Project 3: Studio Lighting – ‘Ex nihilo’

26th July 2021

Introduction

Below extracts are from the OCA EYV course work folder page 88:

  • You don’t discover light in the studio, you build and shape it ‘ex nihilo’ – out of nothing. 
  • Studio work is highly technical and you really need to know your equipment inside out.
  • Studio lighting can be understood in terms of quality, contrast, direction and colour. In the studio each of these characteristics is under the control of the photographer.

Quality

Below extracts are from the OCA EYV course work folder page 89:

  • Quality, as you’ve seen, is subjective, but at its most basic it can be described as the simple distinction between hard and soft light. You can tell if a light is hard or soft simply by looking at the shadows.
  • A hard light has a crisp, well-defined shadow whereas the shadow of a soft light is diffused. 
  • A small light source such as a spotlight (or the sun in the sky) gives a hard light…
  • … a large light source such as a softbox (or an overcast sky) creates a soft light.
  • Moving the light away from the subject will make it relatively smaller (and harder)…
  • … while bringing it towards the subject will make it relatively larger (and softer). 
  • Very soft light is the signature style of Paris-based photographer Jean-Baptiste Huynh (b.1966). Huynh places a large softbox very close to his subjects to achieve a soft ‘wrapping’ effect.

Jean-Baptiste Huynh

Fig. 1 Huynh, JB. (2019) Kenya, Portrait 12
Fig. 2 Huynh, JB. (2005) Ethiopie, Portrait 33

Contrast

Below extracts are from the OCA EYV course work folder page 90:

  • Contrast is controlled in the studio by a second light source called a fill light, which can be just a white card acting as a simple reflector.
  • Contrast is measured as a simple ratio between the highlights and shadows.
  • With some care and patience you can measure the lighting ratios of a scene using your camera’s spot meter.

Direction

Below extracts are from the OCA EYV course work folder page 90:

  • In the studio, the key light determines the direction in which shadows fall and also creates form, shape and texture.
  • A lot of the creativity in lighting lies in deciding where to place the key light.
  • Irving Penn (1917–2009) produced many of his most famous portraits lit with a skylight, proving that you don’t need studio lights for studio photography. 

Colour

Below extracts are from the OCA EYV course work folder page 90:

  • Colour can be used decoratively but it has a strong connotative element.
  • In the studio colour is created either by gels placed over the light, or by light bounced from a coloured reflector.
  • … a gold reflector, which adds warmth to skin tones.
  • It’s usual to light backgrounds separately from the subject. It’s possible to add a separate colour to the background as a visual effect, although this can also be done later in Photoshop or another editing tool. 

I will research studio lighting further and add links to blog posts below as they are completed.

Illustrations

Fig. 1 Huynh, JB. (2019) Kenya, Portrait 12 (Photograph) At: https://www.jeanbaptistehuynh.com/en/series/kenya-2019/#gallery-8 (Accessed 27.07.2021)

Fig. 2 (2005) Ethiopie, Portrait 33 (Photograph) https://www.jeanbaptistehuynh.com/en/series/ethiopie/#gallery-13 (Accessed 27.07.2021)


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