Project 7: Depth – Exercise: Creating Depth with Light

You will need:
• A dark room. (It doesn’t need to be very dark but it should be dark enough that your lights will make a significant difference when turned on.)
• Some small lights. (These need to be lights you can control. Mini spots, torches or other narrow beamed sources are good, though you can experiment with any light sources available.)
• The ability to control the exposure on your camera. (You want areas of dark and light. Many cameras will automatically adjust to give you an image even in darkness. You need to turn this feature off if possible.) Create a series of images with varying depth.
• Move objects around in the room, experimenting with perspective and lighting. Consider how you can use the lighting to create layers.
• Try adjusting the zoom on your lens. Place some items close to the lens and some further away. Start with a wide lens (zoomed all the way out) and then zoom-in in steps.
• Create at least three distinctly different impressions of depth in the same space. Think about making the space appear larger and smaller, cluttered or empty, wide or long.
• Make detailed notes on how you achieved each effect.
• Upload your notes and images to your blog and invite comments.
• Look at other students’ examples and compare your results. What effects do you like best? How were they achieved?
• If you see anything you particularly like can you replicate it?

Very surprisingly, I found this exercise, so far, the most difficult to do. Not least because I have just invested in upgrading my camera and editing equipment, and it is taking me a while to get used to controlling the new settings.

I chose to use my dining room and my daughter’s china doll again as the object to focus upon in this exercise. I placed the camera upon a tripod approximately two metres from the dining table, and the china doll in the centre of the table.

1. The first shot involved a white electrical night-light plugged in at the background left of the room, off screen light from the kitchen adjacent and finally a very dull light from the outside natural light from the very rear in the background. Placed underneath the china doll is a mobile phone light which illuminates the doll’s features. The distance between the camera and the china doll appears long, perhaps further than the actual distance. Behind the doll you can see a further 1.5 – 2 metres clearly apparent from the back wall. As the room is well lit from almost four light sources, it is easy to gather depth and make out the surroundings. In the video beneath this exercise, zooming in, gently at first, the light allows the distance to continue to be the same perspective. As the foreground disappears, the background remains constant as it is still lit from behind. ( I had a little trouble controlling the zoom speeds on my camera, I must admit! )

SnapShot 1

2.  Turning off the kitchen light, its interesting to see little changes the perspective and distance between the camera, the china doll and the background, although with the beam of light underneath the table does flatten the distance slightly from the top half of the scene to the floor. Zooming into the face of the doll, we can see, with just a little light lost in the background, how the distance is shrunk somewhat from behind. ( See the two pics below. )


3. For this shot, I removed the mobile phone from the table and used it as an illumination from behind me. This highlights the distance from the camera to the doll, but flattens the distance beyond. Obviously the definitions of the doll’s features are lost as there is no longer a spot-lamp upon it. Most of the room is clear to see, however much of the bright colours are lost. The outside view is less clear.


4. Using a torch placed beneath the tripod and facing upwards across the scene, elongates the background, voids the light coming from outside and creates a harsher colour hue to the scene. Torches are directional and focus on the scene that they are aimed at. With this frame, the china doll’s shadow adds a sinister background scenery. I left the kitchen light on to show that the picture, although it appears a different hue, has not been tampered with from any post-edit software. Long shadows give the impression of a much further background, as the torch light is still present here.


5. Switching off all other lights other than the large standing lamp in the background, colour ignites the frame, adding a high exposure to the shot. As the room is flooded with light, the china doll becomes insignificant. All items are illuminated. The back window now acts like a mirror, negating anything from outside. Detail in the scene is softened however. Exposure is too high.


Below is a video of the exercise. Its in a very raw mode, part of the process is to control equipment for use. I felt that this exercise would be best revisited later on once handling the tools become easier, and I will be able to access any improvement.

Peter O


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