Controlling light & shadow: interiors.

Lighting was the priority for today’s perspective class. We ran through a slideshow up in the homeroom that demonstrated how light plays upon a subjects surface due to its positioning/angling. In particular, we looked at a church model. This was a great example due to its geometric planes shifting in depth due to the shadow projected upon it. Light is a beautiful thing; it manifests and reveals various shades to our eyes through the way in which it bounces off of solid colours all around us. Photography is the perfect art for capturing the special beauty of light and shadow.

We tended to focus specifically on faces today. There are a lot of angles that can be used to light a face, and each way will produce a different sort of feeling toward the overall image. As humans naturally associate darkFree_portrait_lighting_posterness with negative connotations and light with purity, a photographer must consider what sort of lighting will emphasise the correct emotion and story that they’re trying to portray onto their subject/overall composition. Dan provided this excellent poster that demonstrates an array of such lighting angles.

The type of lighting is also an important consideration to make. Soft light will make an image appear more flat, smooth and surreal while hard light will emphasise details and create stronger planes of shadow and light. Filtered light (or camera filter lenses), coloured card, tungsten lighting and so on will also affect colouration.

We were also fortunate to have time in the photography studios to have a look at these methods in action. Learning about the names for everything was a bit overwhelming and I will admit I don’t remember all of it…but I understand that you must be careful with the equipment in set up and pack down because its blimmin’ expensive! It was great to use some students as models; seeing the light being manipulated with the large black and white boards. Although I have a great interest in photography, I certainly have little to no experience in a studio situation. So it was really good to get in there and take a look at the equipment.

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Prior to this lesson we were meant to take a look at a film of our choice to explore the light used within it. I immediately thought about the film called Sunset Boulevard by Billy Wilder (when Dan asked about the Film Noir genre it made me chuckle to myself because this is exactly what Sunset boulevard falls under). This film uses classic Noir lighting techniques to depict a character (Norma Desmond, her mansion and her obsession with fame) and setting that is eccentric, deluded and suffocating. What is known as low key lighting is used a lot in order to depict such connotations throughout the film. Low key lighting creates what is called the ‘chiaroscuro effect’. This simply refers to a high contrast in light and dark. Here are some images from this film to demonstrate what I mean:

In some frames, we can see the key light is projected from a light projector, which lights the outlines of her features, mainly the hair line. This is coming from the top left of the composition. In a lot of these shots, hard lighting has been selected. This design decision was chosen to portray the character with a more animalistic, dramatic and fierce nature. in some cases the lighting seems to be farther away, up high…while others are a bit closer and the source is even made known, such as the projector. This reinforces the characters desire to remain in the limelight as a great film star. In terms of colouration, black and white is the Film Noir genre, translating to dark/shadow film. To be honest, in this case, I do not really know how to speak about the contrast between key and fill lighting. I think in the bottom left image, the key light would be that of the projector light, while a light source from below allows the male and female characters bodies to be seen in the shot too. I would say the key lighting is definitely a lot brighter than the fill, for the key lighting is what is used to really accentuate the characteristics and connotative story conventions throughout the film.

I really enjoy discussing film and photography techniques; there is such an array of skills to be learnt! It is a lot to take in but very enjoyable to learn new things! As I’ve previously mentioned, I have not had any studio or dark room experience, so to be able to have access to such teaching/knowledge/facilities is a wonderful thing. Overall a good day!

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