Working with Light
Okay so how do we go from mediocre to magnificent? What I mean by that is, let's deconstruct this a little bit. How do we go from this, what we talked about earlier, this to this. The kid here to here. How do we do these things? So let me back up for a second. A lot of this is 'cause I, my think is I want to be like an artisan, I want to influence, I want to craft, I'm a maker. So I don't want to just have a family like do something random and I take a picture. I'll have them get there and then I'll interact with them and have them get somewhere else. Or in this case, my daughter's there and she's kind of crying and frustrated 'cause she's doing a push up and she can't do them very well. I just plop her and sit her down and then get her over here. And you get the idea of the transition like with this one it's sunset and you can see she's sitting in this little wagon and for here it wasn't necessarily about changing her but it was about changing me. So I just walked around to the other ...
side of the wagon and I'm looking into the sun. This one's a little bit more about prediction. Family photography is really predictive, you have to kind of like, as you see someone coming in the frame they're about to be in the frame, you get the shot and then the shot disappears and so that's what this one is here. I knew there was a good photograph, vibrant colors, she's wearing overalls, she has a bandaid on her chin, we have text, whenever you have text people'll read it but if it's partially legible so that's sort of nice. In this case there's, I'm in a place where there's light and there's window light and she's like looking at the fish so she's excited so all I have to do is say, Annie, whoa look up, can you see that penguin up there? And of course, I know what I'm doing, like it's not about the penguin, it's about that. Now, pause for a second. Had I said, Annie, your dad's a professional photographer, I really want to pose you right now, no dad, run, right? She's gone. If I did anything like what if you turn your shoulders a little bit like this and then pointed your chin up like that? She could turn her shoulders and point her chin up just by saying, hey Annie, look at that penguin. Shoulders go, eyes go, I got the pose. So with kids you have to do stuff like that. With this particular family and the runner kid who's about to escape, I asked the dad, could she ride on your shoulders? Because she likes that and because then, you know she's actually locked down. So how do we do that, part of that's directing, which I was talking about there but also thinking about light. So let's look at those same images and a few others from a perspective of light. This one is all about window light. Window lights soft, north facing window, painters, artists have used it forever. So when I put her down on the bed, I was thinking about where the window was, you can see the light from the window right here in her eyes, it's soft and bright and warm. If she's closer to the window I get a little more soft if she's farther away like way back in the tunnel it's a little bit dark, so I'm thinking about that. This is sunset light, everyone loves sunset light so she's in a wagon, I'm like how cute, take the picture, and here's what you have to do, take the picture and then say, think of my mom. It's bad art, that's okay. But I know there's a good picture here. All I need to do is do back light, so lights coming behind the subject. Or maybe with this family I could have arranged then here and had the kid on the shoulders but it's side light which sometimes works, but really what I wanted for this family, they're a creative family, the mom's a musician, very talented, you know, performing artists, the father is a commercial filmmaker amazing guy so I wanted this like warm, nostalgic thing so again I'm going for that back light and that's where the retouching comes in, cause what did it just do? Softened everything, created a glow over everyone and everything in the frame. Another example of window light, in this case there is a big window, it's sliding glass door, it's a little bit too far away and the composition's cluttered so I'm just saying get her right next to the window. So I'm probably sitting on the couch and I just walked her over she's holding on, clinging on to that couch 'cause she can't quite stand up in that way. Another light scenario is in this case, it's a family clumped together, not really working, there's side light, so you want to start looking at light, so you're hitting the side of their face, you guys see that? And I say these trees in Santa Barbara fall doesn't really happen like leaves but I saw three trees where it was. So I got them over there in the trees the lights still coming the side at dusk. And I'm starting to get some images of that and then one kid fell over and I got a picture of her there. And it's that dusk light which is so beautiful, again coming from the side, the side here 'cause she's now laying down, it's a little bit brighter almost underneath and you can see it's sort of filling up in that way. This type of light is golden, so it's not just about the apples and everything. But it's called covered or open shade, what I mean by that is there is literally a cover blocking out the most intense light above, this is, some people call this garage light, so the person has the garage door over them, it's a dark behind them, but they have all this light just come in and illuminating them, and so in this case open or covered shade I know that my lights gonna be good, I'm also thinking about the other elements as well. And so what I want you to start thinking about with how you express your vision and voice, is looking at different types of light. And here's a side by side comparison. Here we have just literally, you know 30 seconds apart, side light, you can see it's hitting her side, shadows coming off there and then this case back light very different feel, look at the color temperature, look at the mood emotion. Here's another one, these aren't family and kids but sometimes stepping out of that's helpful. Same day, same moment, same person, it just depends on what the direction of the light. A few more light examples to get you deeper into this. This idea of open shade, or overcast day or window light, here's Sophie. What's the guess there, it's a window. You can see it, just kitchen table shot. Here's Sophie again with a friend on a rainy day playing in a field behind her house. Here's up in the mountains after a day of skiing, window light, you can see the window behind them. This is window lights at a school, photographing my daughter and her buddy there. This one is a little bit of that overcast day. Overcast days when it's not too overcast, softens things up a little bit. More window light. More overcast. Here's our open shade example. Here's another window light. Slightly overcast just creates a sort of soft glow. Right so that type of light is something you gotta ask yourself how can I use it? How can I see it, how can I find it? Where is that light? And a lot of times that light is a half step away. You know there's the window and the door's blocking them like at the aquarium. Annie look up at the penguins, that's all it takes. Side light, look at some examples, you can see the subjects are illuminated on their side, so you know the sun is setting right here. And it's hitting them this way, you guys see that? Why not have them look at the sun? Well of course they're gonna squint and it's gonna be horrible. All this is about indirect light. So that's the key, so it's hitting them from the side. Here it is. If they were facing the sunset shots wouldn't work. This is my wife and our daughter, you can see the light's coming from over here, its a little softer, here it's a little bit more dramatic it's kind of that magic, but you can see how that's working with that side light what I have to be careful of, if someone's blocking it I got a shadow on their face but if I take a half step this way the shot works. Here we have side light at the beach. Hanging out with the kids, here we have side light again, you can see that the way it's hitting from the side, you see it in the side here? This one's a little bit more subtle, you can still see it coming from the side. These, you've already seen a couple of these pictures coming from the side. Look at their shadows, you can really see the angle of it. Look at the shadow by the feet, can you see the side angle here? This one it's hard to notice 'cause they're jumping so there's no shadow but look at the shadow coming off the arm or the face, split light right? One half here, one half there. And that just makes for fun, beautiful, light. Because you want to shoot when it's soft and perfect when the lights right but remember that Brook student, it's not always gonna be just right. So sometimes maybe using the side can help. Back light, this is my happy place. So this is my sister and her kids, before I was gonna photograph the whole family. I love those before moments, this is backlight, another quality of that. Backlight can have different colors, it can have different looks, sometimes soft and subtle, sometimes overwhelms and fills up the whole frame. This one on the left you can see it's more just it's just kind of there, another one on the right a little bit more. I don't know kind of a fun thing. This one just, ah man, it's all over the place, and you get how this back lights gives us an ability to really create flattering shots and I'm gonna end with a mobile, this is just an iPhone shot with the sun directly behind them. And it turns silhouette. So it can go that way as well. So the take aways, let me summarize this, natural light, that's what this is about. Is this interesting to you guys by the way?
So you keep it indirect. Soft light works best with people. Harsh light and again because of my style, if you're really into like urban like edgy, you know maybe hard light for you but I'm obviously you get, I'm going for sea glass right? So I'm going for softness, soft light works best. You want to look for light that's coming above that's coming below, if someone's near like a garage door thing, if they have a white driveway the light bounces back up in a beautiful way, so looking around the light all around the subject as well and then the thing that most people forget is the light within. Have you ever met someone that kind of shines? You know and people shine in different moments, my daughter, I know I keep referencing that picture, but, or that family on the beach, they're just glowing. And it was really that moment and you look for that not just for the light that's hitting them but the sparkling eyes, the moment, the expression, when they're present and engaged.