Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lighting the Scene

Back to Main Page

Lighting the Scene

Lighting plays an important role in photography. Proper lighting adds depth, mood, interesting shadows and artistic appeal. When we shed light onto a subject, it can make the image dramatically more beautiful.
Natural sunlight, diffuse natural daylight, and artificial lighting of all kinds can help to convert a good photo into an outstanding photo.
To demonstrate, I'll use an "oh vs. WOW" comparison.

oh . . . what a pretty flower.

wow!  what a pretty flower!
In the first photo, the Spiderwort wildflower lacks direct sunlight and while it's pretty, the image is rather flat.  In the second photo, direct sunlight adds depth and shadows and makes the flower more visually exciting.

A side-by-side comparison
Without contradiction, the well-lit flower is the better image.  What light does for flowers, it also does for jewelry, so light is not to be avoided, it's to be embraced!
But light must also be controlled as we shall now see.

If the light is too intense, it can make the image too bright, or in photographic parlance, overexposed, so it becomes necessary to learn how to make camera adjustments.
Spiderwort in direct midday sunlight with no camera adjustments.

Same wildflower, same sunlight but with the EV decreased two stops.
In the first image, the entire flower is overexposed and many of the details are completely blown out.  
The second photo is the same flower, only 5 seconds later after decreasing the EV two stops. That simple change helped the camera capture all the pretty details of the flower. 
Isn't it amazing how one little change can make such a dramatic improvement.

Your camera has an exposure value setting, indicated either by the letters "EV" or by the symbol "+/-".  The exposure value can be either increased or decreased in increments called stops.  There are 6 stops up and 6 stops down.
When you want to make your photo more appealing by shedding light directly onto your subject, if the image is then too bright, you can decrease the EV. 

Lighting is a constant source of aggravation for many artisans.  Jewelry is different than wildflowers because it's often shiny and reflective so lighting can cause glare, flare and radical local overexposure.
In essence, the jewelry artisan wants the sparkle but not the glare.
Local artisans sometimes ask me to help them with their jewelry photos, so I've done my fair share of tutoring and complimentary photo shoots.
The people I help are astounded to discover that lighting never gives me any trouble. It makes no difference to me whether I'm using natural daylight or artificial indoor light.  I simply don't have the kinds of problems other people have, so I will attempt to explain my methods here. 

I've found that low-angle, indirect natural daylight is the best for shooting jewelry.
I place a table next to a window which faces 90 degrees away from the path of the sun.
I schedule the shoot for late afternoon when the angle of the sun is low and streaming into the window.
I place my jewelry and scene props on the table and rotate the scene (or the table) until the incoming sunlight gives me the effect I desire.
Then I adjust my zoom level and EV and viola!  The low sunlight gives me true colors and dynamic effect.
I use the same method for indoor lighting.  I simply set up the scene and reposition my floor lamp until I see the desired effect.  The only difference being that in addition to setting the zoom and EV, I may also need to change the white balance to obtain true color.  White balance is covered in the section about Color Correction.  
This section will be continually evolving in the weeks ahead.  I plan to add photos of actual pieces of jewelry shot on the table in both sunlight and indoor light.
I'm also presently experimenting with circular polarizers on compact cameras and excited about the kinds of benefits these magic devices provide.
Polarizers reduce glare and remove reflections from shiny surfaces such as glass, gemstones and metals.
So, check back every so often for these updates.
Remember . . . light is not to be avoided . . . it's to be embraced!     

Like my blog?            Like my Facebook Fan Page also!            Beware . . . I Like Back!   

Back to Main Page