Lighting: Finding Good Light
Finding the lights important to let's say you don't have the luxury of, you know, being outside at exactly the time when the sun sets or around there maybe you're making dinner or maybe you're still working and maybe it's you know, december in the sunset of four o'clock I don't know on baby in the morning maybe you know you've got a job it's just it's not possible to do these early morning late afternoon shots. Well, I still like to kind of go for those because early morning can be great and I just wanted to kind of briefly show you this picture I was coming off of a cruise ships I think I was in scotland and it was early morning I was going on an excursion and I had a backpack on and I was going toe track somewhere and I had my dslr and my lenses and everything in my backpack, and I'm coming down the ramp and I'd look at me go and there wasn't time to like take everything out and put it all together. So of course I whipped out my compact camera and took the shot early morning it's har...
d to get a bad shot an early morning, especially if you can find anything where the light reflects so here's another thing to think about when you're taking a picture of anything that has water near it or reflected class or anything where you might see reflection in don't just look at the thing you're photographing like I'm looking pretty buildings and that that water over there but I'm looking at the water close to me what it's reflecting its reflecting the sky and that's kind of cool and you might have seen those people have all kinds of creative, creative ideas now and pictures you post online, and I saw one of it looked like a reflection of something upside down that is actually a puddle with the reflection of a city escape in the puddle I was just the picture of the puddle, which is kind of cool, so look for reflections, but that often happens early in the morning, especially in the waters smooth and then late afternoon. Of course that's always going to be great because it's hard to take a bad shot in the late afternoon, especially when you're at the beach this's a surfer that lives near me and, uh yeah, I just thought, you know, it's a beautiful day let's go out and take some take some shots so late afternoon, early morning, they're great just kind of this is a set up shop, by the way, and I'm just kind of showing you what you can do to take advantage I'm still kind of I said it started this off with what if you don't have late afternoon light early morning light now I'm still talking about it because it is still important but this is the last late afternoon light shot so here's the setup or at the pool the light you can tell it's like dark pretty much everywhere you just get these long shadows you can tell the time of day it is look how long his shadow is and the lights just kind of falling upon him and it's it's kind of it's pretty bright lights still I think it was july but I've zoomed in it was able to capture this shot and you can see I'm still seeing some kind of hard shadow on his face but in this instance it kind of works and it's still it's hard yet the sun is low enough in the sky where he can still keep his eyes open it's not that harsh so you can you can work this to your advantage to sometimes late in the afternoon depending on the time of year and the atmospheric conditions it maybe softer or harder but you can still kind of work with it all right so finding good light let's say you don't have late afternoon light you don't have early morning light you can always go for window light and this is something that you know painters have been using for centuries you see those old flemish dutch paintings the premier would have all of his subjects kind of facing this north lights and these windows and just light falling upon them was just beautiful. Well, you can do this in your home or anywhere else that your outlook for the window light super it's falling and it's preferable of its indirect light, not directly shining on someone through the window because light could be harsh shining through a window just like it can be outside, but here here's the set up shot ok, we're in a living room there on the left, you can see sliding glass doors that go out to a balcony and on the right is this old from the couch and on day there's just a bunch of stuff in there, and it was mother's day and my mom came over here's my mom and way wanted to take a shot of her, and I forget what she was wearing that day, but I just remember the color didn't really pop on her. It wasn't really her color. Has anyone ever had their colors done for clothing or anything? Um, well, I have and I now know that I'm I'm not a purple person, I don't wear purple, but anyway, back to the color thing she looks great in blue and I haven't had a lot of pashminas and scarves around, so I like to use those to throw around people. You know what? I'm taking photos of him just to get a little pop of color in there. So I'm showing you the set up and there was just a bunch of junk in the background in some old plant that was my friend's plant that just looked terrible. And how are we gonna take a good shot? Well, went and just got a piece of black fabric and have my friend michael hold it up behind her. So that became in essence our backdrop that she's you know, sitting on that couch looking out towards that window light so it's just falling it's like front light falling on her face that's nice and soft because it's not direct it's just kind of bright in there and then held up the fabric behind her to kind of hide all the old ugly plants and stuff. I stood out on that balcony with a longer lens and zoomed in and captured the shot, which looks like, wow, it could be a like a studio shot or something, but that was a set up and you could do this to just find some nice window light and position someone in front of it I mean, look at the nice catch light in her eye the light is nice and soft and even on her face and I just kind of threw in the pashmina for a little color, which adds a little punch and someone's and you're getting in that close you really want to pay attention what someone has on around their neck, you know, make sure they're collar isn't like that or something funny is going on. Um, so that was my close up shot, but I also used it for anak ter in los angeles. I had him come into the room and he just sat on a chair just like you see on the left, I put it like a gray backdrop paper behind him, and I threw this gold reflector on the floor and what that was doing was just kind of bouncing any ambient light that was around sort of back into a space to give him. I think it was kind of a kind of a cloudy day that day, so sometimes on cloudy days the the light can look a little blue. Remember we talked about that white balance thing, so the light was looking a little blues. I wanted to maybe warm it up a little bit and that's why I chose a gold reflector and this is just like a square piece of cardboard. I think I bought it the art store that was just shiny gold, you can use a lot of different things this reflectors and just threw it on the floor and then sit back zoomed in and this is the picture I captured and you can't really tell you know where he is because I've cropped everything else out, but you can see the nice catch light in his eyes and you can kind of see that you can see the outdoor reflection and design then there's one other little light which I'm thinking must be that reflector that we're seeing on the ground but that's the shot and that's actually in los angeles, where there are lots of actors and actresses and a lot of head shot photographers, this is often how they will get a shot either like this or they'll take him out, take him into their garage, open up the garage door, see them on a chair a little reflectors somewhere in front of them and take the shot and that's their actor's headshot. So I know some some actors and actresses in l a that actually started photography business this way because you know, they were on a budget, but they happen to know a lot of people and they said, come on over to my house, we'll take pictures in the garage will set it up like this and boom, they were, you know, five or six people in and out every day taking taken head shots so all kinds of possibilities now you can also use and I soft window light for babies, which I love just how it just kind of rolls over their little folds in their skin and everything and it's just it's a nice, just pretty soft way to shoot babies. You don't really want to shoot babies and hard light on what's there some really kind of super one artistic shot you have to get, but specifically when you're shooting babies to that, you need you know it to be comfortable and not too bright, not too hot, not too cold, and everything has to be just right. It's also great if their mom is there, too, and to capture the little moments that are going on between people that's pretty key, whenever you're taking pictures of people so open shade, anybody will first. Before I get to that, any questions about window light? There was a quick question whether you ever will actually, like, put a sheet up over the light in order to kind of create like a soft box effects. Yeah, you could definitely put a sheet over light let's say you've got a window wherever you're at and it's, just the direction of the window, you've got all this harsh light coming in, you can definitely soften it with a white sheet that's a great idea. And it's a similar idea to using like that diffusion panel I showed a little bit earlier just anything you can do to soften that light but yeah, you can definitely do that and basically I guess so the strategy to soften light is just to kind of put things between you and the light is that kind of the idea or is it more about the like all making it look bigger? Yes and yes, but in this instance it's more about finding it so I kind of wanted it to work a progression to where we're almost at that spot, but right now, it's just about finding that light so let's say you're just out and about and you don't have anything else with you or maybe you haven't purchased it yet or whatever it is. So right now just finding that light is really key and then if you happen to have some reflectors or other things, you can definitely add those in and I'm going to get teo reflecting in defusing our last segment today like really kind of key in on that and that's when we're going to do some experimenting to but just kind of giving you some ideas window like yeah catching those backdrops like the gray one behind the model that just several always go back from the feeling that actually I had a backdrop stand so you can see here these stand legs so I had a like a portable backdrop stand and I just put it up behind him and just put a paper roll. I bought the paper roll I think it was thirty five dollars or something and put it on the part of the standard just rolled it down behind him that's a professional back drop and I could use different with the backdrops too. I just happen to have I wanted to use gray and I didn't have a wide gray when I just had a skinny one so that's, why you see a skinny one back behind him but you can use lots of things for backdrops? It doesn't have to be a professional backdrop stand I've put fabric and just tapped it on the wall or I've had like in the instance where my mom is sitting on the couch, I just had a piece of black fabric, you know? And sometimes for kids and babies they'll have blankets with a mme on dh it's great if you can find a blanket that matches their eyes like I was shooting pictures of this cute little kid, he had amazing blue eyes he just happen to have a blue baby blanket and I just had his mom hold the blue baby blanket up behind him and it was like the instant backdrop and shot him sitting in like an open doorway and that was a great way to capture him and not have to get a professional backdrop it in this instance I think I had I think that might be the wall back there that blue wall so you can kind of position yourself around and look for solid spaces you might have a great wall in your home that's a solid color if you stand back far enough from its position someone far enough away from the wall so you don't see shadows behind them on the wall you can use that is a nice backdrop too but I often go to fabric stores and go to the remnant table and you can just buy all kinds of crazy wild fabric and do some fun stuff inexpensively so open shade I talked about this a little bit earlier but this is a great way to get instantly good shots if you're just outside so I just position this little girl underneath the shade of a tree and she's in where she's leaning on her arm she's looking out towards the sun but she's not in the sun and I captured this great shot of her nice soft even diffused light on her face and here's another example of that this little boy was outside I think was about three in the afternoon and that's direct light on the left so he's standing and just bright sunlight you can see how the shadows are falling across his face the harsh shadows you can see the lines of the shadows it's hard light and it's not that attractive and he could barely keep his eyes open just because it's too bright all I did was I moved in a few feet over into the shade of the house in this open shade and now he's looking out towards the light he's just not in it and now I've got nice soft even line on his face and you can see a light in his eye it was just an instant way to fix your photographs if you're shooting outside you see those harsh shadows here's a here's a set up this is my friend david and we were on a little photo shoot in virginia and were shooting pictures of dylan and if you're watching dillon high and he was in the shade so david is out here in the sun and he's shooting pictures of dylan in the shade kind of near the edge of the shade that's the brighter area of the shade and that's how he was capturing shots and here's one I took that day of dylan up in the tree so again give kids something to do in this instance he happened to have kind of a quiet moment and you know good looking kid and he was great with direction tio but some kids don't wantto be in front of the camera you know they've got more important things to d'oh like playing the sandbox or swing on the swing things the kids want to dio so you just got to kind of follow him around and know how to identify that light and it's just easy if you can find some open shade like this if you're under a tree you want to make sure you don't have that dappled light coming in on your face unless that's the effect you're going for but in this case there was this nice soft even light and this's another is a client of mine and she needed some great head shots and I went to her house and we just were standing outside she kind of had like a almost a cliff in our backyard but we're kind of standing on this hill and then the wind have to be blowing her hair back which is like perfect right couples like who the fashion shot her hair is blowing back and you can see pretty light in her eyes it's nice soft even light on her face I wasn't using any reflectors diffusers or anything she's just standing in open shade looking out towards the light and the wind was blowing your hair back and this just turned out to be a great shot and of course I worked with her two on wardrobe you know it's always a good idea to have solid colors when you're photographing someone if you really want to emphasize them in their face if you're shooting fashion that's a whole different scenario, but just for, like, real people and portrait's and things like that to get a color that they look good in, that it might go with their eyes of their complexion. Um and also worked with her a little bit on just powdering her face and things before that before we did the portrait, so nothing was too shiny, so that worked ok, so here's my friend pat, we were on a cruise somewhere in the mediterranean, and this is my friend I told you about that loves to photograph too, so it's great when you're on a trip with someone else that loves to photograph, I don't if you've ever experienced this, but if you go somewhere and as you know an artistic photographing person, you see things you're like, oh, I got to get a picture that I got to get a picture this meanwhile, your whole group is like way ahead of you because they're not stopping to see to smell the roses, so to speak, but we were photographing all kinds of things I said go stand under that doorway. Not only is it a great doorway toe uses a frame, which we'll get into when we talk about composition it's a great fraying to put her into, but it's also that open shade so I said, ok, go stand in there and and I forgot what we were saying back and forth to each other I said okay, you know, hold your hat ok just go like this or do something and she's actually it helps because she has modeled over the years so she kind of knows just how to move in front of the camera, which I'm going I'll show you some of that too, so I assume dana was able to capture that shot just right there in the open shade and we were running around from you know, monument to castle or whatever wherever we were and didn't have time to like hold reflectors and do all that stuff so on the go on the fly how to take great shots open shade open doorways is always just get some pretty light it's a look you know it's not the only look but it's it's a look and it's an easy way to capture cem no instant instantly good shots now you might think that an overcast day is not a day to go out and shoot like it's gray it's boring but it has a look it has a mood it has a feel this was a surfer in california that wanted me to take actually it was his wife that wanted me to take pictures of him for her on dh they needed to be like that golden surfer boy kind of like that picture I showed you earlier that was the look she had in mind that's what they wanted, but every time was scheduled to shoot, the fog would roll in and at the beach that happens all the time, especially in the summer. So it was like every day we gotta go and we'd like my schedule is going crazy because I don't have time to book it, cancel it, book it, cancel it. So I said, we're shooting today come to the fog, we're going to shoot and so we did, and we ended up getting some great shots out of this one session just with this nice kind of fog going on because what it did is it cut down on the contrast of the light, so we didn't have to wait till the end of the day to shoot to make it a pretty shot. We just shot, you know, kind of three o'clock in the afternoon, something like that so that fog kind creates a nice diffusion, if you will kind of like that diffusion panel that I was showing you before fog does that to the bright sun, so overcast days can actually be good day to shoot, and this is a new image I capture that day, which is just evokes this kind of mood that is totally different from that sunshine shot that we were thinking about but it's really cool in fact I use this in a gallery show this particular image just has it has a feel to it it makes you feel you know there's one person kind of up in the corner sort of like lonely or man in nature you can look at the composition of it and we'll talk more about composition tio but just there's so many fun things you can do whenever there's whether going on outside any kind of weather you can shoot in so if it's going to rain or some big storm is coming get ready with your camera you might not want to shoot right in the middle of the rain and right in the middle of something you know to while going on but maybe with a member allah I don't know but it's when that that rain start to subside and maybe the sun comes out a little bit and just unusual things happen in the sky you could get some great shots so don't think it just has to be a nice sunny day you know and sit under a tree it could be anything and you could get some great shots here's another example of a family and took pictures of on the beach another day where it was kind of sunny but the fog was kind of rolling in one of those like a ho are we going to get the shot or not? But I said, oh yeah, and they called me all concerned going I don't know I don't think we should do this today said no come today, it's going to be great, I don't have time that would come today it was great and and they did and it just worked out perfectly because the light was just softer I mean it's bright enough, you can see some nice soft light across their faces, but it's not so harsh that I had a lot of dark shadows and things like that and they could kind of run around on the beach and play around and I could get all sorts of different shots. So just think about that when you're thinking about taking photographs is fog and overcast day could be your friend. So in the event of having harsh light, is there any way of recovering it? Do you ever think I'll just fix this in post or do you really try and get your lighting right? So if you're shooting a picture and the light looks too harsh shadows or too dark you, you can do some fixing impose that's when it helps if you happen to have shot and raw and then maybe you you khun when processing the photograph afterwards, you have a little more leeway to fix those shadows where maybe you lost some detail you can't do with jay pegs to you could do a little bit of adjusting in an image editing software program like adobe photoshopped photo shop elements things like that but it really kind of depends on the photograph sometimes there's just not a whole lot you can do about it is what it is and just you know you got to go with the shadows but that's why it's good to take a lot of photographs especially you're photographing a group of people because any time you introduce more people in a photograph you've got more instances of someone blinking someone looking away someone doing something weird for instance with this shot I think I took maybe eight hundred shots that day and I got more than just this one shot but there were a lot that I went through where you know the baby was doing something weird the dad wasn't looking the right way the mom you know and especially to when you've got this candid shots where people are kind of running around it is doing what they do you really got to take a lot of pictures anyway that was a kind of a segway fromthe shadow shot I hope that answered the shadow question thank you um another instance so you might think that all the only place I shoot is at the beach but I'm just I do should there a lot but I'm just trying to show you, you know, the light and how you can really use it another foggy day at the beach, and this is where I'm I'm using that depth of field, so I shot an aperture priority, and I'm focusing on lee on the little girl in the front and making the grandmother kind of blur out in the background. I think chris, we were talking about this earlier see kind of placing more emphasis on the little girl in the front and the grandmother's there, you can tell there's a moment happening, but it's not it's, not about the grandmother really it's about the little girl and here's, another family moment, and this is what's so key and why I like to take a lot of shots what's so great about shooting digital's because you can take a lot of shots now, and it doesn't costs a lot of money to do that. You have a high capacity memory card and shoot away the only time that you know it, just it maybe takes up a little bit more time going through all those photographs later, we call that post, so when you're in post afterwards, you might take more time to go through everything, but you're really going to capture some moments too, and that's really what it's about? If you're ever photographing groups of people, make sure you capture the relationships going on between them. Don't just have him all this standing there, you know, looking in the camera all together. I mean, you can try some of those, but then have them interact and have them do their thing. And sometimes it's it's the photo in between the photo it's, the photo that is not posed, not expected, that ends up being the photo. So this was, like one of the better ones I got out of that day just because it was that moment happening between them. Um, I just think, it's it's. So this is a really important, um, part of photography is learning about this light and being able to see it being able to find it and then being able to do something with it with whatever you have. So that's that's kind of the sign of when you really start grasping photography is when you can see the light and then you know what to do with it. Like, ok, I see this great light coming in, and I don't have a reflector or diffuser, but I want to capture a picture here, okay? You know, you or someone else could go sit over in that light and turn a certain way and know that you're going to get a great shot. So it's about looking at more photographs, trying to figure out you know, where is the light coming from? What's the direction on that photograph? Maybe where is the light placed? Looking at the catch lights in their eyes and then you'll start thinking of that more too. When you are looking through your view finder composing a shot, someone someone taking a picture um I'll take pictures of people, mostly people I photograph places too, but mostly people and I look through the viewfinder and suddenly I'll just have a feeling like something's clicking for me right in front of the viewfinder, how that's great that's it and so that's the moment that I worked that's the light that's happening and that's what all whether I've got a reflector diffuser wherever we're at that's what I play with so it's you being able to see that light and what's happening in the camera not just going click, click click you can do that to document, but wouldn't it be great toe have pictures that really express what you're feeling and what you see at that moment and have something really unique have a different viewpoint on it than anyone else? That's that's what's so great about having all these digital cameras now that we can use to photograph because it's more accessible all of us it's not a super expensive ordeal. No, not necessarily at first and it's just it's, really what you see and what you feel, and then being able to capture that. So think about that light. I think about the quality, the shadows think about the direction. Where is it coming from? How could I turn people to, you know, look better in that light, or what else could I use to help, you know, move that light around? We'll do that more in the next segment.