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Tips & Tricks

‘Remember The Egg’ | Using An Egg To Understand Lighting

By Kishore Sawh on December 24th 2014


I’m sure everyone of us has had a few ‘a-ha’ moments in our lives, regarding photography and in all other aspects of life. I strangely remember one of the most poignant moments for me was when I learned why the engine nozzles on an F-14 Tomcat closes in such a strange and distinct way, due to the generator sequence and weight on wheels…and I’m boring you. I was about 11, and I was a freak.

One of the other moments from childhood that was an ‘a-ha’ moment came from my 10th grade art instructor, and it’s something I use in my retouching to this very day. I had always been into drawing, particularly, and when we were told to draw the person in front of us, my prof gave us, what is to me, the single best piece of art advice I’ve ever heard – to think in terms of shapes, and draw what’s there versus what we think it should be. If you let that seep in a moment, it may be better grasped.

One way to really see this would be, for example, if you’re drawing a face from a picture, turn the picture upside down and all of a sudden you won’t view a nose or jawline quite as much the same. You won’t really see a nose as such, but lines, shading, and shapes. This disassociation allows you not to inject your own ideas of what a nose should look like, and thus recreate what’s there with greater accuracy. Even now, I often rotate my images in Photoshop when retouching and shaping.


For Joe Edelman, he also had an ‘a-ha’ moment that he took with him and kept from his student days, and it’s a brilliant one. Essentially, it’s using an egg to understand how light works and affects an object, such as a head/face. You can see the demonstration below, and you’ll either want to have the clip on rewind. Or better yet, try it for yourself to get the full understanding of just how well this works to demonstrate how light affects all aspects of, and around an object, granting a better understanding of light while shooting.

[REWIND: ‘What Should I Charge?’ | Joel Grimes]


I must confess I’d been taught to use a similar technique with a balloon, but something about the egg makes it work better. That is to be expected though, the person who taught me wasn’t Edelman, who is an award winning editorial and advertising photographer, and author, and mentor, who has been doing this all for 30 years. He’s a good one to keep up with and you can see more from him on his site.

Source: The Phoblographer

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Graham Curran

    Saved for future reference.

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  2. Gurmit Saini

    so eggs it is, not for breakfast, but for the experiment. thank you for this great insight.

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  3. Basit Zargar


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  4. Barry Cunningham

    Steichen used a teacup. Over 1000 photos, which he developed by hand in a wet darkroom.
    They do not survive. After he had learned his lessons on how to light, he destroyed his practice shots.

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  5. Troy Barboza

    Really great demonstration!

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  6. Austin Swenson

    I thought there might be an eggstra play on words phrase or two to egg people on about using eggs to learn shadows and light, but I thought that would be a little eggcentric.

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  7. David De Fotograaf

    Simple but brilliant advice. :)

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  8. Denis O’Donovan

    Sometimes the simplest advice is the best. I’ve done this before and what he says is 100% correct. If you haven’t tried this yourself, go do it now! – Oh and I meant the egg thing, not the spammer in the above comment spamming some jobs webshite…..

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  9. Brandon Dewey

    Awesome advice!!!!

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  10. robert s

    I think a white mannequin head that has facial features would definitely be better so you can see different lighting techniques, like the classic Rembrandt lighting.

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  11. Duc Hong

    great advice

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  12. Steven Pellegrino

    Eggcellent video! I’m going to give this a try.

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  13. Tanner Zachem

    Great Advice

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