Thursday, 27 September 2012

Contrast and Shadow fill

Exercise  - 11 photographs

The purpose of this exercise is to show the effect of different reflective surfaces on contrast and shadow fill in an image.

By creating a simple still life and placing a light source to one side and at a 90 degree angle to the camera various types of reflective surfaces are used to fill the shadows. Both shadow and highlights are required in an image to illustrate texture and reveal shape and contour.

Reference image.
No reflector - light source at 90 degrees.
The images below are placed in order of contrast with the highest contrast first.

Black "reflector"
Black reflector - opposite light source.
The image in the series with the highest contrast was taken with a matte black reflector opposite the light source. This has the effect of deepening the shadows by preventing any light being reflected back onto the scene.

White reflector.
White reflector at 3 feet.
With a white reflector placed opposite the light source 3 feet from the object the shadows are lightened when compared to the image with the black reflector. The image below shows the white reflector at 1.5 feet away from the object. Moving the reflector closer has only resulted in a marginal difference in lightening the shadows further.
White reflector at 1.5 feet.
Matt silver reflector
Matt silver reflector
Smooth shiny silver reflector
Smooth shiny silver reflector
Crinkled silver reflector
Crinkled silver reflector
As you would expect the silver reflector does a much better job of filling the shadows with the crinkled silver reflector being the most effective.

Diffused light source
Diffused light source 

In addition to the images showing the effects of various reflectors, diffusing the light source itself can also reduce contrast in an image.

The results are as I expected with the most efficient shadow fill being created by the crinkled silver reflector and the black "reflector" creating the highest contrast.

Whilst working on this exercise I remembered visiting Edward Weston's exhibition in Edinburgh and being amazed at the images on display. His black and white images are a great example of high contrast images and the use of shadow to create depth and form.

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