Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Introduction to photographic lighting
We have always been told that to capture good photos we must have the sun over our left shoulder, why the left and not the right, I have no idea, in any case, as with a lot in photography, this rule must be forgotten.
It has become evident that the best time of day for outside photography is either 2 or three hours after sunrise or 2 hours before Sunset. Yes I know but it really is worthwhile!
The misty mornings over lakes and fields turn a simple photo, into a work of magic.
In the evening we have a different type of light with more depth, action and colour in the sky. Photographing a sunset is the proof that the left shoulder rule must be broken unless you are very good at taking photographs while not looking at the subject!
This little boy was shot with the sun directly three quarter rear to him, and certainly not over my left shoulder. I hear you saying it’s not a dawn or sunset so this is why.
On occasions we might find that the subject won’t play ball and get up early, to get married at dawn for example!
So how to improve the age old problem of the bride’s mother in a big hat with the sun directly overhead, casting a big black shadow on her face, even though in some cases it can be an advantage. One solution is to get everyone wearing hats to look at the sky, not really ideal. Another is to reflect light from either a shop bought reflector or make you own from mirrors, white card, gold shiny card or card covered in silver paper, this works well with a close up of one person.
The best is to mix light using a flash to fill in the shadows. Most modern equipment will have these settings and the best way to master it is to spend a little time learning how the camera and flash units work together from the manuals. Don’t forget the phrase as seen in a launderette that read ‘ladies if all else fails please read the instructions!’
Now if for example we mix a tungsten spotlight with daylight, the spot having a colour temperature of 2500°k will give an orange tinge to the light, this can be very nice at times but would make the brides mums face look like she is covered in orange makeup.
I seem to be drifting away from the subject a little, so back to daylight. The sun as we know can give very hard shadows. There are three ways to handle the problem when shooting subjects outside, the first as we have seen, the flash, another is by using large reflectors these now are available as handy fold away units similar to a modern tent, open the bag and it pops out and suddenly becomes a massive reflector often one side white and the other gold or silver. These are relatively cheap, put themselves together like magic, although trying to get it back in the bag the first time can be very frustrating, it’s a bit like wrestling a tiger except for the fact you end up wanting to bite it.
The other way is by holding a large diffuser screen between the sun and your model, also available in fold up form in different levels of diffusion. Wow, you all have it easy these days, I used to travel around with an enormous sheet of polystyrene and a large wooden frame covered with tracing paper but at least I didn’t have to fight the tiger.
Finished with sunlight except to say that one of the nicest forms of daylight comes straight through a window into a room with no other lights. Amateurs as well as pros shoot many portraits like this. I would have a black screen opposite the window to avoid light reflecting from the room to the models face allowing me full control of how much (if any) light I would reflect back.
I have on many occasions found it necessary to have one or two cars parked shining their headlamps behind the subject at night to add a little interest to the background, with the use of some black card held about a meter in front of the car these lights can be controlled to make a shafts of light.