Advanced Studio Practice: Concept Development – Studio Lighting Experiment and feature on gender identity



(Outcome 3)

A Testament of Love by Fullerton-Batten Analysed and

Re-conceptualised as ‘A Testament of Hope’ by Paula Thompson-Fearnley

 georgia 9Introduction:

The lecture examined the photographic work of Julia Fullerton-Batten to enable us as photographers to grasp the concept of creating a series of mood lighting shots in the Studio and understand more about the techniques and principles behind lighting and professional studio practice.

Learning to establish a narrative in your photographic work implies meaning which can be interpreted by the seer in a number of ways. Objects or props can be used as clues to these meanings. Additionally, background can give other clues as to the time the photograph was taken (for example) or the background can themselves be a prop to enable the viewer to understand more about the concept created by the photographer/artist.

A Testament to Love has inspired me to create a series of images (with the help of fellow colleagues and lecturer) that I believe reflects a domestic drama from the 1950’s. A moment I feel has been captured that uses soft mood lighting creating a nostalgic look which reflects a time in history that has now past. One senses in the images that time itself has stood still for the woman depicted in them. She is not, however, a passive recipient, she still believes and has hopes and wishes and dreams of a better world. A world in which travel and education can become part of her daily existence.


In the case of Julia Fullerton-Batten her work ‘A Testament of Love’, uses background to add a cinematic style to her individualistic compositions, inspired by the Hollywood films of the 1960’s and 70’s and the iconic style of Edward Hopper. (


Taking inspiration from Julia’s work, we moved into the studio and began to look the different types of lighting available. Beginning with the fundamental camera settings of Manual, a 100 ISO, f/22 aperture and 1/3rd exposure, the lighting was altered depending on the ‘mood’ we wanted to create (which is also known as ‘key lighting’).

Fluorescent: The brain sees the light as being white in consistency yet the camera sensors see it as being green.

Tungsten/Halogen: Known to create warmth to the subject in lighting settings.

Health & Safety: We were advised about the health and safety aspects while working in the studio environment. The lights were damaging and would burn the skin if touched as they varied from 650 watt to 2K lights.

Additional Notes: Flang or a baffle was used to cast a shadow and white board was used to give highlights to the face where possible.

Diagrams showing lighting settings/positioning of camera:


 1. Halogen through the window diffused

GEORGIA 12. light coming from behind the camera and to the right with the use of a white board

3. light coming from above the subject and to the left

There were three lighting sources with an added white board to reflect light off the skin. The tungsten halogen was dimmed to cast a softer light behind the subjects head and through a window as if to emulate daylight or night. A spotlight to direct light onto the subjects head was used above to the left an LED light coming from above and behind the camera position was used to balance light onto the subject’s face and onto the table which was situated next to the window and to the right. A lace table cloth and book became highlighted in greater detail when the light above the subjects head and to the light was lowered and directed more towards the conceptual part of the experiment. i.e. the book on and off the table and the suitcase. A selection of furniture was also used to add to the composition, allowing for greater depth.

georgia 13Tinted to give a nostalgic air

georgia 9 GEORGIA 3The left image is slightly cropped to add intimacy into the shot?

by altering the colour/tonal values the concept goes back in time

georgia 15A gesture of the hand and a monochrome look allows the compositional textures to show through

georgia 7 georgia 8composition one emphasies the book and the subjects face, composition two emphasises the suitcase and garment

georgia 5 GEORGIA 2 georgia 8 georgia 12

What were my aims and have I achieved them?

Following on from the lecture regarding Julia Fullerton-Batten, my aims was to recreate and reconceptualise in the studio using a series of lighting to make a portrait that narrates a story. I was further able to create a series of photographs rather than just the one image, asking my subject to pose in a variety of positions while at the same time directing light sources to create an interesting conceptual and aesthetic composition. I feel that I exceeded my overall aims as I have a series of images which show mood, nostalgia and direction in that this exercise gave me the knowledge I needed to light my subject proficiently.

What have I got from it?

The classroom/studio based initiative proved to be very successful. I enjoyed recreating a conceptual notion that time has stood still in these photographs yet is modern in its feeling overall (see conceptual analysis below). I have learnt about LED lighting, positioning and studio set lighting.

Conceptual Analysis:

This is a woman who has a role in society and the photographer has felt empowered to have the confidence to portray this to the subject in order to achieve my aims. (i.e. that women will not be held back by outdated beliefs. The subject in the photograph is someone who will move ahead with the times and not remain stagnant. She has hopes, she is inspired and will inspire. She has dreams for her future. Clues and props around her indicate that even though she feels nostalgic for the past, she is free to move on with her independent life. If she chooses to stay it will be her choice to do so. The conceptual idea was that symbolism gives meaning (i.e. the light on her face, the open book, her desire to reach out and touch it and the half open/half shut suitcase) seek to confirm just that. If the photographer manages to convey that to her audience, then she will have achieved her objective.


Social documentary, 1940-50’s nostalgia, fine art exhibition, editorials based around history.

What is next?

The experimental development of conceptual/divergent thinking enabled a form of creativity that the photographer found refreshing. This developmental thinking has set a bench mark on which to base technical lighting knowledge and conceptual divergent thinking with a whole new set of ideas in order to create and establish meaning.

I would enjoy looking at this again. I think I could work well with models recreating nostalgic scenes from the past, perhaps working with children. I also think this kind of studio scenario would work well with lots of other conceptual ideas.

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