Ben Long would like you to have an egg. As a photo subject, that is. In this week’s installment of his weekly series, The Practicing Photographer, Ben issues an assignment: Photograph an egg in a way that conveys emotion.
How do you get emotion out of an egg without drawing a face on it, Ben asks? Through lighting and composition. As this week’s two-video installment unfolds, we join Ben and photographer Troy Word in a classroom at the Oklahoma Arts Institute, where Troy gives his students this very assignment.
Troy demonstrates various lighting schemes, which you can replicate using anything from a studio light to a desk lamp or work light. As he moves the light around, changing its angle and its distance from the egg, the shadows on the egg change—and the mood in the resulting photos changes along with them.
In the second video of this week’s installment, Troy and Ben critique the students’ work, noting how different lighting and composition approaches can yield completely different results.
Learning how to light an egg doesn’t just make you more qualified to photograph on a farm. The shape of an egg isn’t all that different from the shape of the human head. You can learn a lot about portrait lighting with this exercise.
After you’ve experimented with lighting an egg, watch Natalie Fobes’s Lighting for Photographers: Portraiture and Erin Manning’s Up and Running with Lighting: Studio Lights and Flash. Grab a friend and practice some of your newfound techniques.
Just don’t expect your human subject to be as patient as your egg.