Assignment 4 – Applying Lighting Techniques


This assignment requires images that reveal particular physical properties of a single object via the application of the lighting techniques covered leading up to the assignment.

The physical properties are:

  • Shape – This is all about the outline of the object strongly contrasting with the background with minimum detail being visible in the object.
  • Form – Revealing the 3 dimensional nature of the object.
  • Texture – Revealing all the qualities of the objects surface.
  • Colour – Choose a kind of lighting the shows the subjects colour as strong as possible  or use other unusual or attractive lighting.

Preparation and Planning

I felt it was important to select an object that would provide enough scope to demonstrate the multiple lighting techniques that had been looked at leading to this assignment. The object that I selected was an electric guitar.

Having selected the object, I started thinking about the images I wanted to capture and I decided that I would like to present them all as potential music album or cd covers. Although this wasn’t specifically part of the assignment, as I was considering what the images would be like, I was instinctively picturing this kind of presentation. Relating the presentation of the image to its subject felt like it would give them a greater meaning than just presenting different lighting techniques.

With this in mind, I began some research into existing guitar album covers as sources of inspiration. It was immediately obvious that a lot of album covers feature the artist playing the instrument. This seems like an obvious idea from a marketing point of view but it wasn’t how I wanted the images to look and would also have strongly reduced the focus on the guitar in my images if there was a person in them. This narrowed the search but there was still a large number of images to look through. Below are four images that I feel strongly contributed to my final ideas:

This image uses lighting techniques to nicely show the guitars texture. The composition also enforces the idea that the whole object doesn’t need to be seen for an image to work.

Solo Eight String Guitar – Seen on

The part of this image that really caught my eye was the composition and the choice of subject. As with the image above, focusing on just the head of the guitar is enough for the viewer to know what the image is all about.

Various Artists Legends of Guitar: Classical – seen on

The lighting with this image was it’s main attraction from my point of view. The entire guitar has been included in the composition and it has been placed almost square with the cameras view point. However, lighting has then been used to portray the form of the object. With this image, I also like the vignette that has been added to focus attention onto the guitar.

The world’s first-ever Harp Guitar Compilation CD! –

With this image, powerful lighting is being used to emphasize detail of the guitar. The way the lighting is being applied gave me ideas for small areas of strong light could be used to create a powerful effect.




Intent: Using  strong edge lighting, produce a low-key image that emphasises the outer edge of the guitar without to much light illuminating the detail of the guitar.

Lighting Techniques: A snoot was used to produce a narrow beam of light from an off camera flash gun producing an edge lighting effect.

Thoughts/Review: I have been very pleased with this image, however, I have a small concern that not enough of the guitars edge is lit for it to be obvious that the object is a guitar. In combination with this concern, is the detail seen in the remainder of the guitar to great and causing a distraction from the emphasis on it’s shape. Due to the low key nature of the image, I could easily have completely removed this detail by placing some black material over it.

Although these concerns are still present, I decided that the presentation of the image strikes a good balance between emphasising the shape but leaving in a small amount of detail to capture the viewers interest.


Intent: Capture a silhouette of the guitars body using an interesting background light, without revealing detail in the face of the guitar. 

Lighting Techniques: Simple technique of placing a gel covered flash behind the guitar and setting the camera to the flash sync speed.

 Thoughts/Review: This was a very simple but effective image to create with full focus being give to the images shape as no other detail can be seen. The light fall off from the flash has created a pleasing natural vignette.



Intent: Placing the guitars head in a position that two edges can be seen by the camera, light it such that an appropriate shadow is cast against the wall.

Lighting Techniques: Diffusing and positioning light to be able to control the strength of a shadow.

 Thoughts/Review: Use of the shadow to portray the objects form was the intention of this image but controlling the shadows strength and direction was its key. Placing a diffuser between the light and the object softens the shadow and then adjusting the distance of the light to the subject controls it’s strength. Had the shadow been to hard or to dark, it would have been distracting from the guitar.

Also, I was conscious of the shadows position. Placing the light at to much of an accute angle to the guitar was casting long shadows that took the viewers eye away from the guitar itself and spoiled the image.


Intent: Reveal the form of the guitar by producing a strong shadow and lighting that catches the edges of the guitar.

Lighting Techniques: Use an unfiltered/non-diffused light to produce a strong shadow, coupled with a reflector to reveal detail (fill shadow).

 Thoughts/Review: With this image, I wanted to take the opposite approach of the image above. Using no lighting modifiers between the light source and the object, I intentionally wanted to produce a long, diagonal, shadow to create a strong and contrasting diagonal.

To ensure that the subject still had strength in the image, I needed to reveal detail and interest in the guitar so I used a silver reflector to reflect the light back at the face of the guitar.

Two final adjustments that were made were to take the diagonal slightly away from the corner, as this appeared to contrived and in post processing, a vignette was added to focus attention.



Intent: Show the reflectiveness of the guitars surface whilst also revealing it’s texture.

Lighting Techniques: A diffused light  coupled with a gobo.

Thoughts/Review: This image was taken by placing a diffuser between the light source and the object and then positioning a gobo between the diffuser and the object in order to block the light and eliminate the reflection. By doing this, we can see that the surface of the guitar is reflective but also see that there is still some texture in the surface. 


Intent: Reveal the texture of both the guitars body and the pieces of chrome.

Lighting Techniques: Diffused lighting and a black reflector.

Thoughts/Review: Although the outcome of this image is similar to the image above, the intention was different. In this image, the chrome parts of the guitar are give more of a prominent position meaning that reflections need to be managed.

A single flash gun was used, fired through a large diffuser and placed outside the “family of angles” to help minimise the reflections on the surface of the guitar. On the top side of the chrome, the plain white is the reflection of the diffuser, however, on the bottom side, I had to introduce some dark material behind the guitar to reduce light bouncing back at this point and creating an unwanted reflection.

When I was taking this image, I noticed that I was getting a reflection line along the surface of the guitar. I believe this was being caused by the diffuser not being able to diffuse the light enough. By twisting the diffuser though, I was able to control the angle of this line.



Intent: Using a single colour, light the guitar as if it was ready to be used at a gig.

Lighting Techniques: Using colour gels and a snoot.

Thoughts/Review: The technique used for this image was simple and similar to the silhouetted image used to represent the shape of the guitar. By using a snoot, I was able to direct the coloured light at a low angle so that the frets of the guitar weren’t picking up the light. I felt this added a bit of interest to the image.



Intent: Use white balance adjustments to give the impression of a two light setup like it was standing in a music hall or venue.

Lighting Techniques: Adjust White Balance and fire an off camera flash through a snoot with a flash gel.

 Thoughts/Review: Creating this image was quite interesting and was a good demonstration of the creative use of white balance. The white balance on the camera was set as low as it could go – initially I tried the Tungston setting but found that by setting the kelvin value, I could further reduce the colour temperature from 2850 to 2600. Having set the camera in this way, everything was captured with a strong blue tint. Next, I fired a flash gun covered in a red gel towards one side of the guitar.

Using a red gel with the cool white balance setting was a bit of an experiment to see what the effect would be. The reason that I thought the result would be unpredictable was that a warm colour light was being fired which would counteract the affect of the white balance so I wondered how much the light would appear to come back to neutral.

I quite like the outcome. the red light hasn’t managed to overpower the white balance and there are a couple of small highlights the look very red. I feel this has given the impression that the guitar is situated in the corner of a blue lit room with a red spot light shining towards it.

Final Thoughts

All of the images that I’ve created for this exercise have involved using artificial light, sometimes instead of natural light and in other examples as an addition to natural light. The reason this has been the case is that before attempting the exercises leading up to this module, I’d previously done very little with flash lights and certainly had never tried using off camera flash. Being able to use, and control, a powerful light source has given me the ability to be far more creative with these types of still life images.

The images that i’ve select have also built on the topics studied in previous parts of this course. Choosing to use a square aspect ratio has needed additional thought to be given to the composition and balance of the images as it’s not a format that is especially common or one that I have used very often. A number of the images have intentional examples of lines, curves and diagonals to aid these compositions.

Further to the format and composition, I’ve considered the colours that have been used in the images. 5 of the 8 images have been presented in Black and White with the main purpose being so that colour doesn’t distract from the intent of the image. The only image in colour that wasn’t being used to show colour was the silhouetted shape image which is still presented as a mono tone image using green. Because of the images simplicity, I felt it would be lacking if presented in black and white so I chose green because of its appropriateness as a back ground colour. Green represents both positive and negative emotion; it can been seen as being soothing and relaxing whilst also being associated with illness and jealousy. These emotional effects can also be invoked by different types of music which strongly relates to the subject matter of the image.

For the two images being used to represent colour, selecting a predominantly black subject my have been restricting but it did give a chance to be creative with colour lighting. Both images involve the colour blue which was chosen more for the association with the type of music than a particular emotional response.

Looking at other album covers was an interesting way of getting inspiration for my own images. Using the internet is an easy way to quickly look at a large selection of images. The 4 images that I chose to include into the assignment were chosen because I thought the ideas and techniques of these images were obvious in my own work. In addition to these images, positive influences were also taken from three books – “Understanding Flash Photography” (Peterson, B), “Light, Science & Magic” (Hunter, F. et al) and “the photograph as contemporary art” (Cotton, C).

“Understanding Flash Photography” and “Light, Science & Magic” both presented technical detail about using and controlling both flash and lighting. These helped me with gaining knowledge of both what I needed to manage and control and why. “the photography as contemporary art” had a more subtle impact and was probably the reason I wanted to present all the images as album covers. Reading this book has been a struggle and I’ve found it difficult to engage with because I feel I still don’t have an appreciation for what contemporary artists are trying to achieve. However, reading this work to broaden my knowledge has ultimately had a positive impact on the images I’ve produced.


Peterson, B (2011) Understanding Flash Photography. 3rd edition. Amphoto Books

Hunter, F. et al (2012) Light – science & magic. 4th edition. Waltham: Focal Press

Cotton, C (2009) the photograph as contempory art. New edition. Thames & Hudson world of art.


One thought on “Assignment 4 – Applying Lighting Techniques

  1. Pingback: Assignment 4 – Applying Lighting Techniques, Tutor Feedback | Bushtography

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