Strobe lighting zones

While working on images for my Strobe Photography: Technical and Artistic Control class, I have had to create quite a few

Lighting zones

Lighting zones

images to illustrate the point I am trying to make. Sometimes, I totally miss the point. But that’s another matter. In this particular image, I illustrated the four zones or areas of lighting in photography.

The four zones make up lighting in every image that I can think of. These areas of lighting allow for infinite control of the feeling, composition, texture rendition, and all the other variables that go into lighting a particular subject.

As I needed something that would highlight (pun intended) the four lighting zones, I chose an object that would sit happily with nary a negative comment. Casting around, I found what I was looking for. I would have prefered a perfectly smooth sphere, but this was the best I found in a pinch.

The first zone of lighting is the lit area. That is where the orange is receiving light from my flat panel light and scattering that light back to the camera. This large area is also called the diffused highlight  zone.

The second area is the transition area that goes from the first zone to the third zone. There is no special name for this area. People make up names but we’ll refer to it here as the highlight to shadow transition zone. The width of this zone is determined by the size the light source the subject sees. In this case, the orange. As you can see, the transition out of the diffused highlight area is fairly wide, indicating that the light source was large relative to what the subject, in this case the orange, saw. More posts on that later.

The third lighting zone has an original name. It’s, well, the shadow zone. This is the area of the subject that is not receiving any light from the key light source (name to be discussed in another blog entry). In this particular case, I added a secondary reflector to bring the orange’s shadow out of the mud. I don’t want people to think I can’t make a good photograph of an orange.

The fourth zone may not be so obvious. But once I point it out, you’ll say of course! The fourth lighting area is the specular highlight zone. That is the area in the upper right of the orange that bounces a direct reflection of the light source to the camera. If this orange were perfectly smooth, then the specular highlight would be a mirror reflection of the light source. Of course, the edges of the panel would be curved, as the orange is curved. This is all about lighting physics, which I will continue to cover in future posts, too.

When shooting, if you consider these four zones, you will be able to make technical and artistic decisions about how your image will look, what is important on your subject, what to pull your viewer’s eyes away from and so forth.

Orange setup

Orange setup

Bonus point to those who figure out how I created the muted reflection of the orange. And an additional bonus point for figuring out how I made the background, minus the reflection, completely black. There was no Photoshop done in this image, only a crop to remove the large area of black.

If you need to cheat, look at the setup image. You’ll see a piece of black granite sitting under the orange in a relatively precarious position. Why is the black granite totally black, even though it is receiving plenty of light from my light panel?

Stay tuned for more blog entries on that.

What did I used to create the orange shot you ask? I’ll try to remember to put the equipment list in each blog post, when appropriate:

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