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3.4: Exercise- Light Modulators

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    light space modulator
    Figure \(\PageIndex{19}\) : László Moholy-Nagy, Light Space Modulator, 1922 – 1930, gelatin silver print, 25.3 cm (about 9.96 in) x 18 cm (about 7.09 in), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by Lucile Bowden Johnson in honor of Frances G. McLanahan and Alexander K. McLanahan (Public Domain)

    Image description: A black and white image of a metal contraption made of circles and rods with light reflecting off of it.

    “The function of a light modulator is to catch, reflect, and modulate light. A flat surface does not modulate, it only reflects light, but any object with combined concave-convex or wrinkled surfaces may be considered a light modulator since it reflects light with varied intensity depending upon its substance and the way its surfaces are turned toward the light source.” --Lazlo Moholy-Nagy.

    Create a still life inspired by Lazlo Maholy-Nagy using objects that reflect and refract light. Use constant lighting and colored gels to create interesting patterns and shadows. Your goal is to create engaging photographic abstractions that focus on formal qualities of light, color mixing, and form.


    1. Choose a box (either from home or one in the studio) that will serve as your light modulator. It will be painted white on the inside to allow the most intense reflection of light on the interior surfaces and subtle shades of colored light to be visible. Think of the box as a stage. There should be holes on the sides of the box to allow light to enter and interact with the forms inside and a place for your camera to enter the box.
    1. Select a variety of objects to fill the box. At least one of these must be an object that you created with the 3D printer. It is best to select white objects, but they can also be transparent, translucent, or opaque. Look for items that have interesting textures and dimensions (Styrofoam, wax paper, cellophane, plastic packaging, glass vases, plastic or glass bottles, crystal balls, diamonds, quartz crystals, onions, snowballs, balloons, bubbles, paper cups, golf balls, whiffle balls, tinsel, icicles, etc.). You may also want to try using mirrors, aluminum foil, or silvery reflective objects.
    1. Set up your still life of objects inside the box. Consider the elements of design and composition and how your camera will photograph the scene. Once you are satisfied with the design of your light modulator, begin lighting the objects with the LED puck lights. Try using various color combinations of light. Notice how the colors blend and mix. Pay attention to the direction of light, the shadows, and any interesting forms or shapes.
    1. Once you feel compelled, begin photographing. Your goal is to create interesting photographic abstractions that focus on formal qualities of light, color mixing, and form.

    Tips for Photographing Your Light Modulator

    • Get close! Physically move your camera closer to the Light Modulator. Get so close that your lens will not focus properly. Yes, this is encouraged.
    • Move the objects in the scene. Don’t be afraid to make changes, to add or remove anything throughout your photographing process.
    • Change up the gel colors! Continue to consider color theory throughout your photographing process (colors that are primary, secondary, complementary, or opposite).
    • Don’t forget to bracket.

    This page titled 3.4: Exercise- Light Modulators is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Jessica Labatte and Larissa Garcia (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI)) .

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