Thursday, 18 April 2013 13:01

Light – Natural, Flash, Continuous and Reflected part 6

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When people admire a painting they often say that “the artist painted with light” . The same goes with photography and we need to realize that light is one of the most important factors in determining the quality of the photo. Sport and action photographers never have enough light. They use this light primarily to reduce the shutter speed to stop action. Even then the highlights and shadows remain important to them.

The biggest thing that one can do to improve your photographs is avoid taking photos in the midday sun. They come out with hard shadows and many highlights – not very flattering to any person. Rather take these photos in the shade with a darkish background to assist the light meter with getting the right exposure.

Many times I hear people say “shoot with the sun at your back”, but this should not be taken as a golden rule. I have seen these photos and while technically good, many times the people’s eyes squint. I have seen beautiful portrait photos, well exposed and soft, shooting into light where it highlights the person’s hair and outline.

Apart from snapshots one should always plan a photo so that it is taken in the golden hour which gives that warm soft light which only the early mornings and late afternoons can provide. Also I have had good success on overcast days where the cloud it quite thick. The cloud does change the colour temperature to a more blue but this can easily be fixed in camera setting or in Photoshop.

So if Golden Hour is rule one, then Natural/Reflected light is rule two. One can do so much with natural light by using for instance a window as a light source in the house and composing the photo using this light. Try it, take a person, a couch and a window and compose some picture in front of this window. Remove some backlight by drawing the other curtains and see what effect can be achieved. At the dam try it in the tent. Light can also be manipulated by reflecting it off surfaces. White walls and ceilings are great reflectors. Many times polystyrene is used in photo shoots to reflect light off and tin foil also make a very effective reflector.

Normally reflected light is used to great effect to give a soft, more even exposure where the contrast in shadow and highlights are reduced.

Many times one can use lights in the house to good effect to provide light. Where there is not movement a long shutter speed and tripod mounted camera can be good. One light to avoid is fluorescents as they tend to give off a bluish light which is not flattering to people. Sure one can set the colour balance if this is the only light available. 

I left flash for last for a reason because this is where it belongs – last! I do not like flashes and whenever I look at people’s albums I can see why. If you definitely need more light and have run out of ISO, lens opening and shutter speed and no other natural light is available - even incandescent or candle lights - then only you should whip out the flash.

This is one area where compact cameras are weak. The reason for this is that the small compact cameras have small batteries and cannot charge a large flash. Because the flash is weak one cannot even bounce these flashes off reflective surfaces. That’s why it is better to try all the other means where the new compact cameras are very good, before resorting to flash. Many of the better compacts come out with a hotshot where an external flash can be connected. I would recommend that one look at a small external flash to add to your camera.

 Canon makes a 220 and the larger 430 model which will make a huge difference to night photography. With a separate flash we are back in reflected light mode. Now we can swivel the flash head and use the white ceiling as a reflector, which will make a big difference to the photos. With the on-camera flash the people in front are normally over exposed and the people behind are in virtual darkness. By bouncing the flash off a ceiling all the harshness is gone and also a better spread of light is obtained.

Read 860 times Last modified on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 10:38

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