and small objects can be photographed by daylight, although direct
sunlight can produce both over-lit and deeply shadowed areas that
may obscure important details. Direct sunlight may be diffused
by placing a piece of neutral muslin stretched on a frame between
the object and the sun; a reflector can help cast light into the
have built-in flash guns, while others have a fitting for a flash
known as a hot shoe (see figure 17). On many 35mm single lens
reflex cameras (SLRs), the shoe is usually above the lens, with
the result that the light emitted by the flash reflects straight
back into the lens, resulting in patches of glare (hotspots) appearing
on photographs of objects with shiny surfaces (e.g., varnished
paintings, glass surfaces and objects, or porcelain). Attaching
the flash to a separate flash bracket to one side of the camera
can reduce the amount of reflection (see figure 18).
Figure 17: Cameras with, left, a flash unit
fitted on a hot shoe attachment and, right, an integral pop-up
Figure 18: A hammerhead flash unit mounted to
the side of a camera using a flash bracket.
If the flash gun has an adjustable head, the brightness of the light
can be softened by bouncing the light off an angled piece of white
card positioned above the flash (see figure 20). In addition to
general-purpose flash guns, a number of more specialized types are
available, including the ring flash (a circular flash unit that
fits around the outside of the front of the lens), most often used
in close-up photography of small objects (e.g., coins) to produce
localized, shadow-free lighting (see figure 21).
Figure 19: A flash unit on abracket with a reflector.
Figure 20: A ring flash unit mounted on the
lens of a 35mm SLR camera.
black-and-white photography, two domestic desk lamps with ordinary
incandescent bulbs can be used with, if possible, a third lamp to
light the background (see figure 21). However, with color film,
these lights give a decidedly yellow cast to the result; even using
a color-correcting filter cannot be recommended, as the color of
the light of such bulbs can vary widely.
21: An object lit by two desk lamps with
incandescent bulbs can be supplemented by, if possible,
a third lamp to light the background.
Another type of electric lighting that is commonly used in both
black-and-white and color photography is tungsten and tungsten-halogen.
Low-wattage tungsten bulbs (up to 200W) are adequate for use with
black-and-white film, but are not suitable for use with color film.
Higher-wattage tungsten bulbs (e.g., 500W) are designed for use
with tungsten balanced films. However, they also produce a considerable
amount of heat, which means that for many organic materials, such
as wood, paper, fabrics, etc., the lights must not be left to shine
on the objects for long periods of time.
rule when many types of objects are photographed is that the main
light on an object should come from above, preferably from the
top left. We are all accustomed to seeing the world lit from the
sky, and top-lit objects are therefore the easiest to recognize.
With some two-dimensional or shallow objects, this one key light
is sufficient. If the object is three-dimensional, either a reflector
or a fill-in light will be needed on the opposite side of the
object. It may be necessary to use another reflector or even a
third, smaller, light to show a particular detail of the object.
It is useful to devise a few reflectors of different sizes for
such purposes. The cheapest and most effective are pieces of card
stock covered with crumpled and re-flattened aluminum foil.
the second main consideration is texture, the visibility of which
is dependent on the strength and direction of the lighting. Acutely
angled lighting will emphasize texture, and frontal lighting will
flatten it (see figure 22). It is as deceptive to over-emphasize
texture as it is to suppress it, although exaggeration of texture
might be used in some instances to increase the visibility of
a distinguishing feature. The angle of lighting must be related
to the fineness or coarseness of the surface. For example, if
light is just skimmed across the surface of a flat piece of limestone,
it may show the grain of the stone very clearly, but light at
a similar angle across a deeply incised bronze plaque, or a heavily
wheel-marked pot, may give the impression that the plaque is pierced
with slits, or the pot ridged, especially if the light is not
balanced with a supplementary source.
22: Acutely angled lighting emphasizes texture,
right, while front lighting, left, flattens it.
The third consideration taken together with texture is tone and
color. With black-and-white photography, tone (the ranges of grays
between black and white) is all-important. The only reliable way
of ensuring that the range of tones of the print will match those
of the original object is to include a gray scale (see Scales
and Labels) in the photograph, making sure that it is lit
in the same way as the object. For color photography, a color reference
scale is also needed.
type, and intensity of light will depend on the size and type
of object being photographed. Most small objects can be photographed
adequately using oblique lightingthat is, with the main
light falling across the relief of the object, so that the surface
is in a rather darker tone. Cross-lighting of this sort may also
produce quite hard shadows, and a reflector may be needed to bounce
light back into them. A reflector of crushed and re-flattened
aluminum foil, or a low "wall" of foil curved around the object,
can be quite satisfactory (see figure 23). Highly reflective objects
such as beads and individual gem stones often respond best to
completely diffused light, which can be achieved by surrounding
the object with a translucent wall or cone of paper or plastic,
then shining the lights onto this surface from the exterior (see
Figure 23: A reflective low wall of crushed
and reflattened aluminium foil used to bounce light into shadows
produced by the light source.
Figure 24: Highly reflective objects require diffused
light. This can be achieved by surrounding the object with
a translucent wall or cone of paper or plastic and then shining
the lights onto this surface from the exterior.
ceramics, the main light should come from the top left, with a fill-in
light farther away on the lower right. However, there is a special
problem with glazed and burnished wares and porcelain: Lights reflected
from the surface may mask the texture, tones, or details of the
pot, while if the lighting is so soft and overall that there are
no reflections, the vessel may not appear to be glazed or burnished
at all. Often the best solution is to use one main light plus a
reflector and, looking from the camera position, to move the light
about until its reflection falls on an undecorated or unimportant
part of the pots surface.
metal, and dark rough metal surfaces require quite different types
of lighting from ceramics. Light-colored metal, especially silver,
is difficult to light without obtrusive reflections. The best
lighting of all is usually diffuse daylight (not direct sunlight),
although it may be necessary to position a reflector below and
in front of the object to give some light in the shadowed areas.
If it is not possible to use daylight, then the lighting should
be made as diffuse as possible. The lights can be shined against
large reflectors (sheets of paper or foil) instead of on the object,
or against walls or ceilings to reflect diffuse light onto the
object. When using color film, care must be taken not to reflect
light from colored surfaces. Dark, rough metal presents a different
problem. If the angle of light reaching the object is too low,
surface irregularities might show as hard points of light, and
throw shadows on the rest of the body.
with simple shapes against illuminated backgrounds often need
no other lighting. Cut, etched, or engraved glass, however, will
usually need some frontal lighting to show details. This is best
achieved either with very soft, overall lighting, or with a single,
small light source positioned so that its reflection falls on
an unimportant area. As with polished metal, diffused daylight
is often the best illumination for glass objects. In photographing
furniture, statuary, and sculpture, soft overall lighting is preferable.
If the piece is not on or against a white background, it may be
necessary to place a reflector below and in front of it to illuminate
the shadows slightly. Dramatic cross- or top-lighting should be
avoided in record photographs. A single, strong light source can
result in confusing shadows beneath or behind the piece. A useful
technique when photographing sculpture is to take the picture
in a darkened room, using a long exposure and with the illumination
provided by a moving light (figure 25).
Figure 25: A useful technique when photographing sculpture
is to take the picture in a darkened room, using a long exposure
and with the illumination provided by a moving light.
Some materials are particularly difficult to light. White marble
or limestone may appear to lose its texture if the lighting is too
frontal, while dark materials like granite or cast bronze may need
a great deal of indirect light to reveal their textures. Dark, shiny
stone like polished basalt is especially difficult to light, and
strong illumination is needed to show the texture of the surface.
Overall, very diffused light is usually the best answer and daylight
is the best source, if this can be arranged.
such as paintings, drawings, and prints require lighting that
is as even as possible. This can be achieved by using daylight,
although it may be necessary to place a reflector below the original.
Two tungsten lights on stands, set at about 45 degrees to the
surface, can evenly cover an area. For large objects, four lights
may be needed, one at 45 degrees to each corner, both vertically
and horizontally, at a distance of 1 or 2 meters (see figure 26).
The evenness of the lighting can be checked by taking a series
of light-readings on a gray card held in the middle and at the
four corners of the object.
26: For large objects such as a drawing
or a painting, four lights may be needed, one at 45°
to each corner, both vertically and horizontally, at
a distance of 1 or 2 meters.
Lighting canvas and panel paintings for photography is easiest when
they are removed from the wall, but if this is impractical, there
are options. The first challenge is to achieve even lighting without
excessive reflection. With oil paintings with thick brush-strokes
(impasto), it is often necessary to move the lights from
their normal 45-degree position to a shallower or a steeper angle.
A polarizing filter may also be useful for cutting glare from the
shiny paint layers. Because dark oil paintings, and to a lesser
extent, works of tempera can appear muddy and indistinct, it often
helps to flood such paintings with light, and to over-expose the
photograph. They often respond well to infrared photography (see
figure 28). They may also be even more dark and obscured than oil
paintings, with a surface coating of lamp-black. Normally such a
procedure would produce a poor result, as the lightest areas would
lose detail. But with an uncleaned painting, the lightest tones
would themselves be comparatively dark, and there should be little
distortion of the tonal range. For record photography, it is advisable
to include the frame in the photograph.
28: Dark oil paintings, difficult to photograph
with black-and-white film, top, often respond well to
infrared film, bottom.
Icons are very similar to oil paintings to photograph, except that
they may include areas of precious metals that may cause problematic
reflection. If they can be moved, the back should also be recorded,
together with any inscriptions. If a number are mounted together,
as on an iconostasis, each should be recorded individually and the
whole group photographed in order to locate each in its position
relative to the whole.
glass, wall paintings, and mosaics normally must be recorded in
place. When recording mosaics, do not wet the tesserae before
photographing the panel or pavement. This can be damaging to the
surface and/or the bedding materials, and can also cause unwanted
reflections. Lighting can be slightly directional to show the
roughness or smoothness of the surface; if the mosaic is of the
type with the tessarae slightly tilted in order to catch the light
from one direction, the main lighting should come from this direction.
A small, fill-in, flash unit can sometimes be used to reinforce
the directional light. Mosaic or tiled pavements are often difficult
to photograph because of their size and position. Unless the photographer
has access to a gantry, or to the interior of the roof of the
building, it is difficult to obtain a square-on view. All that
can be done is to achieve as high a viewpoint as possible and
to make sure that the image is quite sharp front-to-back.
carved, flat-faced objects, such as tablets and detached inscriptions,
the main light should always come from the top or the top left
never from beneath and the angle of the light must
be adapted to the material. Either flash or tungsten lighting
can be used, but the light source should be sufficiently far away
that there is no appreciable fall-off of light across the surface.
With tablets or deeply cut inscriptions, a reflector should be
positioned opposite the main light: otherwise details may be lost
in shadow. In the case of small, flat-faced objects with incised
or raised detail, small differences to the direction of the lighting
can have dramatically different effects (see figure 29).
29: Small differences in the direction of the
lighting can have dramatically different effects in
the case of small, flat-faced objects with incised or
raised detail. The object pictured here was photographed
with a single light, top left; multiple lights, top
right; flat, reflected light, bottom left; and a ring
flash, bottom right.
For fabric and
basketry, even, overall lighting is all that is normally needed.
This can be achieved by using daylight, or by using four tungsten
lamps arranged well away from the object. For detailed work, quite
strong cross-lighting may be necessary, and it can be productive
to determine the best arrangement by moving the light around the
object while watching the effect. Often, such things as secondary
textures and folds in the material will be shown up in this way.
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