Natural Light 
    (Also called Available Light, First Assignment in Photo Communication class)
Photo Communication assignment sheet
© Marvin Bartel, inst. Art Department, Goshen College
1990, 91, 92, MAY ‘95 ‘96 ‘97 ‘98 `99  
This assignment has two primary objectives: light quantity and quality.  

1. Learn to get the right amount of exposure in outdoor daylight settings.  

2. Learn through experimentation to recognize and select some of the effects of natural lighting situations.  

Since this is the first assignment, you are asked to work in groups to help each other with the basics. Each group has at least one student with prior experience. You can each contribute creative ideas and more experienced persons should watch for exposure errors.  


Failure to properly load the camera results in totally blank transparent negatives with only frame numbers showing along the edge.  

Follow these steps (unless you have a motor drive):  

1. Check your film speed and set the camera's ASA.  

2. Install the film being sure to attach it to the take-up spool and repeatedly operate the advancing lever (squeezing shutter button as needed) until both top and bottom sprockets are engaged in the film sprocket holes.  

3. Close the camera back.  

4. IMPORTANT. Turn the crank as the arrow indicates until the film is snug, but do not force it.  

5. While watching the crank, advance the film 2 times (squeezing shutter button as needed). If the crank turns, the film is properly moving. If the crank does not turn, open the camera and reattach the film leader and try again. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until it works correctly.  

6. After each picture, observe the rewind crank as you advance the film. If turns while you advance the film all is well.  

7. At the end of the film, don't force it. The film can break off if forced.  

8. If you can keep advancing it forever, cry now. The film was never connected in first place or it broke. Don't rewind or open the camera, but open it in the totally dark film loading room to see if the film can be salvaged (feel free to ask for help). Do not touch the fragile shutter or mirror in your camera.  


1. To get exposure correct, study the text, Ch. 5, pages 91 to 107 in London/Upton text. Don't miss gray card instructions on page 104 in edition 5 and 102 in edition 6.  

2. For a look at light quality differences, Study pages 246 - 249 in edition 5 and 222 - 227 in edition 6 in the text. Also study chapter 15, "Seeing Photographs". Study page 270 in 5th edition and pages 234, 242, and 243 in 6th edition on the use of fill flash. Study faces in all kinds of light. Observe and learn to find good light.  


Have a member of your group or another friend pose. Emphasize faces and hand gestures in this assignment. We are looking at the light quality on faces.  



See page 7 in text. We are primarily interested in faces for this assignment. Get CLOSE enough to fill the frame and avoid background distractions and mergers. Run your eye all around the edge of the viewfinder, looking for problems with the composition. Turn the camera to see if a vertical format is appropriate. Look for a more interesting placement than the exact center of the picture for the most important visual part.  

Focus Carefully 

See page 4 and 379. Once you have decided on your framing, line up the focusing split image vertically on the model's eye and focus it exactly. Shift and/or turn the camera back to the selected frame and release the shutter without moving forward or back after final focusing. Do not jab or jam the shutter release. Squeeze it gently so the camera is rock steady.  

Setting and Tone 

Select outdoor settings with complimentary backgrounds on no backgrounds at all. Simple settings make it easier to compose an orderly arrangement. Look for tonal contrast between the model's face and the background. Think black and white, so color contrast does not count. You need a dark tone next to a front-lit face, or something light next to a dimly lit face. Make the face have tonal emphasis in you picture. Try locations and camera angles to achieve dark-light relationships. Color can make us think we have tonal differences, black and white film sees only tone, but not color. See 5th edition pages 99, 226, 227, and 378 and 6th edition pages 97, 99, 222, 226, 330, and 348.  


Do not place the model back up against a wall. If there is a building in the background, leave significant space between the model and the building. This makes it possible to get the background less sharp than model. Having the model coming through a doorway can appear quite natural and add an interesting frame within frame. Feel free to include props such as books, sporting equipment, or whatever seems to feel comfortable, but don't include too much stuff and clutter. Keep it simple and tight.  

Exposure Speed and Aperture (keep records) click for a chart 

See 5th edition pages 15, 16, and 20 to 25 or 6th edition pages 16,17,21, & 27. The shutter speed for a hand held camera must be as fast as the lens focal length. Otherwise the picture is likely to be blurry due to camera motion. A normal 50 mm lens requires 1/60th of a second or faster when hand-holding the camera (1/60th is shown as a simple 60 on the camera). Wide angle lenses (28 mm or 35 mm) can be sharp at 1/30th of a second. A 100 mm telephoto lens requires 1/125th of a second for a hand-held camera.  

Adjust the shutter speed and the aperture according to the light meter's recommendations. Ask about this if you are not certain.  

Checking the Exposure Speed and Aperture According to a Gray Card 

This web page shows how and why to use the gray card. Use the gray card to check the exposure in each lighting situation. If you get different reading when using the gray card, make one exposure according to the gray card reading. Made another exposure according to the reading without the gray card. Let's learn what happens. See text page 102 in 6th edition or 104 in 5th edition. 

Note all exposure adjustments on an Exposure Chart. Click here for an Exposure Chart. You can print it if you wish.  

Special Equipment 

1. Use something like a large sheet of white poster board, mat board or foam core as a reflector.  

2. Use a flash attachment for the fill flash shot.  

3. Use an 18% gray card.  

Take the following assigned pictures in any sequence. Do as many as weather and your film permits. Fill one film. The film will have extra room, so take some pictures for fun and to express your own interests.  Look for other opportunities to make comparative lighting studies. If nothing else, use up some extra film for something wild - like shooting from the hip.  

___ 1a. Work mid-afternoon (or morning), in a sunny location. Model has sun on part of face. Take an exposure with a reflector. The reflector should add some light to the shadow side of the face. If you don't have an assistant to hold the reflector, have the model hold it according to your directions. Stand close and focus carefully on the model's nearest eye. Frame carefully to avoid including the reflector. Meter each exposure with and without the gray card. If you find a difference, take one exposure for each reading. Keep records. 

___ 1b. Make a comparison exposure without the reflector. Use the same pose, same framing, same expression, and so on.  

___ 1c. Take the same picture, but use the reflector to shade the direct sun from the face instead of as a reflector.  

___ 1d. Work same as above, but use a flash instead of the reflector for fill lighting. Use the same pose, but you may need to back off to keep from overexposing with the flash. Ask the model to watch and tell you if the flash fired.  

___ 2a. Work in an open shaded area or an overcast day during the main part of the day. Catch some skylight or sunlight and reflect it onto the model's face with a reflector card.  

___ 2b. Take a duplicate comparison exposure without the reflected light. If the gray card gives a different reading, take one exposure for each setting.  

___ 3a. Work within 30 minutes of sunset (or sunrise). Have model facing camera and looking nearly straight at the sun. Watch out for your own shadow. Photographers refer to this special time as "sweet light".  

___ 3b. Work as above, but exchange places so the camera faces the sun. Lens filters increase flare ? remove filters whenever shooting toward a light source. You may be able to use the model's head to shade your lens. Make comparison shots using and not using exposures determined by the 18% gray card reading.  

___ 3c. Also, try a fill flash for this position (with sun in background). Keep poses the same on all comparison shots.  

___ 3e. Try one comparison shot with the sun hitting the front of your lens.  

See appropriate instructions and in-class demonstrations. After processing examine the negatives for exposure and contrast range. Note any irregularities and be sure to find out the reason for them. Contact print the negatives. It is easier to make compositioinal choices from positive than from negatives. It is better to make exposure choices from the negatives themselves. 

Save every test strip and ruined piece of paper used while printing this assignment. Bring them to the appointment. We can often think of ways to cut waste and your cost. A certain amount of waste will always happen. It is not counted against you in the grade, but you pay for the paper.  

____ 1. Print at least 6 small prints (3? x 5 inches) to show three comparisons.  

____ 2. Make at least one contrast comparison print at the 5 x 7 size using filters in the enlarger from any one neg.  

____ 2. Print at least one 8x10 from the neg you like best. Be sure to print a full range of contrast in this print with some white-white and some black-black. Include all possible textural information in all the tonal areas including the light and dark parts of the print. This is the final print for this assignment.  

Your group will have an appointment with the instructor to discuss the results. Bring all prints, wasted paper, negatives, contacts, shooting record, printing records, and camera. Your 8 x 10 enlarged print should be posted for the class to review. 

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