Category Archives: Part One: Light

Assignment 4: Applying lighting techniques


This assignment is designed to demonstrate how effectively we can apply the different lighting techniques studied to date, by applying them to one object.  The chosen subject has to be something that can be easily moved around. The core of the assignment is to show the following qualities of the subject, one at a time, by means of the lighting, in eight separate photographs. The four themes being shape, form, texture and colour.

Initial thoughts

My first task was to clarify the definition of ‘object’, which for the purposes of the assignment, I’ve taken the literal interpretation of, which is ‘a material thing that can be seen and touched‘. This led to further deconstructing of ideas around the subject in regards to whether it could be one which could change shape and form, such as a vessel filled with water, a person, or a garment.

Having read through several of the OCA forum threads, the overall view was to avoid objects which were either too reflective or transparent, i.e. metal or glass, but apart from this, choice seemed open to personal interpretation, as long as the assignment aims could be met.

Although this made sense, I wanted to avoid the other extreme of the object being completely devoid of reflective properties. Preferring subjects with a degree of texture I initially considered things such as rope balls, rusted architectural forms and others too numerous to mention. Although all of the objects would have sufficed, I didn’t feel any particular affinity with them, and wanted something I already had in my possession which held a degree of interest or familiarity.

It was only when I was trying to clear a workable space on my desk that I moved an old box of slides recently unearthed, that I finally found my subject. I initially moved the box around and viewed it under different lighting sources to see if it would effectively show all the qualities required. The object had texture in the printed and raised text on the box itself, and the slide edges also conveyed texture well. Colour was well represented with the base of the box being a deep egg yolk yellow, and the top, an aged almost sepia based tone.

The possibility of using one or more of the slides themselves to demonstrate colour was another option, in conjunction with the object itself. Due to the subject’s transparent top, I felt it would be ideal in demonstrating both form and shape. Shape is the one theme that I’ve purposefully left until last as I felt it would present the biggest challenge. It was a very obvious and simple shape, which I felt might be difficult convey as anything other than boxy and boring. Separating the subject into individual components did concern me, and I wondered if this was twisting the remit of the assignment slightly.

Referring back through study notes, the words ‘demonstration of creativity‘ came to mind, along with ‘context‘ and ‘quality of outcome‘. With this in mind, I decided that a little dissemination was within the boundaries of the assignment brief. Apart from wanting to use a combination of natural, domestic and dedicated photographic lighting, I didn’t want to restrict myself to how many of each would be used.

My main aim was to ensure that a wide variety of lighting techniques were used to suit the individual themes. I also wanted to have fairly clean and simple lines throughout the series of images, without the background scenery overpowering the subject itself. Feedback from a previous assignment pointed to an ‘eclectic mix’ of styles, so I was keen to produce a more cohesive set of images for this one. My range of lighting equipment is quite basic, and consists of a slide projector, foil, LED camping light, and a light box.

The camera used was a Canon 5D with a tripod and cable release. The initial choice of lens was a 24-105mm but as this does not have a lens lock, it was difficult to use in downward facing shots due to lens creep. Therefore a Canon 50mm macro 1:2.5 was used instead. Post processing was carried out using a combination of Adobe Raw and Photoshop CS6. I’ve also just installed an X-rite colormunki display calibrator.

All images were taken in manual mode as I wanted to get more in the habit of working this way, and also to reduce the amount of post processing as a result. White balance settings were varied and are detailed against each image. Images have also been reduced in resolution for web purposes.


The definition of texture is, “the representation of the structure and minute moulding of a surface, as distinct from its colour“. My first consideration was whether to show purely texture without form or colour. A number of shots were therefore taken to see how revealing too much form or colour took the lighting emphasis away from texture. I also experimented with depth of field, and close cropping to isolate certain areas of text. The intent was to see if this would work more in tandem with the lighting technique used.

Researching the work of photographers who emphasised texture, I once again came across Edward Weston. He created richly detailed images of still life, particularly of natural forms, which tended to refer back to days when images were largely produced in black and white. This did make  comparisons difficult to make. Large format cameras were also used, so again the results are difficult to compare with today’s technology.

This led to further musings as to how photographs taken in the 1920s on less technically advanced equipment, could produce such amazing tonal ranges with their lighting techniques. Perhaps the labour intensive methods of seeing the final result instilled more determination in producing a piece of work, as opposed to the instant gratification of the digital age.

Having decided to retain colour, the required angle, and amount of detail to include in the shot, I used black velvet material as the background. The projector light was used to create the small light source needed for sharply defined shadows. In ‘Light, Science and Magic’ (2012) there were some useful lighting diagrams and suggestions for photographing reflective objects with texture. The key point being to light it sufficiently by skimming the surface, with the light source being far enough away to remain bright, but whilst still providing an even source across the object. This was also when the Inverse Square Law finally made sense.

To achieve an even light source, a piece of crumpled foil was used directly opposite the projector light to illuminate the left hand side. This caused too many highlights, so a wider aperture was then selected. By skimming the surface only, this also removed the issue of having light spilling onto the background. The raised text itself proved quite difficult to light, and took over twenty attempts. Moving the light even fractionally caused quite a dramatic shift in shadows on letters which were only around 1mm in depth.

Eventually I managed to achieve the required effect, which was to show more shadow on lettering on the right hand side in order to emphasise it, and convey less of a flat surface across the whole of the base. By cutting some of the text out on the left side, I also wanted to lead the eye towards the three main words on the right, which I think comes across. The brain automatically looks for order and closure, similar to the Gestalt laws of perceptual organisation. By showing only the text, and not overly emphasising form, I feel that any ambiguity as to which of the four themes is being demonstrated, has been achieved.

In post processing, contrast was increased and brightness was fractionally reduced.


1/125th f6.3 ISO 100 AWB

I’ve maintained the angle for the second shot demonstrating texture, as it is the flip side of the object, with the lid removed. Having experimented with just the slides themselves, I felt that the individual components should relate, at least partially to keep the set of images as a whole from becoming too fragmented. By slightly angling the object, contrast has been increased to emphasise texture, and also to reduce depth of colour which seemed to detract from the theme.

The lighting technique is set up as per the previous shot. When using the crumpled foil to reflect light back onto the object, the angle has been altered to highlight the textured area across the slide tops. This also produced deeper shadows and reduction in colour, in conjunction with the object’s angle. The most difficult aspect in this image was in maintaining an even light source across the shot, which the foil managed to overcome.

Although text can be seen in the image, I’ve selected a depth of field which reduces its clarity and therefore stops it from becoming an automatic draw on the eye. Without it the composition looked slightly unbalanced, and although colour was not a requirement in this instance, the subtle addition seems to provide the balance that it initially lacked.

In post processing, dust specs were cloned out, exposure was increased by .11, and the image was slightly sharpened.


1/50th f7.1 ISO 100. Custom white balance

The setup shot for the two images above, is shown below:TextureOneSetup A small number of rejected shots for texture are also shown below:TextureDiscarded


Form relates to the 3 dimensional quality of an object or its volume, which can be reinforced by the way in which shadow is used, and the modelling effect of the light. The object I’d chosen was a fairly simple design which in itself made it difficult to portray effectively, as the choices at first seemed limited.

As I had already taken shots of the box itself in previous images, doing the same again just seemed a repeat performance with a different angle. Demonstrating the required theme with the use of reflection was something I wanted to convey but the base of the box seemed too dense, and did not  show the translucent element that I wanted to achieve.

Fay Godwin’s ‘Pioneer Glassworks Series’ included images whose subjects were separated from the viewer by a medium which coerced you into looking through the image as opposed to ‘at’ it.
This is something which I toyed with, and one such image can be found in the reject set further on. I felt that this style was better suited to something less dense in structure to produce a more layered effect, and therefore a greater sense of form.

The lid of my object on its own was more versatile particularly when combined with the slides themselves. Its transparency when coupled with a lighter and more reflective background, produced a subtle but effective form. The backdrop of the projector screen provided the right amount of light when used with a softbox from above and to the side, at the 5.00 o’ clock position. The LED light was used for shadow-fill to create an even spread of light. The base was an upturned laptop tray which was an off white colour, and helped to reinforce the similarity in tones across the images.

Post processing included adjusting the levels, and slightly cloning out some specs of dust.
In hindsight I would have selected a more transparent slide on the right of the image as the one used is too dense. I feel it hampers the feeling of depth on that side, although conversely it may have been too obvious to have complete symmetry across the image.


1/25th f/14 ISO 160 AWB

Having recently read ‘Why it does not have to be in focus’ (2013), the idea formed of trying to create an image which portrayed the necessary quality but without the standardised sharp focus treatment that is usually depicted. I also didn’t want to end up with simply a blurred shot of something which could have been anything vaguely box-like and yellow.

Looking at the object from all angles, I realised that if I could somehow show it as though it were rotating, the sense of form could be increased.
The only turntable at my disposal was the microwave plate, so this was placed on a black glass hob next to a north facing window. The afternoon light was bright but diffused with cloud, and provided the ideal level of illumination without being overpowering against the glass.

I initially tried to capture the object without the use of a tripod as this was less restricting, but this did not retain the amount of sharpness required to view the object as a solid structure, with an adequate degree of detail. A tripod was therefore essential.

After approximately thirty shots, frustration and an inability to spin a microwave turntable without frisbeeing it into the stratosphere, almost ground the idea to halt.
After a re-think I realised that slowing the process down to achieve more of a double-exposure style shot would be more effective in demonstrating the notion of ‘form’.

After a few more attempts, one shot surfaced which conveyed the subject lit ‘almost’ as I’d visualised it. Although I was satisfied with my progress at getting the images to date right in-camera, I realised that this one was probably going to need some help in post processing.

I didn’t want to replicate the previous image with regards to the amount of reflection shown, and just needed enough to give it some grounding and provide a contrast to the left side, which hopefully increases the sense of depth.
The white lines radiating out from the same side of the image are the print of one of the hob rings, which I felt helped to convey a sense of rotation, and therefore movement and depth.

Having read through other students work, I was conscious that some had either removed colour from the object or decreased the vibrancy levels in order to emphasise  form over colour.  I did weigh up the options and consider whether this was something that would detract from the theme itself, but decided against the idea of altering the colour’s vibrancy levels or saturation. I felt that doing so was rather like pointing a large red arrow at the subject to explain what I’d done. If it didn’t work with the colour as photographed, then I hadn’t demonstrated ‘form’ very effectively.

In post processing the black level was reduced in Adobe RAW, and the image was slightly rotated. Shadows were adjusted at the highlighted edge by painting at a low opacity, and contrast was increased by +15.

.8 sec f/11 ISO 100. AWB

.8 sec f/11 ISO 100. AWB

A few of the reject shots for form are shown below:



As the object’s colour has been evident in most of the previous images, I felt that I needed to convey this quality in a different way, whilst still showing the colour ‘as strongly as possible’.
Contrasting it with a cooler and larger area of colour such as blue was the starting point, as orange is twice as luminous as blue.  Utilising the light box to brighten and lighten a blue gel provided the right balance of colours but the composition still seemed unbalanced.

I then tried placing one of the slides onto the gel which seemed to address the balance and give more focus to the colour of the box itself.
Cutting out a piece of the gel to allow the slide to be more visible also portrayed more of a supporting contrast but I was mindful that it didn’t dominate and take away the aim of the theme.

Although I was now happy with the composition and it’s outcome, getting the exposure right took a while. Initial attempts produced a flat image with no real focus on the object itself, and everything was overexposed. There were too many things for the eye to process and no real direction as to the point of the image.

Adjusting the exposure to cast the right hand side of the box into shadow took the emphasis away from this area, as it did to the slide’s border.
I felt that the blue was of a sufficiently light enough tone to contrast and support the object, without being the dominating factor.

In post processing I adjusted a few lines to even up perspective, as the composition was quite geometric. Without this the slanting edges of the gel were distracting and took the eye away from the main objective.

1/8th f/8 ISO 160. AWB

1/8th f/8 ISO 160. AWB

The second image was the most difficult, both in terms of setting it up and justifying that it conveyed ‘showing the subject’s colour as strongly as possible‘.
Colour theory was outlined in the course as working on three levels; ‘visual‘ being the most obvious, ‘expressive‘ or the emotional level which evoke sensations that can be subjective and non-visual. Finally there is the ‘symbolic‘ or cultural level, where certain colours and combinations are associated with things that we have been brought up with.

The question in this part of the assignment was whether it was necessary to include all of these elements or purely concentrate on the visual aspect alone.
Would including all of them make the image any better or more to the point, would it demonstrate the aims of the theme.

As yellow or in this case yellow/orange is a colour which can radiate light very effectively, I wanted to project an image onto the object and highlight this quality whilst still showing strongly the colour itself. My concern was whether this would distract from the main aim.

I wanted to highlight the fact that the image was projected onto the subject, but initial attempts just produced an image which looked as though the picture had been printed on it.
Retaining any degree of sharpness from a slide projected from a short distance was not possible.
I realised that I was moving away from the aim of the image. I was trying to show colour, not a sharply focussed image.

The slide was taken in 1969 – (I am the small blot on the left), on a Kodak Brownie 127 on a fairly wobbly rowing boat, so the quality wasn’t great to start with.
Once I’d let go of the image quality issue, the process of getting the lighting right became easier, although it still took infinite minuscule adjustments to the projector itself in order to show the light falling on the area directly in front of the subject.

This I felt was necessary to show that the image was projected and not printed. As the object itself wasn’t solid it was capable of portraying a range of hues, brilliance and saturation levels, depending on the type of light around it. This is what I wanted to convey with the projected image.

Again I’ve left the background completely black so as to add to contrast, and placed the slides in the box with text out of sight so that this didn’t detract from the overall aim.
My only reservation was in not using the box lid to enforce strength of colour, but as I’m trying to not continually tweak and disseminate images once completed, I’ve gone with the initial image shown below.

In post processing it was hard not to alter the projected image to bring out the natural colours intended. Instead I slightly rotated it to gain a better perspective. Exposure was increased to .05, and highlights by +1.

1/40th f/10 ISO 200. AWB

1/40th f/10 ISO 200. AWB


I had purposefully left this theme until the end as I felt it would present the biggest challenge. Although the object’s shape is simple, I was concerned that this in itself would present difficulties.
I was back to ‘boxy and boring’ in terms of ideas, and began to doubt whether it was a viable option.

Assignment notes stated that  the quality of shape had to do with the outline of an object – its edges. These are more likely to stand out more clearly if they contrast with the background, and if there is minimum detail visible in the object.

At this stage I had only a vague notion of wanting to light it from several angles, particularly from underneath to highlight the edges in some way.
It was only when I walked past my oven that I could see a way of doing this. The oven provided a ready-made shelving system, and an area which would contain light if required.

I didn’t really have a pre-conceived plan at this point, and just tried several lighting angles with the LED light, and gradually added a crumpled sheet of foil at the top of the oven to bounce light back from a lightbox placed under the object. A yellow gel finally provided the contrast and light level required. It was then just a case of fine tuning exposure levels to obtain the silhouette effect.

In post processing, the image was cropped to convey the lights extending beyond the frame and put the emphasis on the object as the solid and complete component. Contrast was increased, and levels adjusted.

1/30th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

1/30th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

Oven light setup for shape is shown below:


For the final image I wanted to use natural light, and sunset seemed an ideal choice to highlight the object’s shape.
The challenge was in trying to capture the light at just the right moment before the sun set completely.

The first few attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to the background intruding into the scene, and secondly as the sun was still too high.
Trying to take the image outside didn’t work as I couldn’t get the angle of the sun to tie in with the parts of the object that needed illuminating. Moving to the window on the first floor of my home gave a better angle, although a fairly uninteresting background.

Moving the window frame into view and throwing it out of focus provided the background contrast that I felt the composition needed, and the sun highlighting the top of the box gave just enough brilliance to light the pertinent edges of the rest of the object.

In post processing exposure was slightly increased to bring out a touch of colour in the object, without detracting from the theme.

1/200th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

1/200th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

Rejected shots showing shape are shown below:



When I first considered the lighting equipment for this assignment I was concerned at my lack of dedicated photographic lighting. At the same time I didn’t see the point in rushing out and buying equipment that I didn’t really understand the merits of.
Since completing it, I have at least gleaned a greater understanding of what can be achieved with fairly understated pieces of lighting equipment, and now have the confidence in being able to create the right lighting scenario for a range of subjects.

Conversely I can also see how additional items would have been useful. Concentrating light onto specific areas, particularly in the texture shots was difficult, or perhaps more precisely, frustrating. Visualising what you want to achieve but not being able to quite capture it without lengthy trial and error procedures was exasperating at times.

I have at least become much more intuitive throughout the course with my camera, and find myself changing settings without thinking about it too much beforehand. Working in manual mode has become easier. Although I’ve probably taken far more images in this assignment than any other to obtain the final eight, this has been due more to a perfectionist streak than technical inability

Although my choice of object was perhaps not the easiest or most conventional, I’m still glad at the choice made, due to the challenges it presented. Perhaps having an emotional link was part of this, but being able to separate it into different structures I felt gave me greater scope over a more solid and complete entity.

Procrastination on choosing a subject and then photographing it has always been a bugbear, although I’m managing to improve on this irksome trait by developing distractions which halt any over-thinking.
Instead of trying to always achieve a result, such as with the second image relating to form, I stop trying to produce results and just take shots without any prior notion of what I’d like the outcome to be. This seems to free up the creative process and spark ideas which would not necessarily have come to the fore.

I realised when thinking initially around which object to choose, that one of my preferences was in finding something  which had a ‘familiarity’ to it.
Since completing the assignment I have questioned whether this is a luxury. In a commercial environment I would need to work around whichever subject was presented, whether it was familiar, interesting or something I was particularly adverse to, within reason.

Trying to detach myself from the subject and simply select an object which would have met the aims of the assignment more easily, would have made life easier. I don’t really think though that I would have learnt as much as I did, or have been able to work around lighting problems when they arose quite so much.

I’ve repeatedly referred back to the assignment aims throughout as sometimes creativity takes over and you suddenly realise that the image you’ve just taken two hours to produce, is far off the mark in achieving the main aim. There is still a niggling doubt with the projected image on ‘colour’, although if I ask myself whether it was in the right context, and achieved its aim, then I would still have to agree that it did.

I think this assignment more than the others has developed my creativity in problem solving a situation or in expressing a quality where required.
At first, producing only eight images seemed a much simpler task than previous exercises. The very fact that a small number was required meant that ideas, lighting techniques, and subject had to be carefully considered to produce the exact result in line with the assignment aims.


Freeman, M Luck, S. (2012) The photographer’s exposure field guide. 1st ed. China: Ilex

Golden, R Craig, P. (2008) Masters of photography. 1st ed. Chine: Carlton Books

Higgins, J, Coultos, H, Gee, B (2013) Why it does not have to be in focus. 1st ed. China: Thames & Hudson

Hunter, F, Bivers, S Fuqua, P. (2012) Light science and magic. 4th ed. China: Elsevier

Bibliography 15th April 2014

Bavister, S (2007) Lighting for portrait photography. Revised edition. Singapore: Craft Print International Ltd 19th April 2014



Exercise Two: Higher and lower sensitivity

The first part of this exercise was to take similar shots at both normal and high sensitivity, in a situation that was marginal – i.e. where the mixture of light level and subject movement was only just possible.

All images were taken on a Canon 5D with a 24 – 105mm lens. A tripod was not used due to being too intrusive for most of the locations. Images have been taken in RAW format and reduced in resolution for web purposes.

The first two shots below, due to size and low resolution, look identical which slightly defeats the object of the exercise. I’m viewing them on a 24 inch screen at 100% magnification and can see differences. At ISO 100 details are slightly soft, and shadowy areas lack the colour  saturation of  ISO 640 image. Colours are also more true to the originals in the scene.
I usually shoot with fairly low ISOs, so increasing it to 640 was a walk on the wild side.

LEFT: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 640


The images below are close-ups of two areas from the above images.
Again it’s only when the image is viewed at a relatively large size that visible differences become apparent. Finer details can be seen in the higher ISO image, and colours are slightly brighter.
Shaded areas also produce greater clarity.


TOP: ISO 100.  BOTTOM: ISO 640

Not convinced so far that the higher ISO has made a staggering amount of difference, I increased it to 800. I still had to enlarge the RAW image to 100% before any real visible differences could be seen. The amount of grain was quite apparent at the high ISO, and dulled highlights as a result.

LEFT: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800


The shaded areas of the image suffered at the higher ISO and lighter areas show the typical speckled effect that noise produces. This was particularly evident in paler tones which are effectively covered in a grain several shades darker than the actual tone.

TOP: ISO 100   BOTTOM: ISO 800


Enlarging the following images revealed darker skin tones at the higher ISO due once again to noise levels, and paler colours appeared muddy for the same reason.

TOP: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 800

Also enlarged, the next images have experienced loss of quality, especially in highlighted areas as before. Detail is more sharply defined at the lower ISO range, and noise levels at the higher end of the scale have the effect of darkening colours compared to the original tones.

TOP: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 800

Below at a small scale, there is relatively little difference between the two images apart from slightly lighter tones again in the paler colours.

LEFT: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

LEFT: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 800

Even enlarged, the differences are barely perceptible. Slightly less detail becomes apparent with the higher ISO in lighter tones, and conversely greater contrast between objects and structure can be seen in darker areas.

TOP: ISO 100   BOTTOM: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.   BOTTOM: ISO 800

I decided to try the same experiment in brighter light, and increased the higher ISO to 1600, convinced that this would show a marked difference in noise. As seen below, with the smaller size you would have to look very closely. Results show very marginal colour, and contrast differences.

LEFT: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 1600

LEFT: ISO 100. RIGHT: ISO 1600

Enlarging one area does however show a greater difference in image quality with the higher ISO. The effects of noise are similar to pixelation when an image is enlarged beyond its optimal capacity.

LEFT: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 1600

LEFT: ISO 100. RIGHT: ISO 1600

The overriding result is that smaller sized images at a high ISO can appear ‘almost’ identical to the ones at the lower end.
For most people who print no bigger than an A4 size, this may be a happy compromise when higher ISO settings are required due to reduced light levels.

Colour does seem to change from the original tone as ISO numbers rise, and highlighted areas darken and appear muddy, which may not be an issue for some subjects. Skin tones for example may not stand up to such high settings.

I can see that reflective surfaces may also suffer considerably as highlights are dimmed due to noise levels increasing, again effecting such things as catch-lights in eyes if portraits or people are the main subject.

For some images noise levels may not be an issue, and depending on choice of paper when printing, may even be an advantage.
The general evidence though seems to support the theory that higher ISOs and the resulting noise does reduce quality and accurate colour rendition.











Exercise Four: Light through the day

This exercise involved taking a detailed look at what happens to a view as the sun moves from dawn through to dusk. The same scene had to be photographed, and include a fairly definite subject that would catch the sunlight, even when the sun was close to the horizon.

All images have been taken in RAW format on a Canon 5D with a 50mm lens. A tripod and cable release were used throughout.
I have taken screenshots of the majority of images and shown them grouped together, as this more effectively demonstrates the changing light between shots.

The first set below were taken between 6.00am and 7.00am, with the first one showing a blue cast. Colours are still quite dense due to low light levels, and there is little sign of depth across the image. In the second one warmer tones are now present as the sun rises, and areas of contrast begin to appear.
By 7.30am colours are clearly distinguished, and contrast has increased, with long shadows developing.

6 til 7

6.00am until 7.00am

The next set below shows the light from 7.30am to 10.30am.
At 7.30am the image still shows the effect of early sunlight with warmer colours and tones, and a fairly strong blue colour in the sky.
As the sun rises, colours start to appear more bleached, are cooler in tone, and have a less dramatic variation in contrast. The sky has gone from a clear blue to almost white in comparison.

7.36am to 10.37

7.36am until 10.37am

Although the actual sky colour remained fairly constant from around 11.00am until 3.00pm, the land colours and contrast changed considerably. The image below at midday shows more saturated colours appearing as the sun moves. Contrast simultaneously increases, again adding more depth to the image, as areas show a greater degree of light and shade.



Moving into the afternoon, the next set shows the changing light from 1.30pm until 5.00pm.
The most even lighting, which showed an equal balance of contrast, and colour seemed most apparent at around 1.30pm, although the overall effect is still one of a cooler colour palette.

Moving to late afternoon the sky once again reverts to a bluer colour, and the warmer tones shown in the earlier part of the day start to appear.
The colour in roofs of buildings can be clearly seen, rather than showing just as highlights.
Contrast again seems stronger as shadows lengthen, and colour saturation begins to deepen.

1.31 to 5.01

1.30pm to 5.00pm

The final set below highlights the change in light as the sun moves towards the horizon, and were taken between 5.30pm and 8.00pm.

During the earlier part of the evening, colours and contrast appeared quite flat. Shadows are long but not a great deal of depth can be seen. This may be partly due to the angle of the sun on the scene.
By 7.30pm the low sun skimming parts of the scene bring out depth and texture in the foreground, and a greater sense of depth overall.

5.30pm to 8pm

5.30pm to 8.00pm

Of all the images my preference is for the early morning set, particularly around 7.30am, which was an hour and a half after sunrise.
Colours were rich and warm, and shadows although long, highlighted contrast between tones. Saturation of colour was also enhanced by the low sun level.

This exercise has highlighted how light effects a scene, far more than I expected. I initially viewed all images taken on a TV and scrolled quickly through. It’s only when a comparison is made in this way that the differences in an image are revealed, particularly with colour variation and tone.
It has also assisted in planning a shot by gaining a better understanding of how the overall scene will be affected by light at different times of the day.







Exercise 11: Contrast and shadow fill

This exercise required a simple still-life setup which was shot at the same level as the subject. The camera was mounted on a tripod, with a softbox as the light source placed at 90 degrees to the camera. The backdrop is a piece of black velvet.

All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes. The camera is a Canon 5D fired with a cable release. Various white balance settings were trialled, with AWB giving the truest colour match. Settings used throughout the exercise were 1/6th f/8 and ISO 400.

Lighting setup

Lighting setup

The first two images were taken firstly without a diffuser on the light, and then with one attached.
The results can be seen below.

This produced as the course notes suggested, the greatest variation in contrast. Highlights are more noticeable in the un-diffused image, and the background. The objects appear to come forward whereas the diffused area recedes due to the greater density of shadow. Tonal variation is also greater in the diffused image.

With and without diffuser

UPPER SECTION: With diffuser.  LOWER SECTION: Without diffuser

The next part of the exercise involved placing a large white card opposite the light, approximately three feet from the subject. The was followed by moving it to 1.5ft away.
Although there were differences, the effects are minimal compared to the previous two.
When the card was moved nearer to the subject, highlights were slightly brighter, and tones richer in colour. I expected to see more of a difference between the two but maybe the black velvet backdrop has absorbed some of the additional light created.

LEFT: White card 3ft away from subject.  RIGHT:  1.5 ft away from subject.

LEFT: White card 3ft away from subject. RIGHT: 1.5 ft away from subject.

Aluminium foil was now required to cover the card, with the dull side facing out. This was then alternated with the shiny side facing out.
When viewed at this size and resolution, the differences are difficult to detect but instantly noticeable at a larger size.

The dull side produced the brighter highlights which surprised me, as I thought the opposite would be true. The greater contrast is actually derived from the shiny side, partly as the backdrop appears darker, and colours are slightly richer. The wood grain is also more apparent, again due to deeper tonal variation.

LEFT: Dull die of foil facing out.  RIGHT: Shiny side of foil facing out.

LEFT: Dull side of foil facing out. RIGHT: Shiny side of foil facing out.

Although it was not required for the exercise, I experimented with the silver and gold side of a reflector to see firstly how the silver side compared to the home-made version, and what impact the gold side had as I’ve only used this once in a portrait shot.

More light was seen with the dull side of the foil, and silver reflector, although greater contrast was marginally seen with the silver reflector.
Reflected light was almost identical between the gold and silver reflectors, but more contrast and richer tones were achieved with the gold.

LEFT: Silver reflector.  RIGHT Gold reflector.

LEFT: Silver reflector.   RIGHT: Gold reflector.

The final image was the result of crumpling the piece of foil and smoothing it out again. This was once again placed on the card, shiny side facing out. This is my preferred image of the exercise, as the lighting is even, and the subjects are separated from the background due to the darker shadows within.

It has brightened highlights and brought out detail and colour, which has given a greater sense of depth throughout the image.


Crumpled foil facing outwards

This has been a useful exercise, particularly when comparing home-made versions of reflectors with purpose-built equipment. The crumpled foil has therefore been saved for future projects.
Sometimes the results have been more subtle than expected, such as when using the white card. I would have expected a greater shift in contrast and shadow fill.

The exercise has also highlighted the way in which objects can be manipulated to recede or be  brought forward in the image, altering the general feeling of depth and form.


Exercise 10: The lighting angle

The aim of this exercise was to experiment with diffused light from different directions. The subject was to be no larger than the diffuser, be rounded and with relief, in order to show the differences in light and shadow.
The subject in this case was a polystyrene mannequin which I’ve sprayed with a stone effect paint to highlight texture. Although the effect is somewhere between leprosy and the plaque, it served its purpose.

The camera has remained in a fixed position on a tripod throughout the exercise, aimed horizontally at the subject. A mid grey coloured card was used as the background, and a softbox for the light source. All images have been taken on a Canon 5D with a 50mm lens, and have been reduced in resolution for web purposes.

I’ve used points of a clock as a reference to where the softbox was placed, which I’ve tried to keep the same distance from the subject throughout the exercise.


1 o’ clock position. Diagram powered by the Online Lighting Diagram Creator

The first five images have the light at the same level as the subject, and in the image below it has been placed at the 12 o’ clock position.
This effectively created a silhouette, with a small amount of light spilling onto the subject. Although this gives some clue to the subject’s form, the majority of the features are deeply shadowed in contrast to the remaining area. This has also created a very definitive separation from the background, rendering a very 2D feel to the subject.


1/15th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 2: 1 o’ clock
With the softbox in this position, only around 25% of the subject is illuminated, although this does softly highlight certain features bringing out texture, and providing an even contrast in tones to these areas.
In pp, only exposure was increased by +.33, as I’ve tried to leave settings as created in-camera.

1/10th f/8 ISO 100

1/10th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 3: 3 o’ clock
With the lighting coming from this position, there is a fairly even proportion of the subject in light and shade creating a split lighting effect for the lower portion of the subject.. The shadowed half although showing a degree of depth, is too dark to easily distinguish features. Conversely the illuminated area is too bright in comparison, and appears flatter and lacking in detail.

1/125th f/8 ISO 100

1/125th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 4: 4 o’ clock
This position is the reverse of the 1 o’ clock position. Instead of 25% being illuminated, the same proportion is now in shade.
I like the way in which light gives definition to the nose and mouth areas on the shaded side but feel it looks separated from the rest of the subject due to the lack of detail. This may be due in part to the strong light source, albeit diffused. In pp, exposure was once again increased by +.22.

1/25th f/8 ISO 100

1/25th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 5: 6 o’ clock
At this position the lighting is even, and separated from the background. The overall effect is quite uninspiring due to its complete lack of shadow, but I can see the appeal for commercial portrait style images where a more flattering look is required.

1/15th f/8 ISO 100

1/15th f/8 ISO 100

This position is the first one in which I could see definition which showed the form to a much greater degree. With the softbox raised and pointed down at a 45° angle there is a subtle definition between the subject and background, and a gradual increase in contrast across the subject which really accentuates the difference between each plane.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 7: 3 o’ clock
At this position, although the contrast is quite strong moving from left side to right, the level of detail and definition works well. Both rounded and recessed areas are portrayed in just enough detail to show the depth of the subject.
I’ve recently come across ‘Rembrandt’ lighting in various texts, which describes the illuminated triangle of light on the cheek. I was quite pleased to see this effect in the image, however slight, and will endeavour to create it in a future project when lighting skills have been a little more fine tuned.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

IMAGE 8: 4 o’ clock
This image is quite stark in comparison to the others, and probably my preferred one from the exercise. Shadows are mostly deep, and highlighted areas are strong, with texture very prominent. There is a good level of modelling to most of the subject, and is the most clearly defined image to date.
Levels were adjusted in pp to 5  .74  255.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

Lighting from directly overhead has produced very uneven areas of contrast, and hard outlines. Although depth can be seen from the shadow on the cheek area, the overall effect is quite flat.
Conversely, texture is quite prominent in the areas on the cusp of light and shade.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

Angling the light to fall more on the front of the subject has removed the feeling of depth from much of the image, and lost some areas of texture.
Underexposing may have overcome some of these issues, although the lower part of the subject would then have had deeper areas of shadow.
This image and the following one had the greatest amount of pp done due to the uneven lighting contrasts that such a lighting angle produces.
Adjustments for this image were +1 on highlights, -.27 for exposure, a levels adjustment of 3, 1, 249, and finally a linear curves adjustment.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

Little contrast is achieved with this angle of lighting. Detail has been lost, and where highlights do exist, they are relatively blown, although this may be down more to my inexperience in working with this mode of lighting.
Pp work included +.27 for exposure, an adjustment level of 3, 1, 249, and an auto curves adjustment.

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

1/8th f/8 ISO 100

One outcome of this exercise which has been demonstrated, is that lighting has a relationship with both the subject and background in tandem. One cannot be separated from the other.
Choice of subject and intended outcome is also a major consideration. Where some angles of light have proved unflattering or inappropriate for this subject, they may be ideal for others.
It has also demonstrated that although diffuse light spreads an even amount of light over the subject, it does not always bring out the best qualities, or portray the subject as intended.












Exercise 6: Cloudy weather and rain


The first part of the exercise required the same photograph to be taken in sun and then shade, with the white balance kept to daylight. Variations in exposure and other differences were to be noted.

All images have been taken in RAW format on a Canon 5D, with a 24-105mm, and a 50mm lens. Resolution has been reduced for web purposes.

The first two images are of a stone garden ornament, and have been taken within a few minutes of each other.
Colours in the first image taken in sunlight, appear warmer – it was only by selecting the eye dropper tool in Photoshop, to more clearly see the colour palette, that the difference is quite so apparent. In sunlight the stone appears to consist of brown tones, whereas in shade they are more grey.

Shadows are darker, and therefore contrast is more noticeable, particularly around the edges of the object, which add depth to the form.
Highlighted areas naturally stand out from the background, again adding depth to the image. It is also easier for the eye to key in on specific areas as there is a greater separation of tones.

The image taken in shade is more uniformly lit, and almost blends in with the background detail. The overall effect is to flatten colours and contrast, which may suit certain subjects, but not one which needs to show depth and contrast.
Although aperture priority was used, the difference in the two shutter speeds was noted.


1/400th f/8 ISO 100. Aperture priority


1/160th f/8 ISO 100. Aperture priority

Having chosen a subject with matt properties in the last image, this time I’ve aimed for something which is slightly reflective, and with bright colours.
The insect house below was taken in sunlight, and I expected to see more of a difference in the coloured section, but the change is negligible. This may be  partly due to the angle of the subject, and also the way in which the centre is surrounded by the wooded structure, giving very little area for light to bounce and reflect from.

The lighter toned areas have once again shown the greatest shift in colour and contrast. Wooden areas appear more yellow than the image taken in shade. The shaded image appears to have greater depth, and supports the central coloured area more effectively, whereas it looks slightly lost in the sunlit image. Aperture values changed from f/5.6 to f/7.1 between the two shots.


1/100th f/7.1 ISO 100. Shutter priority



1/100th f/5.6 ISO 100. Shutter priority.

I’ve chosen a more reflective subject for the next image, a coiled spool of wire, to see how this varies against the other two subjects.
Being reflective, much more of the subject is highlighted compared to the shaded version, making it appear larger, and somehow more rounded.

There is also greater contrast between the individual coils of wire which conveys a greater sense of the structure itself. It also stands out more from the background than the shaded version, once again reinforcing the feeling of depth.


1/400th f/6.3 ISO 100. Aperture priority.



1/400th f/6.3 ISO 100. Aperture priority.


The second part of the exercise required three photographs to be taken outside on an overcast day, to highlight shadowless light.
The aim was to show relief and texture such as that seen in a knarled root of a tree, and also an object with strong colour.

I’m not sure why my hand came to mind when thinking of the knarled root of a tree, but it’s certainly weathered. Although the image below shows detail, I think this would preclude it from being ideal for the more flattering style of portrait shots. It shows a little too much detail, but would be ideal for slightly grittier images where character and a harder edge were required, although a sunlit version of the same subject may force me to retract that view.


1/40th f/11 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

The next image was chosen for its strong colour. Being artificial, it also had a slight reflective quality which seemed to add more contrast across the various tones.
I’ve used a macro lens to emphasise texture. Focussing with this lens is infuriatingly difficult at times, even with manual mode. Without ‘live view’ it feels very hit and miss, and even in this image I feel it’s slightly off from where I wanted the focus to be.

Focussing issues aside, there is still a softer blending of the individual strands of the flower head.
Light appears more even across the image, and although this does not convey a great sense of depth, it suits the subject. The centre of the subject has just enough shadow detail to give it some sense of form, without being overpowering.


1/6th f/13 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

The final image in the section is of a piece of firewood, chosen for its tones and texture.
The light emphasised the slightly undulating areas well, which contrast well with the darker wood tones along the piece.
Each shaded area is evenly offset against its paler neighbour, a facet which would look washed out in brighter, and less diffused light.


1/30th f/11 ISO 100. Aperture priority.


For the final part of the exercise, images depicting rain were required.

The first shot was taken just after a rainstorm, when sunlight showed refraction in the water drops more acutely. I was attracted to the contrast of the rain drops against the blur of the background.


1/100th f/11 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

In the second image, rain was just approaching, which gave rise to a very dark sky, accentuated by brilliant sunshine. The rainbow was fading fast, and was shot just before it dissipated.


1/25th f/10 ISO 100. Aperture priority.

The final image was almost left out, mainly due to the fact that it was shot on a mobile phone with various filter effects. Although I don’t feel able to claim it as entirely my own creation, due to this fact, I still the like distorted appearance that taking the image through the car windscreen conveys.


Mobile upload

This exercise demonstrated that overcast conditions can provide ideal diffused light which complements a number of subjects, although I found that brighter skies gave better results than completely grey blanket of cloud.

Although course notes advised thinking of clouds and other weather conditions as kinds of filters, I feel that a certain quality of light is still required to effectively portray an image as required.
The richest light which gave beautifully saturated colours, occured when storms were approaching or just receding. Combined with sunlight, the enriched colours emphasised contrast, and produced very dramatic lighting.

This kind of lighting is fairly rare, so the exercise helped to reinforce the fact that you can only work with the weather conditions presented.
Selecting a subject suited to the light at hand was also key to enhancing its qualities, and conveying the tone of the overall image.


Exercise 8: Outdoors at night

The aim of this exercise was to explore the variety of lighting effects and colour in artificial light.
12 to 20 images were required, to include if possible, the following;

  • a floodlit building
  • a brightly lit store
  • a large interior with many people
  • a raised view to catch the headlights and tail-lights of traffic.

The majority of the following images were taken during a photographic event, and are based around the city centre of Southampton.
A cable release and tripod were used for all images apart from the store fronts, with a Canon 5D on a 24-150mm lens. All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes.
Post processing was done with Photoshop CS6.

The first image captures a floodlit building and traffic trails. In pp, contrast and vibrancy were increased to direct the focus more towards the building and away from the background.

4" f/13 ISO 160

4″ f/13 ISO 160

The same building has been captured in the next image, but this time the trails from a high sided vehicle have been incorporated in the composition.

8" f/14 ISO 160

8″ f/14 ISO 160

An emergency vehicle gave the chance to capture the following blue lights in contrast with the traffic trails and floodlit building.

30" f/14 ISO 160

30″ f/14 ISO 160

Traffic trails have been isolated in the next shot, taken on a busy roundabout.


The grid below allowed the floodlit city walls to be taken at a slightly different angle than head on

15" f/16 ISO 160

15″ f/16 ISO 160

Again the same walls below have been taken with the light trails of a passing lorry.

4" f/13 ISO 160

4″ f/13 ISO 160

Isolating just a section of the walls, with minimal light trails, produced the following image.

4" f//13 ISO 160

4″ f//13 ISO 160

The junction below by a floodlit building gave rise to very clear traffic trails which contrasted well against the colours of the building.

20" f/14 ISO 160

20″ f/14 ISO 160

The intense blue of the Spinnaker tower below in Portsmouth, was quite a striking colour when seen against the sky tones.

2" f/5.6 ISO 250

2″ f/5.6 ISO 250

The technique below was one I’d not tried before, called ‘zoom burst’, and seemed to enhance the composition and light trails which resulted.
Contrast was adjusted in pp to darken the sky, to enhance the paler tones of the building itself.

5" f/14 ISO 160

5″ f/14 ISO 160

Attempts at light painting finally produced the following image, where one person outlined another with a torch during a 15 second exposure.

15" f/14 ISO 100

15″ f/14 ISO 100

For the last two images, I’ve switched to black and white conversions just to see how much the lighting tones were altered.
The shot below is of a supermarket, and I’ve included a reflection of the light opposite the store to provide a visual pointer to the time of day.

1/100th f/4 ISO 400 (auto setting)

1/100th f/4 ISO 400 (auto setting)

In the final image of the same store I’ve also included reflections of street lights to enhance the ‘night-time’ theme.

1/100th f/4 ISO 400

1/100th f/4 ISO 400  (auto setting)

This was a refreshing exercise as in many of the long exposure shots, you had to imagine the result, rather than simply record the scene.
It was also useful to work with longer exposures as it took a few attempts to get the right exposure for the intensity of colours required.









Exercise 12: Shiny surfaces

This exercise involved working with a shiny object to try and overcome the lighting problems which such a subject gave rise to.
The object had to be placed on the floor against a suitable background, and photographed from above, with a light positioned close to it.

Both a Canon 5D, and an Olympus OMD EM5 were used throughout. Images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes. Post processing where utilised, was carried out with Photoshop CS6. A tripod was used for all images.

The four images below were lit with a softbox, but with the diffuser cover removed.
Exposure was minus two-thirds in the third shot, and minus one-third in the last.
White balance was set to ‘auto’ for the first few shots to see how the results compared to other settings. Tones are quite muddy, reflections are harsh, and it is difficult to see that the subject is silver in colour.


1//13th f/13 ISO 200.     1/13th f/13 ISO 200.     1/13th f/13 ISO 200.     1/13th f/13 ISO 100

The next part of the exercise called for a piece of tracing paper to be rolled into a cone enabling the wide end to surround the subject, and the tapered end to fit around the camera lens. I’ve used freezer paper instead as it’s slightly thicker, and comes on a roll. The softbox’ diffuser cover was also fitted at this stage. The result was an overall softening of reflections, but still not true to the original colours of either the object or the background.


1/4″ f/13 ISO 100.     1/4″ f/13 ISO 100.     0″4 f/13 ISO 100.     All exposures – minus one-third

The light seemed quite harsh at the bottom of the dish, so I tried moving the soft box higher, and also adjusting the position of the object allowing the light to be more evenly distributed.
The result is shown in the image below, far left.

The image below right was achieved by raising the object enabling the light to be exactly level, and pointing sightly downwards. I also adjusted exposure to try to darken the background slightly.
Reflections again look more evenly distributed, although the colours in both are still off.


LEFT: 1″3 sec f/13 ISO 100.     RIGHT: 0″6 sec f/13 ISO 100.   Both minus one-third exposure

There followed more configuration and setting adjustments than I care to remember, but the diffuser paper setup was too unstable to keep re-adjusting and setting up again. I therefore hunted for a suitable frame which the paper could be permanently attached to. An old umbrella, chopped to size and wired around the bottom edge was found to be the best alternative, and the paper was taped in place.

I realised that the black spokes would probably reflect in the silver, but decided that this would have to be lived with at this stage if sanity was to remain intact. The arrangement is shown below;


Although easier to use, the results were still the same which was as expected. As an additional experiment I made a black and white adjustment in post processing, shown on the right below. Although not ideal, I think this works more effectively with the colour tones of the object itself, and the background.


I then changed the white balance setting to Tungsten, and switched the black background to white, as I felt this was causing some of the reflection and colour problems.
As the softbox I’m using has a 650w bulb, I was concerned that it was a case of ‘using a sledge-hammer to crack a nut’ scenario, so I tried ‘double diffusing’. I’m not sure if this is technically correct, but it consisted of a small pop-up light box with the diffuser cone over the top.

Changing to the Olympus camera also enabled me to more easily view the change in exposure adjustments. Setup and resulting image below;


3 sec f/8 ISO 200. -1.7 EXP on Olympus OMD EM5 12-50mm @34mm (68m equiv)

Although it was tempting to remove any unwanted reflections in post processing, it seemed to defeat the object, so I’ve left it as is.  It’s not great, but is a vast improvement on first attempts.
The final image below is just a straight black and white conversion, for comparison.


The biggest impact on both the object and background, was the WB setting. Changing background colour also reduced some of the more heavily contrasting tones.
Angle and intensity of light were the next big factors, followed by angle of the object itself, and how the light affected the deeper, and more shaded areas.

I can’t see with this setup quite how you’d eradicate the lens reflection itself, without post processing, as it’s so close to the object.
The exercise also highlighted how dust particles on the background, and any marks on the object are magnified, particularly close-up.
Certainly a worthwhile experiment, which really made you consider all options involved in capturing an object with such challenging lighting problems.

Exercise 7: Tungsten and fluorescent lighting

For this exercise we were required to find a room brightly lit with tungsten light, just after sunset when the natural light levels were low.
We then had to look at the outside light for approx one minute, and then turn and look at the room light to see how colours appeared.

My first impression was how vivid and rich they seemed. There were clear divisions between colours, and their intensity, but the overriding sense was one of warmth.
After a short period of time, the colours seemed to diminish in intensity and lose their warmth, looking cooler and more even. Contrast was also diminished.

Three images were then required, but firstly we had to measure the light levels throughout various areas of the room.  I measured between 1/10th sec and 1 sec, which was far too low for accurate hand held shots.

The diagram below shows the ‘colour temperature scale’, and highlights where Tungsten lighting sits within in.


The exercise required that the image was composed in such a way that both the interior and exterior light at dusk, were both visible. Light levels had to be equal inside and out. The first white balance setting had to be auto, the second – daylight, and the third – tungsten.

All images were shot in RAW format on a Canon 5D, with a 24-105mm lens @ 40mm. A tripod was used throughout. No post processing was carried out.

LFT: AWB setting.  MID: Daylight WB.  RIGHT: Tungsten WB.

LEFT: AWB setting. MID: Daylight WB. RIGHT: Tungsten WB. All taken at f/16 with ISO 200.

The AWB image although not dissimilar to the tungsten setting, has a slightly more yellow cast which is more noticeable when comparing the white voile panels. Colours are more saturated, which in turn has deepened some of the shadows. Colour temperature is 3500k.

The daylight setting has produced the strongest colour saturation, with a very orange cast throughout the image. White areas are particularly yellowed. Colour temperature is 4950k.

The truest colour match comes from the tungsten setting. White areas are as they should be. Colour saturation and contrast is even, and the hues are very accurate. The outside light is also more evenly balanced in contrast to the interior. The colour temperature for this image is 3200k.

The second part of the exercise called for two different interiors lit by fluorescent lamps, with the first setting at auto, and the second at fluorescent.

The first image of a Butcher’s shop was taken without the aid of a tripod due to the space limitations inside, and is also why they aren’t quite identical. External light conditions were overcast, and grey.

LEFT: AWB  RIGHT:  Fluorescent WB

LEFT:  AWB.  RIGHT:  Fluorescent WB. Both taken at 1/100th f/10 ISO 800

The AWB image has a visibly yellow cast, which is very noticeable due the large areas of white. Red areas are slightly brighter, and greens are also tinged with yellow.
The image with the fluorescent setting, although showing more accurate white areas, has a distinctive blue cast, but is quite similar to the actual setting.

The next two images were taken with an exposed CFL, in a darkened room. Differences are only slight between the two, but quite marked from the actual scene.  In reality the blue areas have far more depth of colour, and the room  generally looks warmer and brighter.
This backs up the course notes which state that the overall colour quality in images shot under fluorescent lighting ‘look somehow unsatisfactory’.

Both AWB setting, and the fluorescent have given both images a cooler colour cast. Having researched CFLs, I found that there were several variants including bright white, soft white, and daylight, to name a few. Each one sits at a slightly different level on the colour temperature scale, which may go some way to explaining the less marked differences between the two settings.

At the AWB setting, a reading of 3,750k was noted as the colour temperature, whilst the fluorescent setting was 3,900k, so only a slight variation which seems in keeping with the results. The CFL used was also a very low wattage which may also help to explain the relatively small range of differences.

LEFT: AWB.  RIGHT:  Fluorescent setting. Both taken at 1/30th f/11 ISO 400 @ 24mm

LEFT: AWB. RIGHT: Fluorescent setting. Both taken at 1/30th f/11 ISO 400 @ 24mm

Since completing this exercise, I am more aware of checking that I’m using the most relevant white balance setting for the scene being shot. Although the AWB setting does a good job in most scenarios, it isn’t ideal, as shown in the above images.

It’s also been useful to be reminded that whereas our eyes have to adjust to different lighting situations, the camera’s sensor reacts immediately. Selecting the most accurate white balance setting in the first instance, goes some way to ensure that the final image is produced as it was intended.



Exercise 3: Judging colour temperature

This exercise looks at the different colours of daylight using a range of white balance settings.
The subject had to be something which could be moved around fairly easily and did not have a strong colour. The images were to be taken in clear weather.

The camera used was a Canon 5D with a 24-105mm lens. All images were shot using RAW format, with aperture priority selected. Post processing was carried out with Photoshop’s CS6. A tripod was used for all images. Each image has been reduced in resolution for web purposes.

For this part of the exercise the subject needed to be shot firstly during the middle of the day in full sun, secondly at the same time but in shade, and finally in sunlight when the sun was close to the horizon. White balance was set to automatic. The subject is a wooden apple storage tray.


AUTOMATIC WHITE BALANCE.   LEFT: 1/80th f/13 ISO 100. MID: 1/25th f/13 ISO 100 . RIGHT: 1/15th f/13 ISO 100.

Notes on scene before shot taken
For the first image above in full sun, the box looked quite bleached, with fairly low contrast showing in the wood grain, but deeper shadows between the slats.
The same subject in the shade looked much more detailed and textured, and background colours also seemed deeper.
The colours in the final shot seemed the richest of all, and the wood appeared very orange due to similar colours of the sunset. Background hedgerow tones were also very warm, and the whole image appears to have greater depth. It looks far more 3D than the other two.

After the images were taken I noted how blue the shed colour appeared compared to the original.
The sunset image is also overly orange in relation to the original, and had intensified colours too much.

The image below although at low resolution shows the colour change in the subject itself. The far left taken in direct sunlight with the AWB is probably the truest colour to the original, although it’s slightly overexposed.


Part 2:
For this part of the exercise we had to decide what correction if any, a scene needed. Taking similar images but changing the settings each time to daylight, shade, and finally auto.


LEFT: Daylight WB.   MID: Shade WB.   RIGHT: Auto WB.   All taken at 1/80th f/13 ISO 100 @ 67mm

Again the following image shows the colour difference throughout the scene in more detail;


The daylight white balance has given the truest colour rendition. The shade setting has added too much orange to the grey areas of the background, and too much yellow to the grass.

Although AWB is slightly darker than the original colours, I would still find it acceptable. The colours would be as if I’d underexposed by approx half a stop.

The next images below show the subject in shade, again with the WB settings set firstly to daylight, then shade, and finally auto.
The daylight setting shows the shed colour as too blue, and grass too bright. The subject itself is slightly bleached, and detail is lost from the grain of the wood.

With the shade setting, the colours are a little too warm but are nearest to the original colours. AWB is cooler in tone, with more of a blue cast, but nearer than the ‘sun’ setting.


LEFT: Daylight WB.  MID: Shade WB.  RIGHT: Auto WB.  All taken at 1/25th f/13 ISO 100 @ 45mm

The close-up below shows how the green and blues in particular are more affected by the various settings.


As an additional experiment I also tried the post processing software to see if the white balance   defaults were near to the in-camera settings. Results are shown below;

SETTINGS:  1. As shot. 2. Sunlight.  3. Shade.  4. Auto

SETTINGS: 1. As shot.   2. Daylight.   3. Shade.   4. Auto

SETTINGS: 1. Cloudy.  2. Tungsten.  3. Fluorescent.  4. Flash

SETTINGS: 1. Cloudy.   2. Tungsten.   3. Fluorescent.   4. Flash

Although not identical, they were near enough for me to feel able to use them as a comparison guide, and also a much quicker way of achieving the desired result.

The final set of images below were taken with the sun low to the horizon.


LEFT: Daylight WB. MID: Shade WB.  RIGHT: Auto WB.   All taken at 1/15th f/13 ISO 100 @ 55mm

At the daylight setting the orange tones are mid way compared to the other two, although shadows are marginally deeper. Green areas are similar to the shade setting.
The shade setting portrays the deepest orange tones, and is naturally more obvious in the wood tones of the hedgerow and apple box.
With AWB the last image is cooler in tone overall, and highlights are more prominent.

The close-up images below show more accurately the shift in colour throughout the settings.


As with all exercises which compare one setting to another, it is only apparent to what extreme or otherwise, colours and related elements are affected.
I am guilty of sticking to the AWB for many of my images, in the often false belief that this is the safe panacea.

Having just started to use exposure bracketing more, it would be great to have colour bracketing too. It seems to alter the tone of an image more so than exposure. It is something I’ll be paying more attention to in future, particularly with portrait shots.

I’ve also realised whilst carrying out this exercise that apart from the obvious times around sunrise and sunset, I don’t give a great deal of thought to when would be the optimum time for photographing an image in daylight. Having experimented with the post processing white balance settings, I think that prior planning and software enhancements can invariably achieve the required outcome.