Exercise: Contrast and shadow fill.

In this exercise I have set up a still life arrangement to demonstrate contrast and shadow-fill. The light (flash) remains permanently in position on the right hand side of the image. The idea of this exercise was to show how diffusers and reflectors can affect the contrast in an image.

Starting initially with a photograph taken with a flash to the right of the image (about 3 feet away) with no diffuser, and with no reflector on the opposite side (the left) we can see that there is quite some contrast between the right hand side and the left hand side of the image. This is perhaps not surprising. The image is ok but the shadows are hard and maybe not in keeping with a still life arrangement such as this.

No Diffuser. No Reflector


In the second image (below) I have added a diffuser over the light. There is no reflector for shadow-fill but we can already see some lightening of the image as the light is now being scattered around the room by the diffuser. We can also see a noticeable softening of the shadows; for example, the one made by the small candle at the front.

With Diffuser. No Reflector.


In this third image I had added a large white card reflector about 1m away on the left hand side of the image. This has had the effect of lightening the left hand side of the image. Without the diffuser though, the shadows are now harder again.

No Diffuser. White Reflector at 1m.


The image below was taken with a crumpled foil reflector about 0.5m away from the candles on the left hand side. We can see a noticeable difference now in the amount of light hitting the left side of the candles.

No Diffuser. Crumpled Foil Reflector.


The image below was taken with the matt side of the tin foil positioned about 0.5m to the left of the candles. Again, there is a noticeable lightening of the image on the left now.

No Diffuser. Matt Foil Reflector.


The image below was with the same white card diffuser used earlier but now moved to 0.5m from the subject. This has made quite a difference to the exposure on the left of the image.

No Diffuser. White Card Reflector at 0.5m.


The reflector which has the greatest shadow-fill effect was the shiny foil reflector.

No Diffuser. Shiny Foil Reflector.


This was an interesting exercise and it has certainly been useful to see how the diffuser and in particular the different types of reflectors affected the amount of light reaching the dark side of the candles.

One thing which affected the result of the exercise was the size of the foil reflector I used. The white card was much larger than the foil reflector so the effect of the white card was enhanced. Had I covered the white card completely in foil, this would have increased the effect of the matt, shiny and crumpled foil reflectors, increasing the shadow-fill effect. The fact that the shiny foil reflector still had the greatest shadow-fill effect, even though the surface area was much less than the white card, shows the effect this type of reflective surface can have.