Exercise: Contrast & Shadow fill

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p160 introduces the concept of shadow-fill. Essentially if you have your light source at an oblique angle you will have high contrast on your subject – the side facing the light will be bright because it is lit and the side facing away from the light source is very dark because it is not lit. So what do we do above the loss of details on the unlit side? Add a second light? Maybe – but then we’d blast the contrast out and lose the depth in the picture – the 3D-ness of the subject would be lost. This is where shadow-fill comes in. A small bit of light to just lift those shadows. This exercise is to show that affect. Firstly using a straight light. Then light + diffuser. Then light + diffuser + a white ‘bounce’ card opposite the light to bounce back the light into the shadows of the subject. Then further experiments with the reflectiveness of the bounce card.

First the light only shot:
bare light only

I noticed that the light was actually lighting up the white ceiling and wall (even though the table was as far from the wall as I could get it) so I set up a black ‘gobo’ (go between) to block the natural shadow fill of the room. Here is the resulting shot. Notice how the right hand side of the headphones are now darker.
Light & black bounce card

This is the same set up (with light and black gobo) but with a diffuser added in front of the light. I’ve added the set up shot (taken on my iPhone) for this below. Notice this has softened all the shadows and reduced the highlights.
Light & diffuser & black bounce card

You can see that the light is a desk lamp (with daylight bulb) and the diffuser is the same home made one from the previous exercises. The black gobo to block the shadowfill is just my black laptop-case propped into position by some cans.
p160 exercise set up

In this one, I’ve removed the black gobo. so the rooms natural shadowfill is back but lessened by the diffuser
Light & diffuser only

In this one, its the same as above, in fact from now on we’ll keep the light & diffuser static. however this time I’ve put a white card about 1m away from the headphones, opposite the light to bounce the light into the right hand side of the headphones to fill the shadows (even more than the room already was).
Light & diffuser and white board 1m away

I’ve moved the card nearer to the end of the table here, nearer to the subject an d the light. It’s effect is magnified and the shadows are lifted even further.
Light & diffuser & white board at tables edge

In this one, instead of just a plain white card I have covered it in kitchen foil but with the dull side out. This is bouncing more light than the plain white board.
Light & diffuser & dull foil board at tables edge

Here even more light is being bounced into the shadows because I’ve turned over the foil and am now using the shiny side to reflect the light (you see why they may be called reflectors now). This is as bright as my shadows get in this little series.
Light & diffuser & shiny foil board at tables edge

This one here is less bight in the shadows because although I’m still using the shiny side of the foil as they reflector, I’ve crumpled it them smoothed it back out but the effect is lessened because it can never been as smooth and reflective as it once was. This is brighter than the white card but less bright than the dull side of the foil before it was crumpled. It does seem a bit more even than the other foils shots though so probably my favourite.
Light & diffuser & crumpled shiny foil board at tables edge

You can easily see the difference a simple reflector makes to the contrast of the image.

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