How to light objects from the inside:
I’m obsessed with light, fascinated by inner beauty and needed to create a photograph for the Food Photographer of the Year….that & needed an article for my photography education blog; Lightism; for non-photographers & photographers alike.
I’ve often daydreamt about how to light up people from the inside and wondered if I could utilise this random thought into something creative and yet practical. So I collected various foods which were transparent in some way and a number of light sticks from the local hardware store and this was my first attempt:
It proved the idea was executable, but the coloured light sticks were distorting the objects colour and in using a speed light with a homemade grid spot to light the stalk, it confused the viewer as to where the light was coming from.
I needed white light, brighter white light. EBay yielded these; 30 minute military spec white glow sticks from Lumica for around £1.20 each.
I tried again with these which were much brighter and I didn’t need to use the speed light. The peppers sprung a leak and over the long exposure you can see multiple drips, but I liked the result:
When the next box of light sticks arrived, I moved onto eggs.
I started with chicken eggs and frankly was very frustrated by how disappointing they looked; both in colour and they just looked so very uninteresting.
So, I took a spoon and randomly tapped the surface to crack them to let some of the light come through; this was definitely more interesting:
Finally I wanted to try out other types of eggs and quail eggs from the supermarket where particularly successful. Interesting looking, small and each were surprisingly unique.
Again, I started with them intact, but soon smashed them up a little.
I had a mad idea about trying to insert a narrative to the picture and so used match sticks as arms, which made this amusing picture of a boxer:
For my final shot, I smashed three quail eggs and I loved how each became even more unique:
So, if you want to have a play and make some interesting and creative images here is a step by step how to guide to lighting up objects from inside:
What you’ll need:
1) Prepare the subject:
Whether you use a sweet pepper or an egg, you’ll need to carved a small hole in the upper rear, big enough for a syringe without a needle attached. I use an acutely pointed kitchen knife.
For eggs, you can use a syringe to extract the contents.
2) Prepare the set:
You’ll only need a small space, ideally with blackout blinds (or you could tape black bin bags over the window) I used my trusty sheet of black velvet material draped over a plank.
If the room is dark enough, you won’t need a background. It’s a good idea to have something around to mop up spills. I used blue tack to sit the objects on or fishing wire to hang them from.
3) Prepare the camera:
You’ll need a tripod and then switch your camera to manual focus.
Ideally you’ll need a remote trigger or set your camera to self timer.
I worked at 70mm, f22, iso 100, and exposures varying from 30 to 90 seconds. Focusing is best done with the lights on and at the greatest magnification possible on your camera.
4) Prepare the Light Sticks:
Each glow stick (link see above) will give you about 4mm of liquid light. A chicken egg can consume 3 or 4 of these, whist a quail egg uses 1 or 2.
Once everything else is ready and not before, snap the glow sticks and give them a good shake.
Cut each one in the centre about half way through with a serrated kitchen knife over a measuring jug. Bend the stick from to release the liquid; small shards of glass will also come out.
Once I’ve milked them so to speak, I use a syringe to extract the liquid safely from the broken glass and deliver it into the object.
Personally, I like the second image…let me know which of these images you prefer and send me any you make yourself.
If you like the simple way this tip taught you a complex subject, you’ll love my Lightism blog’s 10 free simple lessons to take your photography to the next level or many of the other great blog articles which are updated weekly