Exercise 12: Contrast & Shadow Fill

For this exercise I am to look at how the use of reflectors can be used to effect how the light falls onto the subject which effects contrast and shadow fill. I used a rather detailed and solid object as my subject matter for this exercise, I hoped the detail and size of the shadow from it would help to illustrate the exercises teachings as clearly as possible.

I have opted to use my 5-in-1 reflector instead of different pieces of card, paper and foil. It enables me to use something which I will continue to use therefore allowing me to learn more about its uses and effects.

Contrast is the difference between light and dark, highlights or shadows in an image and generally speaking when boosting the contrast in the image the colours become brighter and more opposing against each other, while the opposite occurs when reducing.

“The third important characteristic of a photographic light is its contrast. A light source has high contrast if its rays all strike the subject from nearly the same angle. Light rays from a low- contrast source strike the subject from many different angles.” – Light, Science, and Magic, page 19.

The quote above from book, Light Science, and Magic is a perfect example of what this exercise is looking for me to do and experiment with, a subject lit with a high contrast source like an un-diffused light and similarly to a diffused light although with less impact as seen below. The un-diffused light produces a strong shadow and a very strong contrast between light and dark on the subject, although this is still the case in the diffused image the contrast is less with more detail appearing on the shadowed side. This is due to the light angled at the subject from a single source the the right of the camera.

When we use a reflector to bounce the light in a determined direction, normally back across a subject, it becomes a low contrast source as we are bringing light onto a subject from multiple angles. Different reflectors have different properties and within my 5-in-1 reflector there are 4 to choose from and a translucent center section. The white bounces light off strongly, effecting the image greatly, as does the silver, this maintains a cool tone to the light whereas the golden side gives a warmer tone. Finally the black side doesn’t reflect the light but instead removes the light from that direction. It can be used as a curtain on lights and other light sources effecting the subject.

The first three images here show the effects of the white reflector on the subject at different distances, while the light, camera, and subject remain in the same position and settings.

As its clear to see in these images the closer the white reflector is to the subject the bigger differences and reductions in shadow fill and contrast. This results in a more flat lighting appearance.

In these three images above I have used a silver reflector at the same distances as before, I had expected the silver to produce more of a reflection than the white but as is clear to see in each image, the light difference in the shadows especially and the contrast of the subject it is less that the white. This may be due to the crumpled effect of the silver reflector that seems to be more obvious than the white when looking at.

This image was taken using the golden reflector at a distance of 1/2 a meter and the colour cast given by the reflector certainly effects the overall image and gives a warmer tone not only to the background but the subject as well.

It was an interesting exercise in the use of a reflector and its vast effect on the shadow and contrast. I have used reflectors many times in the past with studio work and have at certain times made my own at specific sizes and shapes to effectively reduce shadow in images so this exercise, although interesting to undertake in a controlled environment rather than trial and error as I had been it is clear to me the importance of the contrast and shadow fill and how to control it.


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