Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bright Field Lighting


Last week I did a blog post on how easy it is to light glass using the dark field technique with one flash, so this week I thought I would write a post on how to shoot the same subject matter using the bright field lighting technique.

This technique is essentially the same type of lighting set up except that instead of having a black background and white edge lighting on the subject, we have a bright background with dark edge lighting on the subject.  When lighting glass, its almost always important to have the edge defined in some way or another.  While you can light glass from the front to show its true texture, defining the edge is what really defines the shape of the glass itself.

When doing this technique, there are a few important things to consider.  Obviously, a white (or light colored) background is needed but also, you need some black panels for the dark lines on the edge of the glass.  There are several ways to do this but my solution for this was to tack up a piece of black background paper to the wall, then tack a piece of white paper in the center of the black for the background.  Also, the white background needs to be large enough to completely fill the frame of the composition but not be too big.  If its too big, the black edges won't be defined well enough and if its too small, the black paper will show in the frame.  So you want to make your white background at least a few inches bigger in all directions than the subject you are shooting.  Its really just a matter of trial and error, but you can see in the set up photo taken with my phone how this basically looks.

As far as light placement goes, I always place the light underneath the subject and point it back towards the background.  You could easily boom the light above as well, but this always takes up more room.  The set up I used takes up as minimal space as necessary to get the shot, which if you're like me and work in limited studio space, learning to condense your set ups can be quite handy.

For the images in this blog post, I used a pane of glass to rest the water glass on so that I would get that dark edge on the bottom of the glass as well, but I ended up shooting tighter crops.

For the camera settings, I shot this similar to the dark field lighting image I did in the previous blog post.  I find that using a smaller aperture gives better detail in the glass, especially if you're trying to include a little action in the shot, such as pouring water in the image at the top of the post.  With that in mind, I used an aperture of f/16 at 1/250 sec, ISO 200.  I believe my flash power was set around 1/4 or 1/8.  Surprisingly, it doesn't take as much power as you would think for these type images.  The flash I used was the Nikon SB-910 speedlight.

In the previous post I used radio triggers to trigger the off camera flash, but in this post, I used Nikon's CLS system to trigger the flash.  To avoid seeing the pre-flashes reflected in the glass I simply just held my hand in front of the pop-up flash.

You may notice that I used a tripod in these shots and also in the previous post.  While I have self-professed to not be a tripod user, in shooting things like this, I find that tripods are an essential tool.  Sometimes you have to make very slight adjustments to the placement of your subject, the background or a light so having your camera on a tripod really helps because its one more variable that you won't have to keep adjusting.

Once you get this shot down, experiment with different angles, gelled flashes and different types of glass or action.  When using bright field lighting, you don't have to have a solid white background.  In fact, sometimes it makes a cooler looking image to have less light on the background.  Also, by lowering the power on your flash, it helps you to really freeze action in an image such as the water splashing in this shot.  The lower your flash power, the faster the flash duration which is what essentially helps you to freeze things that are in motion.

The really hard part of an image like this is capturing the right moment of action.  I had to shoot several of these before I got an image where my timing was on.  I simply had my daughter hold the cubes of ice above the glass and drop them on the count of three.  You would think this would be fairly easy, but its much tougher than you think... but not impossible at all!  They actually make devices to help you capture action shots like this such as sound and light triggers, but I find that with just a little patience (and cleaning up between shots) that you can do this with minimal gear.

Also, in this shot, notice that the black edges are thicker than the ones in the shot at the top of the post.  I didn't move the glass, my camera or the distance between the glass to the background but what I did change was the flash power.  By lowering the flash power (and I zoomed the head a little) the spread of light on the wall decreased and allowed more black to show through.  If you didn't want this look, all you would have to do is move the glass closer to the wall, but I actually like the thicker, dark edges for this shot, I just think it works better with the composition, but that's one of the great things about these techniques, you can move things slightly and get completely different looks.

These are really fun techniques to do if you're in to lighting glass or other shiny, reflective or translucent objects and can be done simply with one flash and a few pieces of cardboard or paper.  If anyone has any questions about this technique, please sound off in the comments below!

Now, what type of lighting technique to do for the next blog post...


Happy House Owner said...

Thank you for sharing a great shot and explanation Feeling inspired!!

John said...

You're very welcome!