Using The Chiaroscuro Technique In Photography

Lucinda Batchelor

Talking about my photography in such detail to the lovely people who show such an enthusiastic interest, has helped me understand my influences and techniques in much greater depth. 

It was highlighted yesterday when a gallery who are interested in exhibiting my work, pointed out my use of the Chiaroscuro technique. I have only been half aware that I had been cultivating this technique and had thought that perhaps I had a long way to go before I was happy to have even half mastered it. But having someone recognise it has made me very happy indeed.

Being a bit of an old romantic, I have always been drawn to the dark dramatic oil paintings of the Renaissance. At that time these wonderful painters made extraordinary use of the Chiaroscuro technique, meaning 'dramatic contrast between light and shadow'. 

The subjects were lit by natural light and given a three-dimensional quality by being painted with exaggerated shadows and highlights transitioning into darker, heavily-shadowed areas.

It's not an easy technique to replicate with photography, especially when using natural light in my studio, I still have to wait for the light to be 'right' and achieve as much as possible 'in camera' and use a delicate but detailed approach in post processing, which can be time consuming, however, I want my images to have depth, and to highlight only the natural beauty of the subjects I choose and this technique is perfect for me.

I believe it can be a very desirable look in photography, giving the photo a sense of depth and dimension and giving the subject an almost refined sculptural quality. it's an approach I would like to develop much further.  

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