The Difference That Light Makes

One of the things that can’t be stressed enough, as of late, is the significance of lighting. In many instances it can quite literally make the photo, or ruin it. With these examples from a current project I’m working on for class, a fairly run-of-the-mill still life, I feel like I can adequately convey how and why. The first of the three photographs (all shot within a third of a stop of the meter), a simple still life of a guitar and amplifier head against a canvas backdrop, employs the use of a round reflector lamp (specular) at about a 70-90 degree angle to the camera. This was about what I determined to be the most conducive arrangement for the subject matter. As shown below, the exposure is generally decent, albeit with some exaggerated highlights that are somewhat distracting. Despite this setback, the first photo did retain somewhat faithful color true to life. Efforts to repair the issue of blowing out by slightly underexposing did not yield the same detail in the color, however.

The second photograph was taken under the same conditions, generally speaking, but with some of the light from the lamp blocked by a fill card, and the exposure adjusted to compensate. It seems pretty definitive, to me at least, that the issue of blown out highlights is nearly entirely remedied, with the color definition also remaining about where it was, if not, even better. The fill card’s effect on the second photo also included the facilitation of a slight vignette appearing along the upper frame, more or less solidifying the composition and making for a generally better example.

The third photograph, employing “loop” or “butterfly” lighting, which is common in fashion photography for its slimming and sleek effect, would clearly be the wrong choice in a setting such as this. The direct light on a largely reflective surface essentially yields irreparably defined highlights and the lack of dynamic shadow robs the photo of the same aesthetic qualities that the others possess. Although, maybe if I were shooting a human subject rather than a guitar, that would not be the case.

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