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Studio and Lighting: Second Half

My Studio and Lighting class is now over, although I did miss the fifth class and will be making that up in late September. I’ll cover classes 3, 4 and 6 in this post and then write another one about our model shoot in the last class.

IMG_0867Class 3 covered the zone system, tone control and background lighting. We set up a portrait of the dummy and took multiple shots, varying the background lighting to make it come out as zone 5, zone 7, white, zone 3, and black. As homework for this class we had taken pictures of a monotone surface exposed at a number of different zones – this helped us determine which zone we needed to use for white and black for our individual cameras. For my 40D, pure white is about 4 stops up and black is 3 stops down from middle gray. More light than +4 stops would also create white, but this could screw some things up by bouncing back (flare, effects on primary object, etc.). Finally, we reviewed the different types of meters: reflective and incident.  The former measures the light bouncing off the subject – this means you have to have a vision of the zones you want each part of the shot to be. Incident metering measures the light coming into the scene, so it will always be exposed correctly, but you will not have creative control over the exposure. Incident metering is like holding up a gray card and taking a reflective reading of it.

IMG_0872The fourth class was about “making the light pretty” or hard versus soft light.  Light quality is not contrast, which is controlled by the intensity of the fill light. With natural light, you can have low contrast light that is soft (shade) and high contrast light that is hard (noon time sun with no clouds). The quality is determined by the size of the light source – the bigger the source, the softer the light. Hard light creates sharp shadows, while softer light creates more of a gradient between light and dark. As a photographer, you can make light softer by using accessories like umbrellas, bounce cards, and soft boxes. A snoot or honeycomb grille make the light harder.  The latter are available in various percentages and create a spotlight effect.  Grilles are useful on separation lights to limit the light pointed at the camera (where it could cause flare). We also covered some basic formulas for portrait lighting. Turning a subject’s head, instead of taking a straight-on mug shot, typically creates a more pleasing shot. A butterfly setup places a light high above, straight ahead of a model’s face, creating a butterfly-shaped shadow under the nose. Rembrant is shooting the short side of a subject (seeing less of the face when a model’s head is turned) with a triangle of light created by the key light shining over the bridge of the nose.

IMG_0884Class 6 covered product photography. You don’t have to direct the pose of objects the way you would people, since you can set them up as you wish, but every object is different and has its own challenges. Professional photographers often specialize in a particular class of object because it is difficult to shoot everything well. The class was mostly hands on, shooting a wine glass. The glass is an extremely difficult object to shoot because it is round, reflective, and transparent – three major challenges objects can present. Objects have 4 different areas of light falling on them: the shadow, the diffused highlight, the diffused highlight shadow transfer area, and the specular highlight. The latter is a reflection of the light source, so in setting up a shot you have to adjust the distance and position of your lights in order to get the specular highlights to look the way you want.  Since the object is transparent, you can only meter the background (since light passes right through the object). Once we had some decent shots set up and taken, we filled the glass with water had some fun dropping in a quarter and catching a shot of the splash.  The flash and quick shutter speed allows us to stop the action and get some cool looking pictures.  Finally, we shot a liquor bottle by lighting it from underneath, creating a cool effect.