Week 3 – October 3rd – Cinematography and Lighting

Today’s lesson focused on different examples of cinematography and lighting techniques.

Figure 1. “3 Point Light Set up” Farrelly, M. (ca.2016)

Farrelly states:


The is the main light and usually the most powerful. It is placed to the left or right (depending on what setup you want). It allow one side of the subject to be lit well and allows a little shadow on the opposite side.


Usually placed on the opposite side of the Key light. It is less powerful and fills in the shadows created by the key. 


The back light is placed behind the subject. It is essentially a separation light that help separate the subject from the background and adds definition to the outline of the subject.” (Farrelly, M., ca. 2016)

“The term cinematographer is derived from cinema photographer, and means someone who photographs with moving film.” (Farrelly, M., ca. 2016)

Task 1 – Scorsese  on Caravaggio

Martin Scorsese opens the interview by talking about Paul Schrader, the writer of Taxi Driver. It was Paul who suggested Martin should look at a book of paintings by Caravaggio. The idea Martin should look at this book came up from a discussion about Light and Shadow.

Martin then goes on to describe the figures within the paintings, how they weren’t like the Renaissance. These people had lives and showed true emotion. The paintings were striking and powerful. Below is Martin’s favourite of Caravaggios work, The Conversion of ST. Paul:

The Conversion of Saint Paul-Caravaggio (c. 1600-1).jpg
Figure 2. “The Conversion of St. Paul.” (Caravaggio, 1601)

In the video we see another painting being displayed with a similar title, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus. Below is that painting:

Conversion on the Way to Damascus-Caravaggio (c.1600-1).jpg
Figure 3. “The Conversion on the Way to Damascus.” (Caravaggio, 1601)

Below you will find another example of Caravaggios work and that is titled, Crucifixion of St. Peter:

Martirio di San Pietro September 2015-1a.jpg
Figure 4. “Crucifixion of St. Peter.” (Caravaggio, 1601)

Martin mentions the influence Caravaggio’s work has had on his own work, in particular he spoke of the bar sequences in Mean Streets. An example of a gathering crowd can be seen below in Caravaggio’s Death of the Virgin:

Michelangelo Caravaggio 069.jpg
Figure 5. “Death of the Virgin.” (Caravaggio, 1606)

Mean Streets Bar Scene

Figure 6. “Mean Streets Bar Scene.” (Scorsese, 1973)

We end the interview with Martin saying that had Caravaggio been alive today, he would have been a great film maker and Martin would have worked with him. Martin admires Caravaggio’s staging of a scene.

From Scorsese’s past work, in particular the mob/gang styled movies – there is a lot of influence taken from Caravaggio’s paintings. In the above you can see this clearly as it is heavy on the contrasting colours. The reason Scorsese refers to Caravaggio – in my opinion – is because his work was so graphic and powerful. He knew what lighting would suit the tone of the scene and the way he was able to highlight a characters actions stepping out from the shadows was incredible. Scorsese’s work is quite similar in that it often shows a character put in the middle of a tough spot and they have to try and make do with what is handed to them.

Task 2 – Analysing Images

Figure 7. “A Bearded Man in a Cap.” (Rembrandt, ca.1650.)

The above image is of Rembrandts “A Bearded Man in a Cap”, I chose this because I felt it captured so much character. To achieve this, Rembrandt used a lot of dark tones and shading. This helped create a true emotion from the subject. You would typically see this kind of shot in a film when the protagonist is upset or has hit a crucial part in the film, in which they have to sit back and reflect upon their choices.

I feel Rembrandt chose to frame the subject like this because it was direct, head on and honest. Typically you would see some portraits with the subject seated sideways looking at the artist, almost posed. But this looks honest. You can see it in the persons eyes. This makes the audience feel connected and almost feel what the person was feeling at the time.

Fixed size image
Figure 8. “The Woman taken in Adultery.” (Rembrandt, 1644)

I felt this was another great example to talk about because of the framing. Today in movies and T.V you would commonly see a group of people positioned in such a way. The lighting of this painting shows that it is a particularly dark event.

Rembrandt chose to use dark tones and shadows for this scene as it is a woman being accused of committing adultery whilst those around her are asking what should be done. At the time people thought Jesus went easy on wrong doers and so brought this woman to him to see what he would do.

Seven Works of Mercy - Caravaggio - www.caravaggio-foundation.org
Figure 9. “Seven Works of Mercy.” (Caravaggio, 1607)

The above painting is by Caravaggio and I chose this because of the chaotic feel to it. There is so much going on and I feel that Caravaggio did a great job at capturing the insanity of it all. If you look at the background characters you can see the emotion in their faces. They haven’t a clue what to do and are so desperately trying to avoid this scene.

I believe that this was a good example because it is a typical scene in any action film or T.V. series today. Say for an example a bar fight. Two people start brawling and people around don’t know whether to join in or avoid it all. I think Caravaggio framed this well because there is enough room for everything. I don’t think this would have worked had it been framed closer or far away. It’s just right to see the important details.

Portrait of Maffeo Barberini 1599 - Caravaggio - www.caravaggio-foundation.org
Figure 10. “Portrait of Maffeo Barberini.” (Caravaggio, 1599)

This painting by Caravaggio seemed to be a bit more tame and not as dark compared to most of the other paintings I looked at. I felt this was different and not as impactful emotionally or sickening. The framing is great as it seems to capture the subject in an authoritative position and also the gesture suggests so.

The lighting of this portrait is well lit, it doesn’t want to hide any part of the subject and wants to capture each and every detail.

Task 3 – Jack Cardiff

Figure 11. “Black Narcissus.” Cardiff, J. (ca.1947)

There is a documentary that speaks of Jacks attention to detail on Black Narcissus. It’s called ‘Painting with Light.’ An actress had spoken out about his usage of light and the way he was able to set up a scene, it helped her performance.

Figure 12. “Enchanted Cottage.”  Doll, S. (2013)

The above image is of the camera they used to film Black Narcissus. The reason for the size was to help with the noise reduction. Jack Cardiff wasn’t very technical in the camera/ movie sense. He was questioned on how he would make it in the film business when he went for an interview on a Techincolour crew. But because of his background in painting – he had a great love and fascination for it – it helped him nail the interview and that is where he gathers his reference. The shading and tones of artists, he looks at a scene from a painting as is able to recreate it.

In the scene of the sister hanging – it was actually about 6 feet high as apposed to 600 feet. It was the work of Alfred Junge who worked alongside Cardiff closely when it came to setting up a scene. They would argue back and forth about the lighting and often times set pieces would have to be torn away, in order for Jack to get the lighting he wanted.

Jack Cardiff mentions that he had Rembrandt in mind but more so Vermeer as the lighting for Black Narcissus had to be as simple as possible. As seen in Vermeer’s work.

Task 4 – Research Vermeer and Tom Hunter

From researching Tom Hunters work you can see that he was also influenced by Vermeer’s work. In the below images this is very clear. The painting by Vermeer depicts a girl reading a letter by an open window whilst Tom Hunters photograph catches a similar action. Both subjects have the light catching their faces and there is a lot of earthy tones present. Heavy on the greens and yellows.

Image result
Figure 13. “Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window.” Vermeer, J. (ca.1659)


Woman Reading Possession Order
Figure 14. “Woman Reading Possession Order.” Hunter, T. (1998)

Hunter reports on his website:

“So for me Vermeer was a painter of the people, a revolutionary artist who, by use of realism and social commentary, elevates ordinary folk to a higher status within their time and forever more. I wanted to present my friends, neighbours, lovers and myself to the world in a similar way. People I knew at this time were expecting me to produce the usual stock of black and white images of the victims of society, squatters and travelers, taking drugs and fighting bailiffs; exotic but alien figures from an unimaginable lifestyle, which could be marveled at but never understood. But instead the images I made took direct reference from Vermeer’s compositions, from his use of light, colour and calm contemplation.”  (Hunter, T., 2011)

From reading Hunters essay on his website, you can see how much Vermeer has influenced him. There is a point when he is compared to Vermeer and he is in disbelief because he didn’t realise he was taking influence from Vermeer but he revisited his work and could see how much of an impact the artist had on his own work.

Hunter comments on the influnce of the painting above:

“From this understanding I composed and rendered my photographic work ‘Woman Reading A Possession Order’, which took as its starting point, Vermeer’s ‘A girl reading a letter at an open window’. Vermeer depicts a quiet moment when a woman reads a letter at an open window bathed in soft northern European sunlight. We’ll never know for sure what is in the letter, but some commentators believe it could be a love letter from her fiancÈ fighting for his country in a war of independence against the oppressive rule of colonial Spain. So the work speaks of the struggle of the ordinary people of Delft and their battles, not by explicitly showing the battlefield or the carnage of war but one woman’s meditation on life and her situation, shown with respect, subtlety and beauty. Likewise my reworking shows a girl reading her eviction order. She is given dignity, light, beauty and space, to tell her own story in her own time. The girl in the photograph is shown in a very intimate moment in her struggle with eviction. But we can all identify with her and her suffering, so this becomes a universal moment.” (Hunter, T. 2011)

Lighting tests

Today we were able to take some photographs with the 3 point lighting set up as spoke of earlier in this post. Below are the results of today’s shoot side by side, original images and those with a Photoshop touch up.


Figure 15. “Lighting Test 1.” McAlister, D. (2016)
Figure 16. “Lighting Test 2.” McAlister, D. (2016)
Figure 17. “Lighting Test 3.” Chen, B. (2016)
Figure 18. “Lighting Test 4.” McAlister, D. (2016)
Figure 19. “Lighting Test 5.” Milo, V. (2016)


References for this entry

Hunter, T. (2011). ESSAY: Under the Influence. Available: http://www.tomhunter.org/essay-under-the-influence/. Last accessed 6th November 2016.


Figure 1. Farrelly, M. (2016). Digital Video Production. Available: http://dle.nrc.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=1105. Last accessed 8th January 2017.

Figure 2. Wikipedia. (ca.2016). The Conversion of St.Paul. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Conversion_of_Saint_Paul_(Caravaggio). Last accessed 9th October 2016.

Figure 3. Wikipedia. (ca.2016). The Conversion on the Way to Damascus.Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_on_the_Way_to_Damascus. Last accessed 9th October 2016.

Figure 4. Wikipedia. (ca.2016). Crucifixion of St. Peter. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crucifixion_of_St._Peter_(Caravaggio). Last accessed 9th October 2016.

Figure 5. Wikipedia. (ca.2016). Death of the Virgin. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_the_Virgin_(Caravaggio). Last accessed 9th October 2016.

Figure 6. 35tylertyler. (2012). mean streets bar scene. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKiq4S4DR-A. Last accessed 9th October 2016.

Figure 7. National Gallery. (ca. 2016). Rembrandt | A Bearded Man in a Cap.Available: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-a-bearded-man-in-a-cap. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 8. National Gallery. (ca.2016). Rembrandt | The Woman taken in Adultery. Available: https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/rembrandt-the-woman-taken-in-adultery. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 9. Caravaggio Foundation. (ca.2016). Seven Works of Mercy. Available: http://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/home-2-12-1-0.html. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 10. Caravaggio Foundation. (ca.2016). Portrait of Maffeo Barberini. Available: http://www.caravaggio-foundation.org/home-2-12-1-0.html. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 11. Farrelly, M. (ca.2016). Introduction to Lighting and Cinematography. [PowerPoint Presentation] Available: http://dle.nrc.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=17973. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 12. Doll, S. (2013). SPENDING THE DAY WITH JACK CARDIFF. Available: http://streamline.filmstruck.com/2013/07/01/spending-the-day-with-jack-cardiff/. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 13. Vermeer, J. (ca.1659). Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window. Available: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/3wFQaidzxA5mqg?utm_source=google&utm_medium=kp&hl=en-GB. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 14. Hunter, T. (1998). Woman Reading Possession Order. Available: https://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/artpages/tom_hunter_woman.htm. Last accessed 6th November 2016.

Figure 15. McAlister, D. (2016) “Lighting Test 1.” Last accessed 28th November 2016.

Figure 16. McAlister, D. (2016) “Lighting Test 2.” Last accessed 28th November 2016.

Figure 17. Chen, B. (2016) “Lighting Test 3.” Last accessed 28th November 2016.

Figure 18. McAlister, D. (2016) “Lighting Test 4.” Last accessed 28th November 2016.

Figure 19. Milo, V. (2016) “Lighting Test 5.” Last accessed 28th November 2016.
















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