Lighting for the Scene
So here we have a few images and we're dealing with lighting, now. And lighting is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating things that we can deal with as a visual artist, specifically with photography. And I never thought that I hear myself say those words, that it's one of the most interesting things to me, because I hate lighting, I really do. I don't enjoy working with lights, I don't enjoy, even, flipping a switch to get a light to turn on. I think it's annoying and quite frankly, it's not part of my process. That's not to say that I don't appreciate it immensely, 'cause I do, I love the lighting theory. I just don't love doing it. So, the way that I do my lighting is in Photoshop and I am not afraid to admit that. I do it and that's okay with me. And it might not be your method and that's okay. You know, we're getting to the same end goal, which is having control of light. Really having control of it and not just settling for whatever is outside at the moment or whatever's in...
side at the moment. So, with lighting, first and foremost, it's creating a mood. We're trying to create images that have a certain feeling to them, have a certain emotion in them. It creates atmosphere, which atmosphere I find, is a really hard to define word. It's a word that can mean mood, but it also has this, sort of, airy, tangible feel to it, which I feel that light provides, specifically if we look at this image with the ladder coming out of the hole. There's this beam of light coming into it, that you almost feel like you could sort of, like, touch the dust going through it, in a sense, and that to me is creating atmosphere. And then it brings attention to whatever you want to bring attention to. In my case it would be the subject, in yours it might be something else entirely, but it's perfect for that. And then we've got color temperature. So, how are you going to deal with color temperature of light? In camera, in post-production? Doesn't really matter how you do it, as long as you do it, as long as you are aware that color temperature is a thing. It's a real thing, okay. And then post processing. So, what is your process in post? (laughs) And how are you going to manipulate the light? So I'll just explain really quickly how I deal with light in my images. For example, this one, with the two bedsheets over my head, that one was a little bit, less manipulated and Photoshopped than the rest. I had hung a dark backdrop behind me, I stood with a window near me, so that the light hit directly and I made sure to position myself in a way where I wouldn't have to change a lot of things later on. It's simply, that's where the light hit, added contrast, of course I did a lot of other things in Photoshop, but in terms of light not very much. Whereas you have an image like this, where I'm coming up out of this hole and it was a little bit flat of an image. I remember, I shot this background in Australia, and it was just an overcast day. There was nothing special about that kind of lighting, but I really wanted to create this feeling that light was coming in from the background and hitting our subject because that made it more dynamic, because that shed light, literally, on the subject, on the character, here. And I remember when I was doing that there were a lot of things to think about. For example, how is that light going to hit my background, which wasn't really hit like that? How is it going to hit my subject, where I did make sure to light myself to match this lighting? But, am I making sure that the color temperature is the same between those two things? And then finally, how is it hitting the atmosphere? How is it hitting the clouds? Does this look realistic? I would actually say that it looks slightly unrealistic and that's just my own critique of my work. But, I was okay with it at the time, I'm still, kind of, okay with it, if I'm being totally honest and in the end it created a much more dynamic picture, than if I had not bothered to light my subject from behind with a rim light and if I had not bothered to add contrast to the floor of this image. Other images here, perhaps I didn't have to do as much in Photoshop with the lighting, but for example, with this picture, I have a lit candle here, in this one, and I didn't really have a lit candle in that scenario. Mostly 'cause I was in a swamp and it was very uncomfortable and I didn't have the patience to light a candle in that scenario. I just wanted to get the heck out of the swamp, so I didn't, and I did that later and then I added a glow to my face. And it's instances like that where yes, I could have done it there. It would have been fine, I was a little bit afraid of burning things down, which in hindsight in stupid 'cause I was in water, but still, I had this fear in my head, I was in Arizona, you know, you get these things, and I knew I could do it later. I knew that I could add that believable glow. Why? Because I was shooting in diffused light. There was no direct, harsh light source. So it was believable that I could light something up and it would look right, because there was no clear light source already in the image. So, for that image, lighting became super important to draw attention to my subject, to actually light my subject, and to not be distracted by all these other things going on in the picture. And again, whether I succeeded in that or not, is up for debate, but that was the goal, when I started creating the light in that image. This is an image where I did try to light it on the set, on the scene. This was in the forest and I brought all of these candles and I wanted to make sure that I had some natural glow that I could play off of in this picture, so I made sure that, for example, there was a candle by the book lighting the page a little bit, so then I could see how that naturally looked, and this was lighting her collarbone. So I did have a number of candles there, which I then enhanced here. Not very much, you can see that that light that was on the book is still on the book, that light that was on her collarbone is still on her collarbone, but then you can also see that I added lots of books that weren't there originally because I'm not made of money and I didn't want to buy a hundred books for this, so I bought a few books and did what I could with it, and then had to create that light. And I was able to create that light because I studied the light in this picture, because I'm studying where is the light coming from, how harsh is it, what is the temperature of it, and then emulating that in other parts of the image. These are super old photos of mine and by super old, I mean, as far back as my history goes. This image with this ball of light that one of me is handing to the other me, is the first image that I ever created, ever, with my camera, and that image was definitely a learning curve. I didn't know exactly what I was doing, but I was just coming out of film school and I had learned so much about lighting, and I did learn a lot, but I should say, I didn't really know how to do it. I had had this three and a half year education about how to light things, and then if you had handed me a light I would have said I don't know how to work this light. I was just useless. So I was doing things like using 200 watt bulbs, light bulbs, with Ikea paper lanterns around them, and diffusing the light somehow and just trying to create soft, ambient light in my images and that's how I created this other one, too, with the bedsheets, just by putting those balls of light behind me and seeing how that looked. And I show you these images because I have very much gotten away from doing things like this. If you look at the previous set of images, particularly these, there's lots of light in the images. They don't really come from a particular source, exactly, they're very, sort of, evenly lit, and I believe that I have started doing that out of fear, out of fear of lighting and I don't know if any of you guys have fear of lighting, but it's big with me. Like, I hate lights, I don't like using lights, and it freaks me out, and I didn't start out like that. So it's important to sort of, show you how I got out of film school, I learned about lighting and I wasn't scared to do it. And the reason why is that I didn't have a reputation, I hadn't done anything, so you could do anything. You know the feeling? Where you're like, wow, wow, nobody expects anything from me, I can just do whatever I want, and I started doing things like this and it didn't stick. It's important to know that I didn't love it enough to keep doing it. I didn't love the process, I didn't love the results, but I tried it. And lighting is really good for trying different things within your art, for experimenting and seeing how that sits with people, seeing how that sits with you and how that can tell a story. This is just a quick example of color temperature and how we can use the color of light to manipulate how we see an image. I just shot this image the other day in a forest and it was very yellow out there. The green was reflecting all over the place and then I simply switched the color temperature, made it really blue, and saw how that effected the mood of the image. And it does effect the mood, in a really big way. I think that color temperature is probably one of the biggest things that we can look at in terms of how do you immediately feel toward an image. I wanted to show this one to talk about the atmosphere of light, to talk about what kind of feeling does the lighting evoke here? If this image wasn't lit from the side and didn't have that contrast would it have the same impact? If this was just straight on, maybe like, lit with a big light, Ikea light, straight on? It would have a different feeling. You'll notice, for example, if you look at horror movie images there's often a lot of bright direct light in those images and you see lots of shadows and it's very mysterious and scary. And then you'll see, let's say a movie poster for maybe a period piece about people who live in the countryside of England and it's almost guaranteed to have overcast, gray light, right? Like, because that's what it looks there and it looks very whimsical and soft, and you're not expecting a horror movie, then, are you? It's just a fact. If you see a close up of someone's face and they've got like blood trickling down their face and a harsh light on them, you know what kind of movie you're getting, pretty much. And then if you see a girl in a whimsical dress running through a field and it's all very evenly lit, you know what kind of movie you're getting, roughly, generally speaking. So I'm giving you horror movie, no I'm kidding, I'm not really, but I'm giving horror something, my version of horror, and I believe that the lighting creates atmosphere here. The lighting cues you in to this is a certain type of image. It's going to be a little bit darker, the background is dark because the light isn't hitting the background, it's only hitting the subject and there's contrast within this picture. And then here I'm creating a cone of light, let's just say, which I think is an actual lighting term, so I probably shouldn't say that, but I am creating a literal cone of light. Where I have a light source that wasn't actually there and I'm drawing in where the light needs to go over the whole entire image and then same with this one. So here we have a cone of light, is that a real thing? Can anyone confirm? I think it's a real thing, okay. So, I've got my light that wasn't there to begin with, that's just adding to the shape of the image, the atmosphere of the image, and how your eye looks at it.