Part 4 Project 3 – Exercise 4.3

Artificial Lighing

Light is the key element in capturing an image. Yes we can play around with the settings and open the aperture and lengthen the shutter speed, but we still need an element of light to capture the image. For example lets say, you have a black coat in a dark room that has no light element, lets add the fact that its the middle of the night to the scenario, you will not be able to capture the image of the black leather jacket at all. It doesn’t matter how much you play around with the settings.


f/11 10sec ISO200 55mm

In daylight we have the sun and natural light to use (see exercise 4.2) but at night or indoors some sort of artificial light will be required. In exercise Part 3 Exercise 3.2  the room was very dark and the only light I used was a small torch, this was more than enough light to record my self portrait. I had to use a long exposure, 10 seconds, in order to allow light to reach the sensor and for the image to be recorded. (see image left)

f/2.8 1/10 ISO320

f/2.8 1/10 ISO320

On the other hand, in the image of my grandsons birthday celebrations, the light from a candle, which was bright enough to light the scene without using a long exposure, was more than enough to record the image. In the photograph I took on bonfire night 2014, the

f/2.8 1/15 ISO1600

f/2.8 1/15 ISO1600

grandchildren only had sparklers to light the scene, but because I was using a high ISO, the resulting image was quite grainy.

There are various ways the subject can be lit artificially, ambient light, using flash or studio lighting.

Ambient light is light that can be utilised at the scene. Rut Blees uses artificial light in her images of street scenes, using lamp light and neon lighting. Her exposures can be between 10 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and amount of light available. Other scorces are the moon, which can be used alone as a light source, but for this a longer exposure may well be needed. On a recent visit to Wales, I went to the beach late at night, there was no substancial lighting, so using a 30 second exposure I was able to create the image of the rocks on the shore line. This image has blues and reds recorded. The reds came from the sky and distant street lights, while the blue tones came from a torch I was directing onto the rocks in a circular motion.

f/2.8 30sec ISO80

f/2.8 30sec ISO80

Ambient light can add mood to a photograph, but it can also cause problems. Depending on how much light there is and its strength will determine how long the exposure needs to be.  When working with long exposures a tripod will be needed to make sire that the camera is held steady and the image is pin sharp.

Additionally, when using street lighting and your subject is directly below the light source,  harsh shadows will be created. A bit like when a child holds up a torch to their face in a dark room to create a monster.  Another problem that can occur if the subject is back light, is that a silhouette of the subject is created, and all the detail is lost. Although, depending on where the light is coming from,  and its strength a reflector could be used to eliminate and illuminate the dark areas.

Most cameras including mobile phones have a built in flash that can take care of some lighting problems. Flashes these days work in sync with the shutter . When the shutter opens the flash operates automatically.

problems such as ‘red eye’ in portraits are dealt with a double flash. No calculations are required for this, as technology has been added which means by the flick of switch the camera will carry out the procedures needed. But by no means are all. when using a flash  the problems solved.  Shadows can occur if the flash is too strong/weak or you are too close to the subject as they may well be too well lit or not enough light is reaching the subject to give the correct exposure and the resulting image will be too dark or bright respectively.

An external flash can be fitted onto the hot shoe of the camera. Most external flashes can be manipulated so that light can be bounced off the ceiling. This will produce a more natural diffused light and will eliminate some of the problems highlighted.

Finally, studio lighting can be used to illuminate the subject. Depending on what you want to photgraph and its size, light boxes can be used for small items. These can produce soft lighting around the subject resulting in a shadow free image if the lighting is correctly placed. Soft boxes can be used for portraits. This subject has already been covered in detail. Click here to go to the page

Exercise 4.3

I decided to take some indoor shots as well as outdoor shots. To take the indoor shots, I worked at night in the living room. I used the flat sceen TV as my background and black books to stand my figurines on. I used a table lamp as my light source.  I used a tabletop tripod to keep the camera steady. But in the two shots below, I draped a British flag over the lamp and took one shot, then I removed the flag and took a second shot, this produced a red glow, which was reflected in the final image. These two shots were taken close to the lamp, while the other shots were taken on the other side of the room. This made a big difference to the exposure.


f/18 10sec ISO800


f/18 5sec ISO800



f/6.3 1sec ISO800


f/6.3 1sec ISO800


f/13 1sec ISO800

In the indoor shots, I found that the quality suffered if I did not get the lighting right. Making sure that the shadows are not too dark and the highlights not too bright. Getting the right amount of lighting, where I wanted it took a little time.  If the light was too dark, the automatic focus found it hard to fix onto the subject, which meant that the shutter would not operate. Deciding on the mood, meant that there were many practice shots to get the right setting, although the histogram was a great help. I found I was using the histogram more in the shots above than I would normally use in day time shots. One of the differences I found between the day time shots and the night time shots is hard and soft lighting. In the daytime there was hard lighting, whilst in the night time shots I took the lighting was more diffused and produced a softer image.

IMG_7653How to make a cabbage look beautiful?? Put a little torch underneath a cabbage leaf and to me its beautiful….IMG_7668

I used a small torch under a curled up leaf here. The cabbage leaf was resting on some black photobooks with the tv used as a backdrop. I also used a tripod for this exercise.  It was late at night and there was not other light. I also took some shots with a pink scarf draped over a lamp, which changed the colour of the cabbage leaf.  This time I turned the leaf over and focused on the front rim of the leaf.

I took a close up shot of the veins in the leaf that produced a soft pale green tramway. Again the little torch was under the leaf.IMG_7640


In the flower to the right, I placed the torch to the right and slightly in front of it. This highlighted the tips of the each petal giving a soft glow.



In the past I have used back lighting, setting a piece of glass onto of 4 glass tumblers and having the light source underneath. The putting a slice of lemon on the glass for the shot. The same process was used for the flower head below.

In the image below, I used tiny salt grains on the washing machine, with a light source from a torch to give the long shadows and beams of arched light cascading from the top of the image.

As its Almost the end of May, the sun does not go down early and I had to want till almost 10pm before I could get out and take the night time shots. There was a problem in as much as all the lighting in our town is amber. This reflected in the shots I took, giving a sepia look to the shots.  I the very few places I could get a white light, didn’t seem to make that much difference and the amber light all around was still the strongest light source. All photographs were taken on Manual setting.

In the two images below, a car came past as the shutter was open and the car lights were recorded as it went by

David Campany interview with Rut Blees. Rut Blees images
Studio Lighting4.2
Part 4 Project 2 Exercise 
Part 3 Exercise 3.2
Reading – Photo and Digital Imaging by Jack Klasey


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