Clever Trick: Document the Exact Lighting Setup of a Photo Using a Christmas Bulb

When capturing a photograph, something many of us meticulously try to account for is the lighting — more specifically, how much light is coming from what sources.

Using ratios, a bit of rough math and a pen & paper, you could write it down. But sometimes numbers don’t directly translate into results. Here with an ingenious way to properly capture the lighting in a scene is Felix Kunze and Sue Bryce.

Shown off in this short snippet from a Creative Live class, Kunze uses a black circular Christmas bulb as a three-dimensional mirror of sorts, to capture the lighting setup of the scene.

Christmas Ornament Trick

Similar in nature to the marble catchlight trick we featured some time ago, this rather simple method allows you to easily document the lighting setup in a particular scene without ever really getting out of your workflow.

The clip comes in at just under three minutes, so it won’t take long to learn about and add this trick to your studio photography arsenal. Check it out at the top and let us know in the comments down below if you have anything to add.

(via DIY Photography)

  • l0k

    this is already a recognised technique, at least in videography. I first learnt about it here also I’m curious, do americans really call those bulbs? we brits call them baubles. Bulbs would generally refer to lightbulbs.

  • Rick Scheibner

    Yeah, they’re bulbs on this side of the pond. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen one that shape and color, though.

  • Henry Wang

    Yup, those chrome spheres are generally used in visual effects to get a spherical environment map for 3D renders.

  • thesharad96

    Ok so they aren’t light bulbs lol

  • NickGHK


  • ThatGuy

    It is indeed a clever trick, but I can’t see myself carrying around a black Christmas bulb in with my gear.

  • Digi•Pixel•Pop

    Yup, VFX Supervisors have been doing that for years.

  • Sarpent

    hmmm. Seems familiar. petapixel dot com/2014/05/18/simple-trick-turns-a-marble-into-an-extremely-useful-on-location-resource/

  • Wilba

    Does she really rest her camera on her fingertips and shake it about like that?

  • docholliday666

    Yeah, I can’t and won’t take anybody seriously who doesn’t understand how to hold a camera correctly…wankers.

  • moonbase2

    So, this is for those fancy photographers that hire assistants to create their light, right? I’m confused. If you have set up or created a controlled lighting situation, this means you understand lighting. It’s like understanding that when you turn the stove on it gets hot… here is where it doesn’t. This brings up something that has been bugging me for a long time. Is understanding how light works a requirement to be a photographer? It’s obvious Sue doesn’t have a clue, but she has a great eye. Thoughts anyone?

  • Vin Weathermon

    Silly me, I figure a cell phone video, just shoot in place and pan the room. For this method, I could make a special little wooden case for my fragile little glass bulb and then have that maybe with a lanyard or on wheels, then carry it everywhere I go. LOL.

  • GeraldPeake

    If the BALL (UK term) was silver (trad Xmas colour) and mounted on the hot shoe… the photographer could check who has escaped from the studio and if any of the remaining people are pulling faces behind their back!

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  • Alan Klughammer

    In Canada we call them Christmas Balls. Bulbs are definitely lights…

  • VSM Photo

    You could just get a small black shiny marble…

  • Vin Weathermon

    And then change from my portrait lens to my macro lens so I could actually see the thing, have my model hold that while I shoot, then change lenses. Complexification is a skill.

  • peter

    Littffel geyfish pfotograpfer.