Studio Light: Assignments

Class assignments are listed below, numbered by the week in which they are given. This is a provisional list, subject to change based on the needs of your particular class. They are offered with this caveat: Each assignment is based on the information discussed in class, and so the description below will only be fully understood if you have followed that discussion. Come to class. Pay attention.
This is a mechanical shakedown. Get your keycode for access to the studio. Get the camera that you are going to use. Bring a solid subject into the studio and move a light around it to see how it affects the subject's shape and volume.

Subject: Something with volume, matte surface so you don't need to deal with reflections.
#1    8/30
Due  9/6
Light Source Size
This is an introduction to manipulating the quality of light by adjusting the relative size of the light source. Bring a subject to the studio that has lots of volume... no feathers or lace ...and use the light like you did last week, exploring the effect of direction on your subject. This time, see what kind of control you can give to shadows and highlights, changing the quality of your light by adjusting the relative size of your light source. Bring 4-6 samples to class.

Subject: Something with v-o-l-u-m-e, of a size that is compatible with the tools we have available. 12-24 inches tall is ideal.

Mechanics: Use of a light source with an independent diffuser, camera mechanics and feedback.

Goal: The goal this week is to tune your eye toward the differences light source size makes in the rendering of form, the shape of shadows, and the overall contrast of an image.
#2    9/6
Due  9/13
Bending the Inverse Square Law
Take up where you left off last week. Another object with lots of volume, a fixed camera position. One large light source. Play with your ability to control the fade or falloff on your subject or subjects, as well as on the background or surface they are sitting on. Much of this will reinforce what you did last week, but with the added benefit that you will be getting ready for the control of highlight values next week instead of just shadow quality that you were working with last week.

Subject: A solid form or forms, a smooth surface or background. There are lots of possibilities here as long as you can use them to illustrate the effect that distance has on a light source.

Goal: We are hoping to build some gut sense this week about light source distance interacts with qualities such as contrast and exposure. In particular, I would like to see that you can cause light to modulate--fall off or fade--across your set.
#3    9/13
Due  9/20
Shiny Objects
Control those highlights! Choose a shiny subject-- the shinier the better. Control (don't eliminate, avoid, or hide from) the reflections and highlights that give your subject shape and life. At the very least, bring the reflections of the light source into the dynamic range of the scene. Ideally you will put those reflections to good use in articulating form and surface texture.

Subject: Your choice of subject this week is critical. Metal, (chrome plated is ideal) plastic, or glazed ceramic can all work, as will glass if it is opaque or if you deal with its reflective properties and not its transparency.

Mechanics: You will use the relative properties of diffusion--broadness and closeness--again this week, but they should take on new meaning as you wrestle with this assignment. Feedback from your camera will be important.

Goal: Fear of reflections is found even among photographers with considerable experience. The purpose of this assignment is to put that fear behind you so you can tackle any subject with confidence.
#4    9/20
Due  9/27
Working with Backgrounds
This week we are working on creating and controlling backgrounds. After the past few weeks of technical excercise, this is an assignment in visual thinking as well as production. Using the principle of light against dark along with a careful control of light, create an image in which your background provides the space and depth that your subject requires. Think about background as first and foremost being an idea, the visual and functional ground for your subject. Then, if you need to, also think about background as a thing, object, or material.

This week we are also introducing the use of studio strobe lighting, in preparation for next week's assignment. Please complete this assignment with flash lighting.

Subject: A medium sized solid would work best. If it is shiny, you will need to provide the lighting to control hilights.

Mechanics: Choice of background; Choice of lens; Creating a controlled fade; Lighting of subject, separation of elements. Flash operation.

Goal: Mechanical control of lights, visual control of tones, construction of a sense of space. Operation and synchronization of flash units.
#5    9/27
Due  10/4
A Classic Portrait
Bring a human subject to the studio and photograph that subject with care. Make sure not to forget everything you have learned about showing shape and volume, background and space. Shoot enough to end up with one great portrait. Bring your best 6 to class.

Project proposals due next week. Before you write, please read Selecting A Subject from On Being a Photographer.

Subject: A patient human, head and shoulders.

Mechanics: Camera operation, flash synchronization, and the good judgement you have been developing.
#6    9/28
Due  10/5
Individual Meetings / Using Time / Project Proposal Draft
This week's assignment is to use time in an unusual way-- by painting, using multiple exposures, or very short or long exposures that influence what is learned from looking at that exposure. Break through an assumption or two that we usually make when we look at a photograph, or when we create them. This assignment will rely on a good idea and the will to experiment, as well as mastery of all the controls you have learned so far. I am hoping you will create something that can't be done any other way, and that uses time as one of the visible ingredients of your image.

When you come back from next week off, please have a proposal draft—at least a sentence—for your independent project.
#7    10/11
Due  10/25
The last assignment from me is to wrestle with the problems unique to glass. Please choose your subject carefully. It should be transparent and not just shiny. It will be your choice whether it is "black line" or "white line."

Subject: Transparent Glass! Your choice of background.
#8    10/25
Due  11/1
Independent Projects
Your project proposal is due today—one paragraph that explains what you'll be doing the second half of the semester. If you don't give me that proposal, you still have that to work on. Otherwise, you are working on your independent projects for the rest of the semester. Have fun, do good work. We will be looking at progress every week, so if something is getting in the way of you getting in the studio each week, we need to talk.

Goal: Just reminder of the purpose of this project-- This is an opportunity to do the experimentation and make the mistakes it takes to become an expert at one small piece of photographic knowledge. Once you master that skill, you'll continue to work on a portfolio that demonstrates what you've learned. In the last two weeks you'll have access to a printer for producing the images for our final show.
#9    11/1
Due  11/8
Independent Projects 1
First work is due this week. Hopefully you have learned a thing or two about your subject and your project idea. If you were having trouble this week, take what you learned and redirect your energy this week. If you have not settled on a project idea yet or are not feeling like progress is near, talk to me.
#10    11/8
Due  11/15
Independent Projects 2

#11    11/15
Due  11/22
Independent Projects 3

#12    11/22
Due  11/29
Independent Projects 4

#13    11/29
Due  12/6
Independent Project 5 -- Final Presentation

#14    12/6
Due  12/6