lighting | using it to your advantage

Lighting. Now that’s a biggie. And it raises a question – do you take advantage of as many hours as possible, knowing that most photos will be discarded, in order to learn about other aspects of photography, such as composition, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and so on? Possibly yes. After all, you can still learn a lot along the way.  Hopefully that understanding that shooting at lunchtime in the middle of summer will get you some ghastly shadows. And will avoid showing people the results telling then that it’s a great photo someone’s taken of you as you look at them with panda eyes.


That’s not to say that it’s impossible to take photos of anything or anyone at hours that aren’t late in the day or early in the morning, preferably when it’s during the golden hours or at least when the shadows are soft. Even with the sun blazing away, you can look for opportunities to take photos in areas which are concealed below a bridge, for example.  If there’s clouds overhead, one of them might block the sun briefly. But here’s the thing, and sometimes even then – unless you know what you’re doing, chances are, you’re going to end up with photos that are compromised. How compromised depends on what you try to do.


Fill is flash can be a powerful tool. That’s shooting at low power to just give a bit of a boost to the shadows, to lift out the shadows from the darkness. Finding something white nearby to use as a reflector can help to bounce the flash off either to direct fill in flash, or to create your own light, firing flash at more higher power to give the impression that the light is coming from somewhere it isn’t. Typically for when shooting with the sun either behind the subject or blocked out on an overcast day. Unfortunately with a compact camera, you’re limited to how you point your flash, but with DSLRs and many bridge cameras, you have the option to use an external flash – to benefit from one, make sure it’s one that allows you to rotate it up and around.


One of the things I rarely see are people using filters on flashes – why oh why? Even using a yellow sweet wrapper on a compact camera can improve what a shot looks like when the predominant colour is an incandescent lightbulb. For florescent lighting, usually green, and for LED it’s blue.  Usually. Of course if the light’s too strong, like red lighting or really blue lighting, you’re usually going to end up with a predominant colour cast. But at least if you use the same colour flash as the light, it will look a bit more natural.


The biggest thing that you’ll learn is to see the light, the way it falls on people’s faces and objects’ surfaces. Learn the difference between hard light (look at shadows cast at midday) and soft light (look at shadows cast just before sunset).  Look at the direction of the light and shadows – the way at midday, the shadows are cast straight downwards during the middle of summer, verses the way they are cast crossways later on, or when standing in a tunnel. And learn how to bounce light using electronic flash. There’s a lot more you can study about light, but this will give your photography a major advantage.


See you next time 🙂

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