152mc Working with Light: Ambient Lighting – Task 3 development

We are surrounded by numerous alternative sources of light. These can often be used to change to mood or effect of an image. For this next section I wanted to explore ambient lighting and see how they could be used for this project.

George Brassai (nd)
George Brassai (nd)

This image by Hungarian Photographer George Brassaí was taken using only street lighting. The image is of a prostitute and Brassaí wanted to reflect life on the street. With the lighting coming from the back it almost silhouettes the character, adding to the overall moody feel. If Brassaí had lit this from the front the entire image would have lost the drama.

Veronique De Vigerie (nd)
Veronique De Viguerie (nd)

Veronique De Viguerie took this image of the poverty and criminality that exists within large cities. Here the people are homeless and heavily drug dependant. Using ambient light adds a gritty and dramatic feel to the image. The lighting used here is coming from above and in front of the subject, from the chicken wire fence and the bright lights in the back ground suggests to me that this image could have been taken on a sports court. This would fit with the strength of the lighting available. From the style of the image and the large depth of field I believe that a wide-angle was used, this has created the almost distorted and intimidating feel to the subject. The focus point would have been on the face but the wide-angle offers the subject lots of depth making the person feel larger. If this had been shot from further away using a longer zoom then the person would have been compressed at feel much smaller.

Image by L Morley
Image by L Morley

I took this using only the light from a monitor. In order to create enough contrast between the light and dark areas I closed the surrounding window blinds to reduce the light in the area as much as possible. I then spot metered off the light on the subjects face to get the exposure right for the area in the photo that I felt was most important. The result gives subject a nice soft glow from the light on the monitor screen. One area I had a problem with this was the light on the monitor was brighter and as such it overexposed slightly. I fixed this problem in Photoshop by using the burning tool on the monitor to bring it back to a more comfortable level. With the light falling off very quickly it ensures that the subject stands out as there are no other distractions. I also felt that the subdued lighting creates a melancholy mood and it feels quite peaceful.

Image by L Morley
Image by L Morley

I was eager to explore other types of ambient lighting and in particular the effects that can be achieved by shooting at night. I wanted to use street lighting like George Brassaí but from a different angle. I took my tripod with me as I knew I would be shooting at shutter speeds beyond my hand-held ability without increasing the ISO. As a night image the noise would become a real distraction at high ISO’s so I was really keen to avoid this. Shot at ISO 200 I had a 2 second exposure so it was vital that the subject stood still and to get a blur free image it took a few attempts.

Overall I was quite happy with the outcome. I felt that the use of the street lighting allowed me to create a poignant image that suited the subject and his expression. If the lighting had been too bright or the shot was taken in the daytime with sunlight it would have lacked emotion and impact. However I do believe that I could have improved on this. If I were to re-take this I would like to have reflected some light back onto the face of the subject in order capture some more detail similar to what could be achieved by using flash. I also should have used a prime lens, capable of wider apertures. A better lens would have let in more light, reducing the shutter time and would have reduced the depth of field even further, increasing the contrast between the subject and the background and making them stand out that bit more.

This ambient lighting technique appeals to me and I think it is something I will be using to add an emotional feel to one of my images.


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