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In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
We've talked a lot in this series about trying to find subject matter, trying to find things that'll open your eyes back up and maybe get you shooting in a different way. This week on the Practicing Photographer it's going to be easy. We're not sending you out to find some obscure lighting situation or something like that. All you got to do is go to your refrigerator and get an egg. Because we want a round shape. What I want you to do this week is an assignment around shooting an egg. I'm here at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute right now, working with a photographer named Troy Word who has just given a very interesting assignment to our group of very talented teenage photographers.
He's asked them go shoot an egg. Preferably with the idea of getting an emotion from it, without modifying the egg. This is the assignment that I want you to do. Now this may sound strange, but how do you get emotion out of an egg without drawing a frown on it, or a happy face, or something like that? You do it through lighting, and camera angle. Watch what happens even just standing out here right now as I move the egg into the sunlight. The difference between shade and Sun. I've picked up this wonderful contour right here. I've actually got another shadow right here that I can play with.
As I start manipulating the lighting, moving it around, a lot of things are going to happen. If I start with a light directly in front of the egg, I remove all contour from it. I turn it into simply a bright, white oval shape. As the light is moved around, the egg begins to pick up shadows of different kinds. Some of them may be more sinister. Some of them maybe making it appear more vulnerable. This is a very, very simple exercise in terms of what you need gear wise. You can get away with one light, or even just sunlight and a reflector or a diffuser, something like that.
There are a lot of ways of modifying the light on this egg. I can't really change the direction of the sun without waiting for a while, but I could reflect lighting in different places. Or as you see, as working with the students, we have got a single light. Now this is a very light that we are using. You can very easily go to your local building supplies store and just get a work light, a shop light of some kind. Just something, even just a lamp that you have at home. Just something to put a single light source on that you can move around. As you're doing this assignment, don't forget about all of the other aspects of building a shot.
You want to think about camera position and focal length because that's going to change the proportions of the egg. It's going to give you a very different look in terms of how long the egg is, how fat it is. Think about the entire frame, think about what you want in the background. Think about how much space you want in the frame. A small egg in a very big, empty frame is different than a dramatically imposing egg with sinister lighting coming from behind. As Troy has pointed out several times during this assignment the great thing about an egg is it's actually not that much different than the shape of someone's head or the roundness they might have in their body.
It's a really good, simple laboratory for exploring the way that light wraps around shapes. And how that different lighting can really effect mood. So I want you to, I challenge you now to go get an egg and try this experiment. In the next installment, you're going to see what the students came up with and how how much variation there can be with even a simple lighting change on just an ordinary egg.
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