Assignment 4: Applying Lighting Techniques

For my fourth assignment in the Art of Photography course I am continuing looking at photographic lighting techniques and how you can apply them to the subject to emphasise and create specific characteristics, which in this case are colour, texture, form and shape. By focusing on a single subject matter and using photographic lighting to show each characteristic within the subject focuses me as the photographer to considerably think about the subjects design and natural characteristics and how best to show that with different lighting techniques so I can produce two images for each of the four themes.

I will be using my very basic studio lighting kit that consist of three studio strobe units, 2 soft boxes, barn doors, home made snoot and back drops to produce these images in a garage space just the right size to give me plenty of space. I have chosen to photograph a metal child’s tricycle, being over 35 years old and within the family for the whole time it has a somewhat sentimental meaning to both my mother and auntie, my brother and I and more recently my younger cousins who have all used this. Its of sturdy metal construction and when new was bright blue and silver which although still visible today, the dust and rust in places is starting to take its toll. In my feedback for the third assignment my tutor suggested when thinking of a subject for this assignment to think outside the box and not a more obvious subject like an ornament. This initially caused me to consider me subject very carefully and naturally I kept questioning of my subject was ‘different’ enough, it was until I thought of the trike as my subject matter. I felt the construction of it was traditional and sturdy which has an effect on the overall shape and form. I found the the aged patterned rust on the frame work and seating to give a very textured feel to the paintwork while in opposite to this the metallic blue paintwork coupled with the more matt finish of the silver gives an interesting colour to the overall tricycle. It was each of these characteristics coupled with what I thought was an unexpected subject matter that would mean this was a good and a right choice for the photographs. It also, being of slightly larger size hopefully shows my ability with lighting expands further than the tabletop examples seen in the previous exercises.

To contend with the size of the subject and also my pre-considered ideas for positioning I have, instead of placing the subject on the floor or upon a table decided to suspend the subject from the roof using fishing wire. This gives me a complete degree of access to the subject and allows the lighting angles to completely cover the subject allowing a more diverse and effective outcome hopefully.


0092 This first image, coupled with a lighting diagram is depicting the shape of the subject, I have backlit the scene giving a silhouette of the subject. I feel this is a traditional and almost expected image when looking at shape because the hard contrast between white and black effectively emphasises the shape and lines of a subject which is reminiscent of the photograms of Làzló Moholy-Nagy, which from a formal point of view is considered abstract art however they rely on realistic materials within there construction and development and when finished are identifiable [1]. When looking at a more solid subject matter we are able to see its outline however with this choice of subject the negative space caused by the design and angle of view allow the viewer a more detailed understanding of the subject and its three dimensional qualities.

As the diagram shows I lit this completely from behind ensuring the silhouetted subject stood out strongly from the white subject giving the viewer strong lines and an effective understanding of the shape.


This more dynamic positioning and perhaps unexpected view on the shape of the subject is just as effective as the previous image. Although considered in a more artistic sense with a more controlled and subtle lighting I feel it accurately shows the shape of subject and allows the viewer further understanding to its scale. I have used this subtle lighting as an opposite to the previous image in which the control was perhaps not as difficult to produce. I like how the lighting is consistent along the front handlebar along with the back rest which I think are the most significant pieces in showing the shape while the subtle reflection of the back rest in the seat adds to the subjects shape and construction. However I feel the image could be improved if there was slight more light on the rear left wheel as this would give more strength to the composition.

I have lit this from the right with a single light using it to pick out the shape of the subject to show the lines and contours in a more effective manner. I used a soft box with the light to diffuse it and angled it to give the imposing V shape in the handlebars a more prominent position. I feel the light did not carry well in this image with the back of the subject, especially the wheels suffering with a more obvious amount of shadow.


0217 Form is the understanding of the three dimensional nature of a subject and how to show its overall volume. I felt the same placement as the previous image would be a very good composition as its angled nature, both the body of the trike and the forward facing handle bars gives the viewer a good understanding of its depth and form by the movement in the handlebars and also the angle in which the body is at.

“Highlight and shadow together reveal form, shape, and depth.” Light, Science, and Magic, page 50.

I endeavoured to capture this composition without any aspect of the trike crossing another part as I felt that would effect the overall form and aesthetic elements. I think this shows the form and three dimensional elements of the subject well, it gives a good idea on the depth and scale but feel it could be improved with the use of a small reflector that effectively gives a bit more light to the darker red handle.

In this image I have aimed to strongly light the subject front he left while bouncing the light with the use of a reflector gently back onto the right of the frame, I did this using a soft box and reflector and if I was to do this image again I would ensure that the darker of the handlebars was correctly lit to match the other as I felt this would have balanced the subject more and removed unwanted shadows.

0212 IMG_0212-EditThis second image for form was an interesting and tricky image to capture, the space around the subject was restricted by the light being placed underneath the subject. I think the arrangement in this image is not only different and interesting but effectively gives a good representation to the three dimensional form of the subject while still being interesting eye catching. I like how the light is caught on the underside of the pedals, I feel this is important in giving the overall image a more visually captivating feel that then leads the eye further into the photograph. It could be further improved tho if I had managed to light the back rest bar slightly more, although it is visible it is very faint and a more effective light there would add to the overall representation of the subject.

I lit this image from below using a small floor tripod and restricted the light using barn doors and an opaque diffuser to soften the light. It took a small amount of tinkering with placement and strength until I felt the light was balanced throughout the image. Although there is little light at the top of the image I felt that the highlights of the lower parts of the tricycle depicted more of its form and depth which coupled with the placement complimented each other but in hindsight I would have liked to have lit the handlebars slightly more to make the red stand out against the blue.

Texture:0142 IMG_0142

For the images looking at texture I found it more effective to get closer on the subject and focus on elements that are not only textured but give further understanding to the construction and form. I have used a homemade snoot for this image, using black card I created a snoot shape placing it on the light as shown in the diagram. I adjusted the lightning as the concentrated impact was naturally over exposed initially but once I settled on the right power setting I found that by photographing at an almost ninety degree angle to the light which sends, as seen the shadows across the subject we pick up more of the texture due to the light source being level in height with the subject.

“The solution is to move the light to a very shallow angle to the surface so that it skims across” Light, Science, and Magic, page 63.

I like how it pics out the dust and alterations in paint while the rusted bolt that casts the shadow is an interesting and focal point that compliments the rest of the rust throughout the image, similar to a Jean Baptiste Huynh still life with a strong side light to accentuate the textures and form of a subject, for example his work with a meteorite is a brilliant observational image which focuses the viewer on the detail of the subject. A good food photograph leaves the viewer feeling as if they can taste what they’re seeing, and I would imagine a good image of texture would leave the viewer feeling as though they had touched the subject, I hope this gives the impression here.

Similar to the next image I have used a snoot to ensure the concentration of light fell where I wanted to pick out the texture, although in this image I haven’t used a reflector as the shadows and tonal range add far more to the texture on the seat, giving the rust a more natural and interesting appearance.

0157 IMG_0157With this second image of texture I have tried to incorporate more than just one texture, as in the first image we had the rust against the smoother areas of metal but here I have aimed to include in the composition the texture of rusted metal, smoothness of plastic and also the worn roughness of the rubber tyre. I feel that the culmination of these textures effectively gives the viewer a consistent view to the textures of the whole subject. I have lit this similarly to the previous, with a snoot but this time from the left rather than the right and in this image I have used a reflector, not directly next to the image as is apparent from the shadows but about half a meter away to act as more of a fill to bring the light onto the blue furthest the far right side. I have considered the composition of this image quite considerably opting to choose this one that focuses closer, losing some of the wheel. I feel that by doing this I have focused the image in a more abstract fashion which draws more attention to the texture but doesn’t have it as the sole aspect to the photography.

Using a snoot for this image I wanted to ensure that the light was concentrated on the wheel from a direct side angle while the use of reflector was merely to lift the right hand side shadows very slightly, however I don’t feel it worked to the desired amount so would have been more useful slightly closer to the subject.



For this first image depicting and focusing on the colour of the subject I have focused on using a very flat light that clearly shows the colours in a saturated and bright environment. This is a very formal and static composition that looks directly at the profile of the subject. The effect of this draws the viewer to the bright blue of the seat and frame, following to the wheels and finally noticing the red in contrast to the rest of the tricycle. I think this draws the viewer to the image and gives a good representation to the colours of the subject with the relatively flat and even lighting.

“Because we more often like to render metal bright, we usually want to create direct reflection rather than to avoid it. This means that we need to fill each family of angles with a light source.”  Light, Science, and Magic, page 134.

Shiny metal which I looked at in a previous exercise is notoriously difficult to photography without the resulting reflectiveness and distortion from the surroundings, this metal however was painted and effectively dull enough that I didn’t cause a problem.

This was on the surface a very bright and simple photograph, to properly light the background I needed to use two lights which left me only one for the subject, where as I was hoping to evenly light it from each side to give a strong saturated and bright image however with the use of the reflector to fill the shadows I was unable to get the full effect on the shadows which I feel although gives the subject more context on depth takes it away from the colours.

0005 IMG_0005

This image is similarly to an earlier image lit from below the subject. the overall lighting effectively picks out each colour element in the subject while still giving us an abstract over view of the trike. I have used smaller reflectors around the red handle to add further light here to pick it out against the darker background and give it more prominence with the brighter blue. I think this is an interesting and similar again to an earlier image, unexpected take on a colour themed photograph due to the black background but I think the use of the lighting and reflectors has picked out the colours against individually against the background.

For this image I have used a floor tripod allowing me to place the light directly below the subject, pointing up with the use of a barn doors I was able to direct the light on the underneath center of the subject which in this composition gives us an interesting arc of light along the bottom of the tricycle. I also adjusted the power of the light a number of times to ensure the light also reached the handlebar picking out the red to contrast with the blue.

Overall I have taken a lot of interest and information on techniques on lighting and how it can be used to effectively emphasise specific elements of a subject. I have previously worked with much smaller objects, lighting them for a more commercial specification so it was an exciting opportunity to use the lighting in a more artistic and controlled fashion that enabled me to see how different variations in positioning and uses of snoots, barn doors and soft boxes effect an image.

I found this assignment to be quite challenging, creating eight different compositions to effectively fit within four themes was harder than it seemed to begin with and at the planning stage, something I think which would remain a difficulty with a large variety of subjects. I think the choice of mine helped more than others could have and I also think that the decision to suspend it from the roof enabled me to create a more varied and dynamic selection of images however I think each could be improved upon by a more controlled lighting in a more minute sense, looking at specific areas of the subject and lighting them in a more comprehensive fashion however in this instance, time and materials alluded me.




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