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3 Common Types of Light

Lesson 3 from: Lighting and Posing for Wedding Photographers

Caroline Tran

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Lesson Info

3. 3 Common Types of Light

Lesson Info

3 Common Types of Light

I wanna get into the different types of light that you can choose from now. Sometimes you don't have a choice, but I think it's still important that you understand the different types of light. The first type is my least used one, and that's front lighting. Well, actually, between these two what do you notice about the light source? (audience mumbling) Which one's more harsh? (audience mumbling) Oh I'm sorry, the first one is more harsh. Okay, the first one is more harsh. Oh, she wants to say something. There's shadows right under on their shoulders, so you know the sun is high noon probably again. Okay, yeah, so she's noticing that there's shadows on the shoulders. Right on the neck, under the eyes. (laughter) So she's assuming that the light source is coming from straight down. Yeah, and then if you contrast to this one, where are the shadows falling? Well, I guess you can say their entire face is in the shadow, right? So you're not getting any of those contrasts here. And ...

again, it's two very different looks, right? But that's the difference between front lighting an image versus backlighting an image. And so, I think the look that I'm known for at least is that soft and airy, romantic look, and so if that's what you're going for then you wanna try to backlight your clients as much as possible. But there are situations where, let's say, during a ceremony, you can't say, "Oh, can you pick up this wedding "arch, and move it over here?" Although, I sometimes do wish I could say that, but sometimes, that's where the arch is. That's where they're gonna get married in. You gotta shoot it that way, right? So let's jump into that first and see how can we trouble shoot when you have to front light an image? So both of these were front lit images, and again, it's because the client was like, "I really want a picture with that statue." (laughter) And so, it's like alright, well, the good thing for me was at least it's front lit, completely front lit. I think side light in this kind of situation is even harder, because that's where you're gonna get shadows in the face. So for me, my goal was how can I get them the most evenly lit in this high noon situation that I can? And so some of the common challenges that you will face when you're front lighting your subjects is squinting. How many of you during family portraits where the father or the uncle, usually that's who it is, when I'm backlighting them is like, "Well, why are you shooting it this way?" "It's gonna end up being really dark." "Don't you wanna face the sun instead?" Anyone have that? They question you why you're, and it's because their iPhones can't, or they don't know how to expose their iPhone for the shadows and so they're getting silhouettes. So they want to face the sun instead, right? It's like, okay well, if you face the sun you're gonna deal with squinting. Sometimes you gotta do that. In this situation, I was trying it out, because we got them on a rooftop in downtown LA. And this I tried front lighting and then I tried backlighting them. So you can see there's a difference. The backlighting, the sky is washed out. I liked this, because it was a very clean backdrop, so I wanted both, right? But I also wanted them to remember the rooftop that they got married on, so I also needed to front light them as well. But of course, you can imagine, them standing there in bright sun into their eyes, right? So one of the tricks that I use to help with the squinting is I just tell them to close their eyes. Just keep your eyes closed, as I'm figuring out my settings, and bridesmaid number three, can you step a little to the left? To the right? As I'm getting them in that position, I just have them keep their eyes shut or look on the floor. And then, it's like alright, everyone eyes shut, and then on three, one, two, three. And then they open their eyes, I get the quick shot and then done. I think that's an easy way to ensure that you get all their eyes and they're not. I tear if I look at the sun, anyone else? I don't want anyone to deal with that, especially if they have makeup on. Yeah, so then this was a backlighting option and I think that was more comfortable for them. So I have both. The other thing is what you mentioned, is you're gonna have shadows, so depending on where the sun is coming from you're gonna get all these shadows. For example, with this one, I had her tilt her head up a little bit into the light more. And then that brought her face into the light and not getting the shadows in places. I don't want the shadows. I'm trying to avoid the shadows here and from the nose, so when they just tilt up a little bit that makes it so that the light's not falling down, casting a shadow here. Like if I could redo this, I would probably have her look that way, turn into the light more. Then this side of her face wouldn't be shaded. But I remember thinking I didn't wanna do that for compositional reasons. I didn't want her looking out of the frame, so that's why I didn't do that. So I made a choice at that moment to keep her, but I think she adjusted slightly for that and that helped a little bit. So the other kind of light, my favorite kind of light is backlighting. This is where the sun is coming literally right at you. And often times I do see sun spots after I'm done shooting this, 'cause the sun's coming right into your lens. If you look right at it, it's really bright. I wanna give you some tips to avoid that. But there's also several other tips that I think will help really create images like this. How many of you have tried to take a picture like this with your iPhone? How does it look? Anyone wanna? Does it give you a silhouette instead? Yeah. And this is exactly what I was talking about like the uncle or the dad that's like, "Oh, why are you shooting this direction? "The couple's gonna look all black." And I was like, "Well, it's 'cause "you're doing it on your iPhone, "and your iPhone is trying to expose for the sky. "And that's why you're getting a silhouette instead." So when you're shooting backlight, the number one thing you have to do is meter for the shadows, so shoot in manual mode. If you need to walk up really close to the couple, meter for them, and then back up and use that same setting. You wanna meter for the shadow. Otherwise, you're gonna create a silhouette. Unless that's what you're trying to do. This was a silhouette image I created back in or something like that, but I still love it just 'cause they look like two little birds to me. So this is an image that was metered for the highlights, and not the shadows. But also a backlit image, so unless you're trying to go, so you have to ask yourself are you trying to create a silhouette? Or are you trying to light them up? That's where you either meter for the shadows or meter for the highlights. The other challenge you're gonna face with backlighting is flare, so depending on where it comes into your lens, it is gonna cause some haziness. So it depends on if that's what you want. I think the haziness can be really romantic. So for example, in this couple picture here, I'm okay with some of that sun coming in. Because that created this kind of hazy, romantic, dreamy, ethereal look, right? Now, if this was a formal portrait of say, a group of 10 people, I don't think that would look so good, because now it would just look like this blurry picture, a group picture, right? So you have to know what your why is. Are you trying to get this romantic hazy look? If not, then you need to cut that sun out. Going back to this image, I used his head to block, or their heads to block out the sun. So the sun is actually right behind them at the moment. So during this time, this is when I would tell my couple, "Don't move, 'cause if "you move, I'm gonna get blinded." (laughter) 'Cause I'm looking right into the sun literally at that moment. So you can use their heads to block it out as well if you don't want as much of the flare. Another example is this one. I was trying to get the reception shot before all the guests came into the reception, but there was actually sun right here. And it was causing really hazy flare. In this kind of photo, I don't want that flare, because you lose the details, right? In this one it was okay to get the flare, 'cause it kinda gave that mysterious kind of hazy look to it, but this one I need to see the details. Anyone wanna take a guess what this is? She thinks she knows, let's see. Is that your hand holding a leaf? Yeah. (laughter) So that was literally me looking on the floor, finding a leaf, 'cause usually how many of you have used your hand to shield the lens, right? So it's the same thing as a lens hood, right? However, during sunset, when the sun is actually in your frame, you can't do that, because the light is actually coming right into the lens, right? So I found a leaf, and I just insert it. I didn't realize my hand was in it. But I inserted the leaf, and that's what blocked out my sun, so you still got a little bit coming through but it definitely lightened it up a lot. And it cut out a lot of the haze that I was getting. And then I was able to Photoshop that out really easily after. Hey Caroline, we have a question that is specific to this backlighting. So the question is, exactly what you said, how do you make sure with backlighting, that you're not too washed out and losing those details? Do you ever use covers or ND filters on your lens is the question. I do not use any filters, and I don't know what ND cover is. (laughter) Oh no, the covers, maybe they were talking about the lens hood. Oh, like the hood? Maybe a lens hood, yeah. And then the Indie filters was the question. Neutral density filters. (laughter) No, I don't use any of those filters. One thing to know about my shooting style is I'm very minimalist. I don't have a lot of equipment. I don't have a lot of those extra attachments and things like that. I like making things work as is, so even if it's finding a leaf to cover my lens. Sometimes you'll see part of my hand if I know that I can Photoshop the hand out later. If the sun is peeking out right at the tip right here, I know I can just block it with my hand a little bit and then Photoshop that corner. I like that there's a little bit of the haze, because it is part of that golden hour time. I just didn't want too much of it, so that's how I. I think there's two main ways to do backlighting like this without losing too much of the details. One would be covering up that flare. Hiding it behind something. If there's a tree. If you have to create your own tree with a leaf like that. Just to cut that light off. The other way is to reflect light back if needed. If you don't have enough light reflecting back, that's where you can get, so this for example, I couldn't, I didn't have a reflector big enough on the spot at a real wedding to be able to reflect light back at them. So as a result, you can see, there's not too much detail on them. I still think it's a gorgeous image, 'cause this image is really about that light that's coming through them, coming through her veil, right? But it's not a detail photo, so to speak. You're not gonna see the details in her dress or anything like that. If you want a little bit more detail, then you have to have light reflecting back on them. It's a balance between how much light is coming back and how much light is going forward. So with this image, the stone floor was reflecting light back at them. So this was actually a really hard image to shoot, too, because the light was coming right into my lens. I did hide the light behind the kids as much as I could, but there was so much light flooding in. Thank goodness that there was this floor that was reflecting back. If I'm doing a closer up photo then yes I can use a reflector to bring some of that light back on them, but when I'm this far out, unless I have a big scrim with me, it's not gonna work. If you're noticing where, like I was saying, color casts and reflections, for this setting, I knew that the floor was gonna provide some reflection back on that image for me. I was able to still get, there's still some haziness, but not as much as this image. This technique also works at high noon. If you just think of it in that same concept of backlighting them, it works at high noon. 'Cause there's always an angle that you can find where most of them are in the shade. If you look in this case, she's in sun here. Sun was coming right down on them. It's on their shoulders and stuff, too, but I knew that if I can at least get the most important parts in the shade, and I metered for the shade, then it would still make a strong image. And it's okay if I'm getting some highlights and stuff on their arms and stuff. Any questions specifically about front light or backlight so far? How do you deal with sun spots? I find sometimes when I shoot I have those circles, like sun spots, on my images and I was just wondering. You mean from the flare? If you had any suggestions. Yeah, from the flare. I don't wanna go that far back, but you know that image, my cover image for this class where the couple's walking through? If you look, there's actually a sun spot in it. There's a flare coming in. I think that will depend on where, oh, look at that, magic. I love this. (laughter) Yeah, the sun spot's right there. I left it, because it didn't bother me too much. The key is where that sun spot lands. And you can control it by where that sun is. If the sun is here, usually the sun spot will go down to there, so you just wanna make sure, for me at least, I just wanna make sure it's not on my subjects. Unless I'm purposely trying to go for that flare look. But you can control the flare by one, depending on the size, it's the same thing as when I was talking about light. The size of the sun that you're letting through. So, for example, if you're shooting it between the trees, how much of the, is it coming through a hole this big or is it coming through a hole that big? Will change the size of that flare. And also the position of the flare will determine where it lands, and so for me, I just wanna make sure as long as it's not right on my couple, I know I can either Photoshop it or it's just part of the scene anyway. Caroline, I have several people online that are asking about whether, for this backlit look, you're using spot metering, are you using evaluative metering? How are you metering so that you still get that soft look in the back? I meter specifically for the shade, so the shadows. It's like what would be under here, for example. That's what I was saying that you can either, if you're doing in camera metering, what I would do, and you do have to shoot manual mode for this, because if you shoot in auto or any of the other modes, your camera is automatically gonna try to light for the bright highlights. You can either, in manual mode, walk really close to your subjects, as if you were taking a really, where they're filling most of the frame, so that you're not seeing all that backlight. And just seeing what the meter says. And I would probably just go for the neck or something. And then take that reading, back up, and then that's the reading you would use. If you're using a light meter, I usually angle it slightly down, because that mimics right here. And this is what I'm trying to meter for. So as long as I know that these are going to be properly lit then anything in that shadow is going to be properly lit. One common, another thing that I did. Sorry, I know I have a ton of thoughts all at the same time. (laughter) But another thing that also has worked is if I just use my palm as well. Let's say if I'm really far away and I don't have the time to run all the way to the client and run all the way back, I'll just use my palm, but what you wanna do is make sure that it's mimicking the same light that's happening over there, right? If you're in a situation where it's all open like this, for example, from you guys to me, the light is about the same. But if we're talking about the light standing next to there versus here, that's different now, because the distance to the source has changed, right? As long as you know that it's the same, you can just meter to your palm as well. And same thing with if you're using a light meter, I'll see a lot of people run up to the clients, and sometimes you do need to but sometimes you are in an evenly lit space where you could've just done it from where you are standing and not have to run up to there. Just wanted to know when you shoot in high noon like that photo, you're using a reflector also or something else to bounce light? The question is, when I'm shooting in high noon, do I use a reflector? If I can, I do. In a shot this wide, I don't personally have the resources to do that, but if it's a closer up portrait, what I could do is I either use, so I use a white reflector and I would use it as a scrim. I would actually use that white reflector to cover the sun, and what that does is it diffuses the light and gives me soft light instead coming down. But now, when I'm shooting this wide there's no way to, you know what I mean, you can't get in there without the reflector being in the photo. I have seen people with really giant ones where they're on aerial lifts and stuff like that. But I don't have that kind of resource. (laughter) So I do the best that I can in this. But yes, definitely if I'm doing a closer portrait, you can use a reflector to block out and even out the sun. So the next type of light I wanna talk about is, I call this even all around light, where I was saying there, here, it's gonna be the same. The advantage of even all around light is you can shoot it from any angle and it's pretty much gonna be the same, so to me, this is my safest option. For example, if I'm either dealing with a really difficult child, difficult to pose child, and I don't want to have to worry about another element like lighting, even all around light. Because anywhere that child decides to go, I know I can capture that, right? It's safe, but the downside of it is, it's safe. You're not gonna get those magical, glowing kind of ethereal light with it, but it's still really beautiful and it's great for if you're doing big group shots like family portraits, if you can find the even all around light for family portraits. 'Cause how many times have you told people to line up like this and then the line comes out like this instead? (laughter) If you're even all around light, you don't have to worry about constantly trying to move that line. You can just, okay, let me just shift my perspective. Where do we find even all around light? One way is overcast days. So this is an example of an overcast day. The beauty about overcast days, and I get this all the time where clients are like, "Oh, it's so cloudy today, is it okay to shoot?" It's like, "Oh, it's actually really beautiful to shoot." Because the sky is this giant softbox right now and you get this gorgeous light that doesn't have any, very low contrast, right? And you can shoot them from any angle at that point, so I think that's what's really beautiful about this even all around light. But again, for them, I'm not gonna be able to get any flare, I'm not gonna be able to get any backlighting with it. But the advantage is, any spot they wanna shoot in, I'll be able to do it. The other thing you can look for is open shade. A large shady patch, and this is great for say high noon. So this was shot at high noon, but I knew that there was this big rotunda that was creating a really big shaded area. So that made the light really soft there. And this is another example of open shade where all these trees were casting a shade for them. And then that's another one in a walkway. The other thing is north facing walls. Have you heard of that? So unless you live south of the hemisphere. But for those of us who live north of the hemisphere, if you find a north facing wall, there's actually very little light, if any. It's most likely gonna be shaded, because the sun sits kind of south of us. And so, anyone into gardening? If you have north facing slopes, it hardly gets any sun, so if you find a north facing wall, you know you will be able to get shade. So even at high noon, identify north, and find a wall that faces north and you will be able to get shade. I love this example, because this was right before the ceremony was about to happen and I caught my second shooter taking this portrait. So this was taken by her, and I already knew immediately how it could be better. So I immediately went over and I pulled him away from the wall, so now this is what your north facing wall would look like, right? Because he's in the shade. I pulled him away, and you can see where the shadow. So it was shaded from here to here, and this is where the sun starts to hit. I wanted him in the sun, so then I was able to get pretty rim light around him from that. I pulled this image, 'cause I was trying to demonstrate north facing wall, but I saw that and I was like, "Oh, what a cool "contrast to show you the difference between "backlight versus a north facing wall." And then the other option is in indoor light. If you can pull them indoors, near a window, that's where you'll get, you can do really pretty portraits like that of your bride. A lot of this is getting ready time. Once they're all done up, put 'em near a window and it's like a big giant softbox.

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I had such a great experience at Creative Live. Everyone was super nice. I flew from Los Angeles to Seattle for the first time and Mariangela was kind enough to help me with transportation, hotel, restaurants, things to do in Seattle. It was a fun continue education trip. Caroline Tran's class was amazing! I can't wait to go back for another class at Creative Live.


Enjoyed the class! Especially liked seeing how Caroline transitioned and shot the engagement shoot with the cute couple. The pick up points were great, love the analogy to piano since I'm pianist as well. I use her refined presets too and really like the outcome :) Would recommend that as well!

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