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Ex 4.4 – ex nihilo

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object.

‘Studio lighting’ is a new area for me as is the use of flash. I read around technical aspects of this, referring to Tabletop photography and to Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Flash Photography.

For the exercise, I used a darkened room (an old larder that included a worktable) set up as in the diagram below. The camera used was a Fuji X-T1, controlled with an ipad through Fuji’s camera remote app. The app also allows jpegs of images to be previewed on the ipad for immediate feedback and fine adjustments to aperture settings to control light if necessary.


I experimented with moving the flash to various angles to the subject and with using various reflectors (white card and coloured reflectors) as for fill light. I used manual focus with the room lights up and then turned off the room lights and took the exposures remotely from outside the room, using the ipad app (also allowed live-view).

The top two images show seed-heads against a black backdrop. The backdrop was carefully screened from the flash using black card, with the subject placed in a gap between the screens. The camera was set at ISO 200 for 1/200 second at f/5.6. The flash powered right down to 1/128 and placed to the right of the subjects.

The photo of the seed-head and the apple was shot with the flash directly in front of the subject (on a light stand behind the camera). This created a shadow on the white card backdrop and a bright apple, with little shadow showing its curvature.

The final image was set up with flash left and a piece of white card as a reflector to the right as a fill light.

The exercise has encouraged me to experiment further with the use of flash with a variety of subjects and with different levels of ambient light.

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