Teaching Materials - Exercise

Lighting Exercise

Name of Artist Educator: Ellis Yip
Excercise Category: Photographer's eye

To quote from Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing in documentary film Let the Wind Carry Me, “Light and shadows are everywhere. But if you don't pay attention, they never belong to you.”

Concept / Inspiration:

To quote from Taiwanese cinematographer Mark Lee Ping-bing in documentary film Let the Wind Carry Me, “Light and shadows are everywhere. But if you don’t pay attention, they never belong to you.”

Photography is all about light and shadows. Whenever there is light, there are shadows. There are two kinds of light – natural light (sunlight) and artificial light (fluorescent light, light bulbs, etc). Why not focus on light as a subject if you can’t think of anything else? Black-and-white photography, no matter digital or analogue, reduces colours into different shades of grey and allows us to focus on how light and shadows interact.

Hong Kong is a unique place for photography, where streaks of sunlight often have to squeeze themselves through high-rise buildings. Students can pay attention to the visual effects when light is cast onto different materials and surfaces, for example sunlight on a lawn or a whitewashed wall, or tree shadows. It doesn’t matter if these things are important or trivial to the photographer – the point is to observe.

Once you establish a habit of observing and in turn have an idea how light and shadows work, you will be able to discover your stories bit by bit.


Photography beginners often feel lost when they pick up a camera. This workshop is designed to teach them basic skills and the essence of photography through the simple elements of light and shadows. It trains them to observe the environment and gradually get into the state of flow.

Materials / Equipment:

  • Cameras or camera phones


Any Location

Workshop Description:

  1. Explain to students the definition of the word “photography”.
    It derives from the Greek roots “φωτός” (photos) and “γραφή” (graphy), meaning “light” and “drawing” respectively. Together it means “drawing with light”. Light is a crucial element in photography, because all photographs are the result of light absorption. The instructor may also illustrate to students the history and development of photography.
  2. Assign students to take pictures of light.
    Raise examples of how different environments and times of day influence the quality of light. Encourage students to use their cameras’ black-and-white mode. They may practice at school, but they can also pay attention to outdoor lighting conditions. Shadows produced at different hours of the day, such as midday or sunset, are different.
  3. Tasks for the more advanced students:
  • Screening and discussion of documentary film Let the Wind Carry Me;
  • Apart from taking black-and-white images, encourage students to compose in the square format. It simplifies the composition and allows the photographer to concentrate on the light and shadows within the frame. An unusual format, square photos put more emphasis on the act of photography and add spice to scenes of everyday life. Students are also prompted to think twice before pressing the button when the composed frame is different from what they see in reality;
  • Expose for both the highlights and shadows of the same scene for comparison. Students may settle on either of them depending on which details they would like to keep.


Works of Lai Wing Chin:
lai wing chinP1010486 lai wing chinP1010485 lai wing chinP1010482


Works of Hui Shun Chun:
Hui Sun Chun (12)_20140221_005 Hui Sun Chun (12)_20140221_006

Hui Sun Chun (12)_20140221_008 Hui Sun Chun (12)_20140221_011

Reference Materials:

Let the Wind Carry Me: