Tag Archives: Gel

A simple lighting technique with lovely light

The mobile phone light... soft and effective.

The mobile phone light… soft and effective.

Table-top photography works with soft light.

When you are doing still life shots you want soft, gentle light. Exposures can be longer so you can create lovely gentle shadow graduations. Your mobile phone provides an excellent light source for this. Here is how it is done.

White source image

The basic technique is to put a bright white image onto your mobile screen. When you display it on the mobile screen the illumination produces a white light. This is a wonderful, quite localised soft light for your shot. The steps in detail are…

  • Open your favourite image editor
  • Create a new image (approx size 800 pixels by 600 pixels)
  • Paint it brilliant (pure) white
  • If you are on your computer save the image then upload it to your phone
  • If you are on your mobile phone save the image to a known folder
  • When you want to use the light, display the image on screen

The white image on screen produces enough illumination to create the light you want for your table top image.

Other ways to use your mobile as a light source

Of course many mobiles are also capable cameras in their own right. So here are two other ways to use them:

Photographic light: Lots of mobiles have a “flashlight” app. This will allow you to use the camera flash as a photographic light onto your still life scene. Many on-camera (pop-up flash) flash units are very strong and have a harsh light. The flash on a mobile is often much softer and sometimes is coloured to be a similar colour to daylight (approx 5500 Kelvin). This ‘daylight balance’ is a great light and worth using if you have it. Prop your phone up with the flashlight app activated and start shooting.

Coloured light source: Traditionally coloured light is produced using colour gels. However, some apps on mobile phones can create both a white light or a range of other coloured lights. One such app for example is: Tiny flashlight + LED. This is an app. for Android phones, but there are other apps. for different operating systems. If you cannot find a suitable app. you can produce a colour image like the white one above. Store that on your phone and open the image when you want that colour light.

Versatile

While the light from the screen of your phone might not be very strong, for a long exposure that is not too important. The light is wonderful and soft. As it comes from a wide source it creates lovely wrap-around shadows. These are just great for still life. Other features of phones can help with the lighting for your photography too. So, have a look at your mobile in a new light – see what you think.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Thinking about different types of diffusion and reflection

• Diffusers and reflectors are important tools for using light •

• Diffusers and reflectors are important tools for using light •
Not all diffusers and reflectors are the same. Watch out for the different characteristics.
Photograph showing Mark Cleghorn of the Lastolite School of Photography
and three Lastolite reflectors/diffusers from the Skylite Rapid System.

Using light – creative fun…

Many photographers assume light is passive in the scene. I get really excited about working light. You can use two methods, modify or add light. Diffusers and reflectors are powerful modifiers to manipulate light. To add light you can use flash or continuous light sources. I want to expand on modifying light.

Modifying any light

You can use a modifier of any kind to change light and make it illuminate your scene the way you want. Light modifiers can include the use of gels, softboxes, and all manor of diffusers connected directly to the light source. However, reflectors and diffusers can also be free standing. Free-standing diffusers can be used to change the light from a natural source or an artificial one. However, remember that light falls off to a quarter of its intensity each time you double the distance from the source. Using a diffuser at a distance from an artificial source is going to significantly reduce the light intensity compared to using it at the source.

Using free standing diffusers and modifiers

I have previously written about table top still life photography and using modifiers. I mentioned that you can use white card as reflectors to bring light around the back of a table top subject. You can also use diffusers to reduce the natural light from a window. I use net curtains. The point is that actually there are a range of modifiers in you home and other places near at hand. Here are some simple household items I have used…

  • Diffusers: Net curtains, white blinds, paper, tissue paper, greaseproof paper, tracing paper, plastic bottles and containers frosted glass, drinking glasses, acrylic glass, white bed-sheets…
  • Reflectors: white walls, towels, card, silver paper, silvered insulation block, mirrors, white plates, white bed-sheets, white boxes, a slide projection screen, various white materials (cotton, nylon, wool)…

You might ask why I use such a wide range of different things as modifiers. That is a crucial point. Each and every one of those items in the list have different properties. For example reflectors with very course surfaces have very soft reflections indeed – towels are an example. A large sheet of white paper can be used as both a reflector and a diffuser in different ways and it has different properties too. People often don’t realise that light coming through glass is reduced by anything up to 40%. It is also scattered. So plain, see-through glass can actually be used as a diffuser and light reducer – depending on the properties of the glass. Frosted glass is an even better diffuser.

More after this…

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Most of these different materials and objects can be used by stretching them out, hanging them up or propping them up around or near your subject. All of them have a different impact on the final image. Some of the materials are better for table tops. Others are better for hanging and using for say, portraiture.

It is the properties that count

Modifying light is NOT about buying expensive equipment. While it is nice to have great tools for the job, for the photography enthusiast there are lots of other ways of getting a great result. Amateurs, enthusiasts and beginners alike can benefit from thinking about how the light is changed rather than by which equipment. It is the end result that is important, not the method or equipment used to do it.

Look for different properties and how to use the modifiers

In the video Mark Cleghorn shows us how to use a range of professional diffusers and deflectors. I would like you to think about the different properties of each of them. He shows us silvered ones, a semi-diffuser/reflector and lots of ways to use reflectors. He also makes various points about the way to use both reflectors and diffusers. The different properties have an impact on the shot – including light intensity, colour and reflective type. Overall Mark is showing us a variety of different types of modifying properties and how to use them.

You can use this knowledge to think about the things you have around the house. Once you have used something to modify light a few times you will have a knowledge of the type of light it creates. Then, you can experiment with other objects and materials. After a while you will develop a feel for creating different types of light for your various subjects. Becoming a master of light is about knowing what you can do with the materials at hand.

Using the Skylite Rapid system from Lastolite  External link - opens new tab/page

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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Black and white is fun – try monochrome

Reflection of a girl in a shop window

Reflection of a girl in a shop window. There is more to monochrome than black and white photography. Single colours are a great way to express yourself.

Give your shots a new dimension.

There is something exciting about black and white. The use of one tonal range gives a simplicity that is a new dimension. You can do the same working with one colour other than grey.

In “Don’t photograph in black and white” I said it is better to take a shot in colour with black and white processing in mind. Well, it need not be just black and white. Some photos work really well in other monochrome colour tones. There are several ways you can do it and I am going to set out some ideas for you to try.

Getting the shot

There are many ways you can get a monochrome shot in camera…

  • Find a monochrome subject. My shot above is an example. This girls face reflected off a shop window. The predominant cobalt blues in the shop display created a perfect monochrome reflection in blue. I fired off an opportune shot! So look for situations where you can pick up a monochrome appearance. Reflections are a great opportunity.
  • Filters. There are an amazing range of photographic filters on the market. There is a whole range of colours. Using these you can colour your image as you take it – strong filters will impart a monochrome overall. You will need to experiment however, filters change the nature of the light entering your camera. You might get some surprising results!
  • Gels. Photographic gels are coloured material that colour light. You can, if you stretch it tight, put thinner gels over the front of your lens. This will colour the light as it enters the camera. Try to make sure there are no wrinkles or you will get dark lines across your shot. Although, you might artfully arrange wrinkles to give your shot a unique texture as well as colour. If you use gels you might need some strong lights, hard light is best. Gels tend to be quite colour saturated. So they need the subject to be brightly lit so you see details. Its all part of the fun!
  • Coloured light. Using gels you can also light the scene with a strong colour. Deep red, blue or green gels make some really erie colours and impart some interesting shadows. If you use your gels in conjuction with strong house-lights the colour-cast will be enough to completely colour the shot as a monochrome. Moody and atmospheric shots are especially good with strong gels. They make for some great scenes. If you have an off-camera flash you will be able to try a wider range of shots with brighter results too. Just lightly tape the gel onto the lens of the flash so it shines through the gel when the flash goes off.
  • Shoot through glass. Shop windows, especially armoured glass often imparts a greenish tinge to everything you see through it. It also gives a sort of dreamy, almost watery feel to the shot. Try taping a small piece of glass like that to the front of your lens hood.
  • Colour ordinary glass. There are many types of colourant that will go on a small piece of glass. Various paints, makeup, inks, food colour… I am sure you can think of a few others too. The single colour will be imparted to the shot. Some of the things you put on will give an inconsistent coverage. More creative fun can be had by producing patterns on the glass with your colourant. Then you will be able to influence not only your monochrome shot, but also the texture of the exposure.
  • Processing. There are a whole range of ways you can get some shots to be post-processed in a monochrome. You could just have a go with your favorite image editor. Experimenting is a great way to learn. I will also be doing a future article on monochrome processing here.

I hope those ideas give you great creative thoughts. Activities like this are fun and great for extending your skills. Just make sure you keep exotic liquids, paint and chemicals off your lens. They may damage the coating on the glass.

Gels…

We have entered a new definition into the Photographic Glossary today. The definition covers Gel; Diffusion Gel; Filter Gel; Color Gel; Lighting Gel.

Gels are coloured but translucent material used to project light of a specific colour for enhancing a scene with mood, atmosphere or character, or for correcting the colour of light. Read more about Gels.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.