spot on

Kliegl Spot Light c 1930

Toronto. One big difference between amateur photographs, and those made by professionals and advanced amateurs, was illumination. Indoors, the professional went to great lengths to illuminate his subject bringing out the nuances of its very existence whether a human, an animal, or an inert object.

Lighting such as on camera flash or spot lights gave a harsh, contrasty scene. Bounce flash, light boxes etc gave a softer illumination. Only casual  amateurs used on-camera flash as a main light source with its harsh and sharply delineated shadows. Outdoors, on-camera flash was used as fill light to soften the camera-facing daylight and brighten the otherwise darkened front of the subject(s) facing the camera. On-camera flash lighting was the choice of professional news photographers where the picture was more important than any creative lighting.

In the studio, north facing daylight or light boxes served as the main light source, while illumination on the back ground could bring it out and separate it from  the subject. Spot lights could be used to highlight the characteristics of the subject. Careful lighting could give the model plasticity or  a three dimensional look or even lighting like Rembrandt once used in his painted portraits to highlight one side of his subject’s features.

Shown is a tiny Kliegl Brothers spot light I bought from another PHSC member at one of our fairs. Kliegl lights were initially created as arc lights to illuminate commercial movies (much larger and brighter versions of the lights). The arc lights died out as electric lights took over.

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