Monday, August 16, 2010

Photography tips: available light

I want to talk some more about light for this post because in my opinion it may just be the #1 thing that affects how your photo turns out. Often your thoughts on a photo are dramatically affected by light without you even realising.

Before I was particularly in to photography, I would scroll through pictures and think that some were good and some were bad – but not actually realise why it was that I thought this.
Sometimes you may be doing a photo shoot with a friend or of yourself and every photo seems to be generally... crap? Well that’s usually got a lot to do with the light.
If you missed out on my last post about photographic lighting then you can read it here.

Today I thought I’d talk about locations that, 90% of the time, are going to work well light-wise.

Inside a room with a window (at daytime)

The light created when your model is inside in a room with a window is really lovely and natural, and it’s one of my favourite locations for light – unfortunately it’s really hard where I live to find nice photographable rooms with big open windows.
One point I should make, is that the window isn’t necessarily meant to be used in the photo. It’s very hard to take a photo with a window in it because the window will be really blown out and your subject will usually end up looking like a silhouette (if that’s the look you’re going for then that’s fine!)
What I mean by a room with a window is more that the window will light the whole room up really nicely without being so harsh that it gives you some nasty shadows. It’s a really nice dappled light effect.

In this photo of Joel, for example, the lighting is really nice and soft which also makes the shadows really soft. Shadows are a good thing in a photo, but they work best if they’re soft and just sort of blend nicely into their surrounds.
In this photo it was an incredibly light room – the window is actually located right behind Joel. My camera settings are aperture f1.8, exposure 1/100sec, ISO 320.
That brings me to another necessity for this sort of location – wide aperture. I had this on f1.8 which is probably almost as low as you can go. If you were trying to shoot on f5.6 you’d have to pump your ISO way up and then the quality would go down or use a flash and the lighting wouldn’t be as nice – but it is do-able if need be.
If you’re a Canon user or thinking of becoming a Canon user then let me introduce you to a good friend of mine.

The Canon EF 50mm f1.8 fixed lens. It is possibly my best camera friend. For its price it has great quality, I use it for almost every photo I take, and it can go to f1.8 and get this... it was only $150!

They’re pretty breakable but when it’s costing you $150, as long as you’re careful, this lens is the best purchase you’ll make if you’re on a bit of a budget.
Finally, feel free to play around with where you place your model. If you place them with the window facing onto one side of them you might get some cool shading (depending on just how bright your room is) and stuff like that. It’s all about experimenting!
In the shade on a sunny day

This one works a lot like the above but has a bit of a different look to it. So basically, it’s a sunny day and you place your model in the shade – but there are a lot of rules to this location, I find, because lots of things can go wrong.

- Make sure the background is shady too. For example, if you sit the person under a tree it probably won’t work because the background will still be in sun so, although the lighting might be alright on your model, you’ll have this big blaring overblown background that will usually ruin the photo. If you’re going to sit them under something shady then it probably has to have a back to it, like under a shady tree that is against a shady fence. I’ve seen this work best in caves, old abandoned shacks and on verandahs.

- Depending on where the sun is, you probably have to get in the shade too. If you’re standing out in the sun taking a photo of someone in the shade then the light might be shining into your camera and then the camera gets confused and underexposes the photos and then everything just goes wrong. You can always do something like hold an umbrella over your camera (or get someone to) if you can’t go in the shade too.
- Make sure your model is facing the un-shaded areas. The whole idea with this effect is that you’re still getting a lot of lighting; you just don’t have to deal with the harsh shadows. You’d be surprised by how much your photo is affected by surrounding light, as opposed to direct light.
So basically, the idea here is that your model is in the shade, but the rest of the sunny world is acting as a giant reflector for your model. See this example below, Katrina who is pictured is sitting in like a open foyer/veranda type thing of a building and she’s facing the big opening – so all the light is filtering in... but it’s dappled, and it really lights her up. Does that make sense? Probably not.

In the second photo which was taken by my friend, Janelle Armytage, the model – Kate – is in the cave, so the entire background is dark, but the outside of the cave is really glary and all the light is shining off the rocks. I think Janelle actually had the added help of someone holding a reflector in this one, but I think the effect would have been similarly good with or without.

Open underground carparks

Okay, this is being a bit more specific and is working on the same principals as the two above – but I just thought I’d put it out there. Underground car parks can be really cool :P If it’s really really dark inside the car park you’re probably doomed for natural light photos, but if you can find one that’s a bit open, like one of those ones that is multileveled but not closed off so they’ve got the big open sides. If you place your model near one of the big open bits then the lighting will be really cool – and don’t forget all the lights in the car park and the general other features like poles, etc.

This is a failed attempt at the car park :p pretty much we weren’t facing a light wall because I didn’t think of that at the time (there’s one right over the other side, should have gone over there) but generally, can you see how it could have been cool? It was a Sunday afternoon so there was no one there, but it had been raining so there were all these puddles that were lit up from the lights and it was just rad. ... remind me to go and try to do that again.

That’s all for now! I’d love to hear any feedback or see any photos that may have been taken using my suggestions, otherwise, does anyone have any questions that you would like me to try to answer?


Amber Rose said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful, wonderful post! It's nice to read blogger's takes on the best photographs rather than googling them. :D

You did an amazing job, dear. :p

maggeygrace said...

Ahh! This was so interesting! I loved reading it! In taking outfit pictures, I've had to learn about the when/where is best and when is not best to take pictures. I haven't messed with the shadow on a sunny day one, so now maybe I just will :)

Thanks for the sweet blog comment:)

`Poppy said...

`Cool this blog;]]
invite you to me: DD

`Poppy <33

Barbara said...

this post is great!! the tips are very useful! light is so important when taking photos!!