When I started telling the egg story in my workshops many years ago, I got the sense that people were just humoring me as they sat there nodding their heads as if they understood the message.
So I went ahead and recorded a video to show what I was talking about when I told the egg story. Then I had people gasping in excitement as they saw the concept come to life in front of their eyes.
I credit the egg for my ability to see light and to understand how it will shape an object and create shadows. Credit also goes out to my junior high school art teacher and a retiring high school photography teacher who both felt that I had some promise as a young photographer, and both of which went out of their way to give me some guidance.
While in 9th grade, I was told to take five pictures of an egg. But here’s the catch– wherever I decided to place the egg was where it had to stay for all five shots. I wasn’t allowed to move it.
This wasn’t for a grade – I was told it would make me a better photographer.
Now, I thought this was the dumbest thing I had ever heard of and had no intention of doing it. But then again, what did I know? I was both young and dumb and while I had some talent, I really had no clue how to use it.
About a week later my mother woke me up early one Saturday morning. As I walked into the kitchen, I noticed she was making eggs for breakfast. There was an egg sitting on the kitchen counter just under a window and the rising sun was streaming through the glass panes and casting a long shadow across the countertop as the light flowed over the egg.
It was at that moment that the assignment began to make sense, and it was then that I understood the importance of being able to “see” light.
This was a defining moment in my development as a photographer. I understood the importance of the egg!
Watch closely as the light travels slowly around the egg below. You may want to replay this part a few times, to watch how the shape of the egg, the shadow shape and depth change. Also take note of how the shade and tone of the background change as well.
In the second example below, the light simply moves from back to front, beginning behind the egg like a back light and traveling over the top of the egg towards the camera, like an on-camera flash.
Now do you understand the importance of the egg?
One last piece of advice: just because you read this article, and maybe watched the accompanying video here, don’t think you completely understand the concept. You will learn it better by doing it. Go and get an egg out of your refrigerator and grab a light, any light, from an ordinary light bulb to a keychain flashlight to the flash on your phone! Move the light around and above the egg and watch the magic happen. Doing it yourself will change the way you approach lighting, and add to that knowledge store I’ve been talking about.
When you are done, go ahead and cook some breakfast. In case you are wondering, I like my eggs scrambled.
And don’t forget gang, your best shot– whether it’s a shot of a breakfast food or not– it’s your next shot. So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting. Adios!