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5.7 - Play with a Light

Direction of Light

Do the following.

1) Purchase a light, such as this one.

Or, use a bright flashlight.

Set your camera on a table or use a tripod, as he shutter speeds will be long.

Or, use your flash if you have one that's separate from your camera.

Purchase an extension cord for the flash, so you can use the flash off of the camera.

2) Set up a still life.

3) Experiment

Place the light in different locations.

• Near camera

• To one side

• Behind the still life (backlighting)

Photograph each change in lighting.

4) After each picture, step back, and take a picture of the entire scene—the light and the still life.

By doing so, you'll have "notes" about how each lighting setup was done.

5) Compare the photographs side-by-side.

What Changing

The Direction Does

Direction Effect on the Light Because . . .

From the side

Shows the texture & volume of the subject

. . . the shadows created by side lighting give the viewer a sense of texture and volume.

From the camera, such as pop-up flash

Flattens the subject

. . . there are no shadows, so the viewer cannot see volume and texture very well.

From behind

Separates the subject from the background & emphasizes the subject's shape

. . . the increased separation is due to the dark subject against a bright background, as well as the bright lighting on the edges of the subject.

Size of the Light Source

If you're using a bright light, do the following.

1) Move the still life near a white wall that's to the left or right of the still life.

2) Photograph the still life with the light near the wall, but aimed directly at the still life.

3) Aim the light at the wall, bouncing the light from the wall toward the still life.

4) Compare the two photographs.

The photograph with the small light (directly aimed at the scene) will have darker shadows with sharper edges.

The photograph with the large light sources (the wall) will have brighter shadows with fuzzy edges.

What Changing

The Size Does

Size of the Light Effect on the Scene


Darker shadows with sharper edges


Brighter shadows with fuzzy edges