Roll #9: Diffused Side Light

Why you are doing this assignment

An earlier assignment (#4) already asked you to consider the kind of light hitting your subject. This is so very important that the assignment is being repeated, with some additional requirements. Not only is the quality of light important, but its angle as well — where it comes from. When you want to make the very best image possible, look for diffused light coming from a low angle, from the side. This is the same light we create in a studio when we photograph people or objects.

How to do this assignment

Repeat roll #4 by looking for soft, diffused light. This happens under certain conditions, such as when a cloud covers the sun. It needs to be just the right kind of cloud: not too thick, not too thin. The cloud cannot be so dense that it robs the sun’s light of all shadows and leaves everything looking flat.  Look for clouds that leave vague shadows. Another condition that produces diffused light happens when light reflects off some large surface, like a light wall. If the wall is in bright sunlight and is reflecting sunlight somewhere, such as onto a person’s face, that can result in a wonderful quality of soft side lighting. Yet another condition happens when sunlight comes through a thin window curtain. As you begin to look, you will notice more and more sources of diffused sunlight.

BUT WAIT! The light also needs to be striking your subject from the side. That means you will need to shoot this assignment in the early morning or late afternoon.

What to shoot

Take a roll of portraits and / or other nearby objects. They must be lit by soft, diffused light striking from the side (as opposed to overhead light, like sunlight at noon).  Side light happens early in the morning and late in the day, when the sun is low on the horizon and when light is hitting your subject from a low angle. For some images, this creates ideal lighting condition.

If you decide to shoot portraits, do not forget what you have learned in all of the previous assignments. Shoot vertical. Get in close. Include a foreground “frame,” and perhaps something in the background. Use focus to help emphasize your subject, with some parts of the image deliberately blurred. Remember the rule of thirds.

What to turn in

Turn in at least one contact sheet with at least 20 printable frames. Include two 8X10 prints and an analysis of the best one of those prints. Always put the analysis first — so that I know what I am looking at.

What your assignment should look like

Aim for a contact sheet that contains

  • At least 20 visible images
  • At least 7 different subjects. Include portraits if you wish.

Aim for two 8X10 prints that

  • Are blurred in the areas you wish to be out of focus
  • Are completely sharp in the areas you wish to emphasize
  • Place your center of interest off-center — towards one of the four corners (but not in the corner)
  • Contain some small areas that are completely, totally BLACK
  • Contain highlights that are CLOSE to white but not actually, totally white.