Exercise: Softening the Light

Set up a still life arrangement, with any object or group of objects. Using a diffuse light source to soften the shadows and the highlights, take two photographs, one with the naked lamp, and the other with the diffuser material held between the lamp and the subject.

Looking through this exercise actually prompted me to buy a softbox push on plastic light diffuser for my flashgun. I’d used it a couple of times and found the flash was too harsh, so as an interim I put tissue paper over the flash and held it on with elastic bands, however I wanted to try a more sturdy approach so ordered one of these. I did follow the instructions as part of the course and made my own diffuser out of a cardboard frame (an old mount) and some white tissue paper layered up. I then stretched this around a movable light I had. You will see some of the images are without any diffuser, and some are with; there are examples of the home made diffuser on the light, and also the flashgun with and without a diffuser.

I used the portable studio I had to provide a neutral base and background and set up a small group of objects to create a still life. I positioned myself in front of the still life and took a mixture of images with the light and homemade diffuser.

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Flashgun without diffuser                      Flashgun with diffuser

With diffuserWithout diffuser

My results were

With a diffuser

-          Shadows have softer edges

-          The shadows are a lighter colour

-          Highlights are there as I used a shiny subject but less harsh than those non-diffused

Without a diffuser

-          Darker coloured shadows

-          Harsher and more pronounced shadow shapes: e.g. around the Celtic  box

-          More highlights over the subjects especially on the matte surfaces.

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