Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 4

Assignment 4 – Languages of Light


Concluding notes on Assignment 4

Brief – Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria.

Creativity assessment criteria – Imagination, experimentation, invention.

Within the assessment statements this relates to development of analytical and creative thinking, using independent judgement and presenting a developing personal voice.


I tend to work from instinct when approaching new areas, rather than through inspiration. I find this allows me to apply my own imaginative ideas, rather than apply those of others. At the same time, in my head, I am being influenced in a passive way by artists that have struck a chord with me. In exploring studio photography for the first time I found myself initially wanting to create a similar candid look that my experience of street photography had drawn me to. This is why I directed the models to look away from the lens and to adopt naturalistic poses. Experience and research then taught me that this was not the best approach. I thought carefully about how to apply this to my final sitting. I wanted to create something with more drama, as well as developing a more intimate relationship between the model and the lens.


This was the biggest area for me to take on board for this project. I haven’t shot in a studio before, or used flash photography in a formal shoot. I did have to research technical requirements and took a while to set up the studio and equipment in my living space. Playing around with an onion in still life form initially helped me prepare in terms of settings etc. The first sitting with the three models taught me a lot about positioning of the model, avoiding shadows and finding the right focal point. In the second sitting with Zack we had a lot of fun playing with different props and outfits. It was also interesting to see the difference that the background colour/tone makes to the feel of the shot. I also found that being more direct with the model allowed me to experiment with different moods in the models facial expressions.


A difficult area to apply in terms of my approach. I did have to be quite inventive in terms of setting up a home studio and organising the space for the shoots. I also spent some time exploring props to use in the shots and looking at ways to add interesting dimensions to the images. These included using fairy wings, hats and a variety of musical instruments in the shots. I also played a little with having more than one model in the shots and they played off each other. These were fun to do but not as successful in terms of creating a satisfying image. This is an area for development as I would enjoy being more playful in setting up studio shots.

So am I developing a personal voice in my photography? I always shy away a little from becoming too involved in emulating other photographers as I want my creativity to come from within. If this project, and in fact this course, has taught me anything it is to be more open to considering the work of others. It was in studying others’ portraiture during this project that really helped me to develop my own style, whilst applying the skills of others. It also showed me how important it is to consider the connection between the lens and the subject matter, and this can be reliant on many things. It could be connected to the relationship between the model and photographer, it could be related to the photographer’s direction or perhaps the context and set up. But in all these areas there is always the element of chance that steps in.




Assignment 4 – Languages of Light


For my assignment 4 focus I decided to use this as a new learning experience and return to my exploration of studio photography that I visited in exercise 4.4. Much of the photography I have approached over the last few years has been street or event photography – capturing moments that happen naturally. In contrast I wanted to take this opportunity to set up my own frames in the studio and learn a little more about controlling the light. This is an area new to me so I was aware that it would be quite a learning curve. My equipment was also quite limited so I purchased a screen and flash.

Basing my main approach on changing the position of the fill light and camera I began to explore how different angles and light positions created different moods in the frame.

I was also aware of the importance of how I wanted the models to interact with the lens.

I chose portraiture as with my passion for street and gig photography, there is something in the human form that attracts my photographer’s eye.

I began with a very informal session – using three friends as models – and I moved my camera and fill light through the same positions each time.


I close cropped Nik in the frames to give the image a more intimate feel. Images 2 and 3 both incorporate a one sided shadow behind the subject matter giving more depth. The brightness of the more direct light on both images and 4 and 5 accentuate the lines of the face and make the feel more candid. Images 1 and 6 with the fill light at a greater distance from the subject matter allow the hues to dominate the picture more.


The first two images and number 5 use the back shadow to give the image more depth. In each of these the face is illuminated. This flattens the image a little. Cropping to incorporate all of the upper body gives a less intimate mood. Image three illuminates the face from the side with the fill light at a greater distance. This has enhanced the shape and contours of the face, giving a more defined representation. The closer cropped image 6 allows for a more intimate portrait with the side angle giving more definition to the subject matter.


The shadows created in the first, third and fifth images add depth but take the eye away from the focus on the face. Image six with the fill light directly at the side leaves the shadow on one side of the face a little undefined to create the dramatic effect I was going for. Images 2 and 4 have used the light well to enhance the expression on the subjects face. Having the light directly in front has also allowed the contours of the face to dominate. Image two is unfortunately a little overblown – perhaps toning down the exposure in post production might work.

I further investigated other photographers images to explore possibilities of creating different ‘looks’. I was particularly drawn to the work of Jean Baptiste Huynh. The black background and close crop of his pieces accentuate the details of the human face. There is also something in the expression of his subjects that reveal a sense of irony or humour that he has managed to evoke.

Jean-Baptiste Huynh

Baptiste’s approach is to place a large softbox close to his subjects to create a soft ‘wrapping’ effect. ‘Jean-Baptiste Huynh’s thematic preoccupations include the human gaze, oneself image, the play of light, the sense of timelessness, and the attempt to capture infinity.’ ( – biography)

It is his interest in the ‘human gaze’ and capturing infinity that create the individual style in his work. Not wanting to emulate another’s creativity, but at the same time wanting to develop my own personal creative style, I want to find a way of interacting with my subjects that enables me to control their look.

In my first three contacts I rarely asked them to look into the lens. Something I will address in the next session.

I feel compelled to include some of the work of Annie Leibovitz. This is something to aspire to. The sense of drama, artistry and intimacy is beautifully represented.

Annie Leibovitz: A Photographer’s Life, 1990-2005

Her composition, direction of the subject matter, lighting up the skin and ability to illuminate the character of her subject is impressive. These four images all use contrast to great effect with brightly lit faces and a dark/black framing.


Zack was my final model for this assignment. With my interest in the importance of skin awakened I tried to manipulate the use of light in playing with this medium. In the first two images I have used a white screen to create a dynamic contrast between the human figure and the background – an attempt to suggest the infinite frame.The first image is a little over blown, which unfortunately takes away some of the definition in the face. I went for a very close crop on all the other shots. This was in an attempt to create intimacy as well as focusing on the face. The 3rd and 5th shots both light up most of the face – but with a slight shadow suggesting diminishing light on one side. Images 4 and 6 work well in contrast with each other – the first lighting up the whole face and the second lighting up one side of the face. The biggest difference between these shots and my first three models is the subject is looking directly into the the lens – creating a less candid, but more intimate piece.

My Final Selection

I have chosen two images from each experiment. I selected these eight because the represent a range of the qualities that I wanted to achieve. The level of intimacy, the connection with the lens, the use of light to define different aspects of the human face and a certain amount of playfulness being exposed.










Following on from my tutor’s feedback I have reworked some of the images used in the assignment. The tones in my initial experiments were a little warm, so I have adjusted these to create a more realistic palette.

Post production has helped to cool down the tones in the images a little, but with hindsight this is an area to address in future when setting up the shot. This was a very useful learning experience for myself to explore studio photography. Partly to investigate the technical and creative aspects of setting up each shot, but also with the added challenge of directing models. This is where a big difference can be seen between my first photo shoot with the girls, and the final session with Zack. I also found the research I addressed between these two really helped with my approach. My tutor suggested that due to my progress between the two shoots, my final selection of six shots should be from this second collection. With this in mind I have changed my final six images. It was also suggested that I chose either colour or black and white to ensure consistency within the collection.

Final 6 reworked and reselected