Painting with Light (Initial Thoughts and Experiments)

This assignment is a trial and error process in taking a photograph of a person.

The photographs are to be taken at night or in a dark space and light from a torch or similar light source is to be used to paint the subject with light.

To make life easier all of the photographs will be taken at home in one of the bedrooms or in the living room as it is possible to darken the rooms or place a black cloth behind the subject.

In order to figure out what settings on the camera and what light sources work best I’ve drafted in my trusty model Barnaby. Once I’ve figured out settings and techiques I can move on to the proper subject.

The first thing I had to do was to make a snoot for one of my torches. I took a sheet of black card and wrapped it around the end. Unfortunately this just ended up with a tube of card on the end of the torch, which did stop light spilling everywhere but still left most of the light shining straight ahead.

Snoot Mark II was an empty 35mm film canister with a hole in it. This reduced the amount of light and provided an interesting diffraction pattern.

Mark III of the snoot was the lid of the film canister with a smaller hole through the middle. The smaller hole reduced the amount of light even more.

Moving away from the snoot I found a red filter on the enlarger which worked quite well, providing enough light to illuminate the bear but only the red wavelengths.

Following this a pair of sunglasses provided a similar effect but resulting in a different colour light illuminating the subject.

Looking at the examples of Kate Aston’s portaits in the course notes there seems to be a lot more light illuminating the subject than my torches are currently producing.  However, it may just be a case of moving the light source closer to the subject. or alternatively increasing the exposure time.

Locations is fairly easy. At home, our living room and two of the bedrooms have blackout curtains and the remaining bedroom has a blind that can be pulled down. This means that I have plenty of places which can be made very dark. In addition to this my family bought me a portable studio set-up for one of my birthdays and this contains a frame with a black backdrop, something I can use to hide anything behind my subject.

In order to take the photos I’m going to have to work over a couple of evenings, so that have the darkness and don’t have a model who gets very bored.



4 thoughts on “Painting with Light (Initial Thoughts and Experiments)”

  1. Hi Jenna.
    I’m very grateful for you sharing your process with creating different snoots. I wanted to make snoots which only allowed a small amount of light through, and you’ve given me the solutions in mk ii and Mark iii. Thank you.


    1. You’re welcome. I tried a couple of other things which didn’t work as well. Straws left too much light through, even getting down to one straw left a bit too much light through for my liking. I also tried using a flash and bouncing the light upwards but I might as well have been pointing the flash directly at the subject. I have seen a flash used to illuminate a scene but that was a church and graveyard late at night. The camera was set to a long exposure and the photographer moved around the church graveyard firing off the flash at different things. The result was the bits that the flash illuminated were visible and the rest of the church and graveyard either couldn’t be seen or could be seen vaguely.

      Liked by 1 person

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