Exercise 4.3

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.

I firstly set out to shoot some basic artificial light situations as I had not done this before. I began in a shopping centre:

contacts final-1Learning:

  • Whilst reviewing both in camera and post shoot, I was able to determine what had been the best manual settings to achieve a realistic capture of the artificial light.
  • Fluorescent lights give out a particularly harsh quality of light.
  • Fluorescent light which appears white to the eye can appear more magenta in hue when photographed – I need to explore different white balances in this context again.
  • Relatively short exposures can be used if there is enough of it, it can be easy to balance if it is well spread but more challenging if it is also of different light types.
  • I will return to this location to shoot at another time; although I will first have to seek written permission as I was challenged and stopped from further shooting this time!

I then moved onto outdoors: 



  • These were the first long exposure tripod images that I had ever shot so I learnt much at the time about how to optimise exposures.
  • I can now identify street lighting that is old fashioned tungsten with a rounded orange appearance and appreciate the effect that it has on an image, neon lights and fluorescent lights.
  • A mixture of different types of artificial lights are challenging as they have different temperature and my need a different white balance set.
  • With long exposures it is easy to capture light trails – the challenge is to make them more creative, thought provoking or give them an interesting context.
  • The night black needs careful balancing across the frame.
  • Neon lights create more contrast unless like Shintaro’s images they fill most of the frame and are not conflicting with other types of lighting.

How these artificial light images differ to the quality of light in my daylight exercises:

  • With artificial light there are multiple light sources to be taken into account, these may be of different directions or temperatures adding challenge.
  • Shadows are consistent whereas in daylight can change quickly as shooting.
  • Artificial light remains constant after dark whereas daylight can be challenging when it changes rapidly as you are shooting.
  • Artificial daylight will probably only illuminate part of the image or at least unevenly whilst daylight give more even light coverage.






Rut Blees Luxemburg (b 1967)   She photographs the public spaces of the city at night using long exposure and the light emanating from the street only: this sometimes creates almost abstract images: “The rich tones of orange and yellow and green in her images, make her work recognisable in an instant. The lighting of other places around the subject, emphasis the atmosphere but also bring out the themes of her images…The long exposure of the image creates a sense that the glow of the lights allow the viewer when looking at the image more time to look at them” (Emer, 2012).

I particularly like A Girl from Elsewhere, (below) and am interested in how she often uses reflection with the artificial light.

rut blees.jpg
(Rut Blees Luxemburg, 2000)










Brassai (1899-1984)    He photographed Paris at night, most especially it’s more tawdry aspects, prostitutes, pimps, madams, transvestites for instance. His technique was primitive but effective; using his small plate camera on a tripod, he focused, opened the shutter and fired a flashbulb. His pictures were published in Paris de nuit (1933; Paris After Dark) these caused a stir because of their sometimes scandalous subject matter.

(Aget photography, n.d)

Sato Shintaro (b 1969)     Shows a completely different way of capturing artificial light. He primarily shoots between dusk and dark. His Tokyo cityscapes combine grand vistas and images of a real city. He explains his technique: “To get that atmosphere, I used a large format camera in twilight. It needed a lot of time to take one shot from 4 to 15 minutes. I tried not to move the camera to get clear images during that time. So my enemy was the strong wind. Every time I took a picture, I struggled against the wind while using an umbrella.”  (Sreyoshi, 2012).

I particularly like the way he often completely fills the frames with the city lights.

(Shintaro n.d)


Christopher Doyle (b. 1952)     A cinematographer who in his films uses artificial light on faces in an unnerving way. His films also combine woozy light and saturated colours to create rich visuals. He says that he shoots be instinctively. I am heartened that he believes “There’s always a shot or a moment you missed; it informs your work rather than takes from it.” (Film4, n.d).

Of these photographers I am most stimulated by Rut Blees Luxumberg and intend to reshoot at night trying some of her techniques. 


ATget photography (n.d). At: (accessed 1.4.16)

Emer (2012). Rut Blees Luxemburg at: (accessed 1.4.16).


Film4 (n.d). Interview: Cinematographer Christopher Doyle on his work with Wong Kar-Wai. At: : (accessed 1.4.16).


Rut Blees Luxemburg (2000). A Girl from Elsewhere. At: (accessed 1.4.16).


Shintaro, S (n.d). At: (accessed 1.4.16).


Sreyoshi (2012). Capturing the twilight zone with Sato Shintaro. At: (accessed 1.4.16).