as to not blur the picture and lose detail.

Lighting Diagram