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See the Light and My Ambient Light Toolkit

Lesson 16 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

See the Light and My Ambient Light Toolkit

Lesson 16 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

16. See the Light and My Ambient Light Toolkit

Next Lesson: Strobes on Location


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Principles of Light


Speedlights vs Strobes


Compressing the Scene


Location Lenses and Lenshoods


Metering Modes and Back Button Focus


Natural Light Reflectors


Lesson Info

See the Light and My Ambient Light Toolkit

all right so these two segments bro quick I'm gonna play one after the other ones just like I walk around the scene and I tell you what I see I shoot a little bit another is just you don't need modifiers and then after that I wrap it up and then I'll show you my favorite shots that are shot and all natural light before you start shooting no matter its a wedding or a portrait what you really need to do is take a look and analyze the scene because what ends up happening is you get so excited about posing and your gear and all of that stuff that you forget that where you put your subject in the scene is going to make a massive amount of difference for example one of the first things that I'll d'oh it will take a look around and see where the light source is air coming from so of course she has back hair light coming from the sun now I could also say alright so would make a nice hair light what does it look okay if I turn her around and photograph her towards the sun and I'll analyze that ...

quality of light and that while I'm doing that while I'm trying to figure out where the light looks good I'm also analyzing my backgrounds when I'm shooting this way I'm not going to shoot so there's a bright highlight of the grass and the rocks behind her but instead of looking for a composition that has darker trees or maybe some of the light filtering through the leaves on the trees so before you shoot always show up to the scene and take a look at the light some of the things that I look for right away I look for natural reflectors like we talked about before if I could find a nice large neutral surface reflecting the sun I'm going to try to use that if it's in my scene the next thing that I look for is perhaps covered shape now even if I can't get covered shade just with some kind of overhang over her head at least maybe I could put her underneath the shade of a tree there's a little bit of covering the light comes from ahead okay I could do that on the next thing that I start to look for and they start to look for areas where scene isn't really contrast e like I can have a decently exposed background indecently exposed foreground and then I figure out now that I've analyzed like in the scene do I need a reflector do I need a stroke so I needed a fuser what can I add so before you jumped the gun take a look and just something to watch out for us I'm gonna put her in the shade right here gonna bring you right over here when I just rotate around in a three sixty the light changes drastically in this shade just by where she's facing and if you look here we're just standing underneath the tree the tree branches air high above us there's no light sources there's no reflective walls so it doesn't feel like it should make a huge difference but it definitely does let's take a look here good all right there's one quality of late and look over here okay totally different quality of late good and come over here good and then look this way right there so each time I move her it changes what the light looks like on her face sometimes it's flat and dahlan lacks contrast other times it's a little bit bright has a lot more contrast to it so in other words there's a lot more too come into your scene and starting to photograph then just pointing your camera imposing you take a look at what's around first so let me just tell you now that I've said all that what I see in this scene what I would actually shoot all right so we've waited laid enough in the day that the sun is lower so I don't have to worry about really intense contrast in this scene I don't have to worry about trying to bring down the house lights and bring up the shadows to meet in the middle so I've got this beautiful golden glow and I'm going to use as a hair light I already know that because that's the kind of look I want I love her hair well and I want to show it off um so what I'm going to do is I'm going to put her in the sunlight and I already have certain things I looked for my scene one of my favorite things is having backlit leaves on trees so case of these leaves over here there's light filtering through those leaves and I know if I shoot a wide aperture lens right now I have on my signal eighty five one point four if I shoot at two point oh for two point two or two point eight with her but they're back to the sun and those leaves behind her what's going to happen as they become little bubbles little out of focus circles of confusion it's that's a whole other discussion about light but it's going to look really really beautiful so I already know I like that but I also know because there's so much heavy back like there and there's no natural reflectors there's no light sources I'm definitely going to have tto add some light to her face otherwise I have two choices exposed for her face and let that background go way over exposed or exposed to the background she'll be too dark so in order to bring that scene in in order to make sure the highlights of correctly exposed I'm gonna have to bring up the shadows and light her face so we're going to go do that and I know that be one of my go to shots in this scene okay great so now I don't see really bright highlights on her shoulder but I do have that beautiful light in her hair and I'm gonna get down low so that I have perfect but I have the sun hit him behind her head for a couple of shots let's take a look at those backlit leaves and trees okay if I expose for her way way under exposed don't have you on some light and for me and I will have to use this silver silver perfect kick some lighten great and definitely going to need my lens had here perfect good change mangle slightly that looks great okay now I've got those backlit leaves and trees nice glow on her face and I still have a little bit of lens flares I'm gonna use my hand to block it off a little bit great well more great perfect so I got those nice leaves going behind her nice hair light let me just take a couple more turn your body that way a little bit well your head back towards me just a little perfect great okay now I've decided that I want a little bit of lens flare I decided I want to try a little bit with lens flare we'll see if I look so I understand you right here I'm actually gonna put my son in my frame on purpose it's not quite golden hour yet but let's see if I can get something a little bit dreamier alright so a little bit of silver perfect let's get a little bit of lin slur good turn your body this way great good little my frame great perfect okay this brings up a great opportunity this brings up a great opportunity to talk about exposure compensation so that's what we're going to do right now so as I'm shooting here looking at this scene she is heavily heavily backlit and for many of us were used to shooting aperture priority or maybe you should shut her purty usually aperture priority or manual is what most of us go to for exposure every usually shooting valued of meeting okay here's the thing when I shoot a photograph trying to include lens flare and she's heavily backlit my camera has no idea what to do because it reads her as a smaller silhouette in the frame and then it is just so bright behind her it thanks ok it's so bright I've got to close down so when I looked at my camera I was looking at these shots some of them she is totally a silhouette so what do you do ok well there's a couple things you could do if you're used to shooting aperture priority you use something called exposure compensation so I go into my exposure and I have my aperture said it two point eight and I can click plus one stop or plus two stops and what that basically means is okay camera read the scene whatever you're thinking is right is clearly wrong so over exposed by a stop or stop and a half meaning let more light in your meeting the wrong thing let's do this right uh the problem is and the problem I found in heavily backward situations is that with africa priority depending on exactly where you focus and exactly how you compose one time it reads it under exposed the next time it reason overexposed and goes all over the place I recommend if you're shooting in a really heavily backlit situation you might want to try manual because there's not that huge fluctuation based on what you're focusing on and based on what's in your frame so this might be one of those instances if you're really comfortable the aperture priority that you might want to shy away from it and go a little bit more towards manual it's going to give you a little bit more control and more predictable results really important to know is that yes I'm showing you how to use diffusers and reflectors and how to compress the exposure in the scene and how to change the direction of light in the quality and all that stuff but sometimes you don't need to do anything at all sometimes the light is just beautiful or maybe just needs a little bit of tweaking for example right now where we are she's got like this nice little bit of glow on her hair shall we have a tiny bit of shadows in her eyes but if I expose correctly it actually is quite beautiful perfect just like that so it's just very nice soft light in her eyes and if I want a little bit kick a little bit of phil I might bring in my white car just like it's a little bit of catch light straight underneath victor's stomach there a little bit lower good so she's got those catch lights in her eyes beautiful have you take that away and if I watched the light as I move around I can see ok now that we've moved over here before behind you guys is basically trees there's not really any open light but I've got an opening over here in the trees technically that's our light source in this instance the opening in the trees is opening in the sky and the light comes in that one you might you might actually see this outshooting take a look at the trees take a look at what's around you where's the biggest light source it might not be the son it might not be a reflector it might just be open sky so we've got that here and if I turn her head just a little bit this way oh now I'm seeing it's actually this open sky I see a light source okay so she's turned her chin this way perfect great right there and look your head up that way and so I haven't done anything to the scene all I've done is taken a look at what already exists and worked with it so make sure you don't think they have to bring a lot of gear even have to modify the light in fact some of my favorite photographers use nothing at all just the light that already exists in the scene and then posed their models accordingly do you see that a lot but they kind of just work with you yeah I'm sure she does so you can keep it simple and just pay attention to let in the scene to make really beautiful natural light shots so I wanted you guys to take a look at that picture over there of her skin is beautiful and glowing and even she's nice jawline and sparkle in her eyes and that was shot with nothing no reflectors no diffusers it was late in the day I have for standing out in this lavender field and the reason she's posed like that is to lift her eyes till like and then I just over exposed about two thirds to a stop so that her skin would go slightly over exposed because all the lavender behind her was incomplete shadow so if I had it correctly exposed from what my camera told me it would be kind of flat would be kind of dull but by over exposing it gives me that overexposed creamy even skin lift her eyes up to the light and I don't need to do anything there's a couple other shots that I took here where I stood her in the light and so now she had a beautiful built in backlight s so there's a lot you can work with doing nothing want to talk oh yeah go for um I wanted to ask that but it has to do with editing if you like um over exposer under exposed your photos just for a specific look yeah so I mean I just by habit usually over exposed a little bit um I over exposed skin tones just a bit and that's my my stylistic approach because I like either like really really dark skin tones or really really light and then I uh I have a whole bunch of retouching things I do but yeah probably about two thirds of a stopover what it's supposed to be okay so I'm gonna go over my tool kit to wrap up and then show you some of my favorite photos huh these are the things that I use most commonly on the go all this take pieces of white foam core something that's easy for a diffuser I used the westcott seven foot because it's easy to pop up you know over the scene if it's a bigger production like multiple people or it's just supposed to be a bigger scene then I'll go ahead and grab the six by six foot scream jim for reflectors usually is a thirty two or thirty inch silver white rest westcott reflector that's like the quick and easy collapsible one but if I know I'm photographing a group more people I'll go for the california sun bones three way four foot with the frame and this thes you're kind of my most commonly used items and then a voice activated light stand a k a my lovely assistant I always I always have someone on set to help me and I know they're a couple people in the chat room were saying well yeah you have assistance and what not I'm gonna always had assistance you know I've only had assistance in the past couple of years but I was always able to get subjects mom or my friend you know if you're a friendly person you could make friends to help you so I always did um and then I have my miscellaneous grip to try to do it myself if I absolutely need to I halve it just in case I really am the only person available on set all right so this is my wrap up when you look at my portfolio some of my very favorite images were taken without reflectors without diffusers just using the natural light that's there and beyond that pretty much all of my favorite location lighting shots were taken just by paying attention to what's going on in the ambient light so just know when you hear someone say that there are natural light shooter it doesn't mean that they don't know how to use speed light so they don't know how to use drugs aesthetically maybe that's not there look and for me a lot of times it's true I really love working with the natural light kind of working with already exists in the environment to set the mood to set the tone and to make beautiful photographs so as you look back through all the photos that we accomplished today you can see how much diversity you can achieve whether high noon whether an overcast light or whether in that beautiful golden hour glowing light you can get so much diversity in your shots just with working with the light that already exists not happen to bring extra gear out on set so for portrait like something that we didn't really touch on was the ideal time a day and really the ideal time a day is that thing called golden hour and it's it varies depending on where you are latitude but okay but what about an hour after sunrise and before sunset and the light is a little bit lower in the sky it's warmer and it tends to be more diffused the reason it's more diffuse its not a sharpest sunlight because actually going through a lot more of the earth's atmosphere which is a y it's golden but be that atmosphere kind of spreads it out makes it a little bit softer that is the best time of day to shoot because you can have that beautiful hair light the lights not super super bright and then you can take a reflector to balance the light and or you can turn them towards that son sometimes it's fine as is other times you can defuse it okay that being said I will tell you that's my approach for portrait I will do use that light for portrait's nonstop and that is my favorite for fashion this is me this is one hundred percent stylistic and not any rules I really like overcast days I just really work well with me but I want to show you so I started often I'm going to show you the two that we start off in the beginning but to recap this it's an overcast day and I had her posing lifting her head up to the light in the sky exactly like that exactly the one on the wall same thing and on the other photograph member holly said on an overcast day what's one of those things you khun dio can let your subject down their back they're facing up towards that big diffused light source and so it's nice even like this is photoshopped but honestly very minimally a she is that pale but also I overexposed in this case by about a stop I darkened this down in post and now her skin is just very glory so this is the section where images actually have been retouched everything else was just straight out of my camera or this wedding shot she's backlit by the sun and I have a reflector over here now she's standing up on this elevated train I have my assistant it was actually a friend of mine holding a reflector is high up is they possibly can so you can see it's probably not his highs I'd want but it's not below it you consider a little shadow cast slightly downward by her nose so at least even but ideally above and in this case it was a silver gold reflector catching that light giving that little bit of matching warm light to the sun set in the background here it's nothing it's just heavily backlit and I decided you know what we talked about how you wantto compress the exposure in the scene unless you don't want teo I was okay with blown out highlights didn't matter because it was contributing to the mood so instead of just exposed for her let those highlights go over exposed as long as it fit the overall look I was going for this end of the day what I would do is I'd focus on her and I would use my back button focus toe lock that focus on and then I peek over so just a little bit of sun would wrap around her body that's how I get len's slur to show up in the pictures late in the day I'll hide it behind my subject and then I just moved so that it barely peeks out over the corner of the subject because then it wraps if it's just in my frame like if it wasn't wrapping around her and it was just here in the sky it would just look like a slightly brighter area but because I have it from her shoulder it it kind of flares out and gives you that nice uh nice look no reflectors no diffusers it's a light bouncing off of the deserts that were in there just over exposing the sky because it is a bold sky and so case it looks like that um this photograph taken in nelson havana on outside of las vegas if you guys go for w p p ay every year it's like a forty minute drive or so photographed with nothing late in the day her eyes are slightly up to the open sky but really it's just like coming from everywhere in that nice glow behind her the reason I have this nice hayes is because the sun is just about to go over the peak edges is what what gives you that nice lens flare exposing for the light on her face and not minding if there's a little bit of overexposed highlights weighing on her back looking up at the sky and this was actually taken in new york city and one of the parks and I was standing on a park bench leaning over the back of it photographing her so I could get that nice angle so I didn't have to take any big grip or stands on location and just used what was around um this photograph shot with an eighty five millimeter one point for about one point eight and I'm always looking for this the backlit leaves on trees because if I can shoot at one point eight or two point two or two point eight and have those in my frame it just creates a really really beautiful texture so you want to see when the lights coming through the trees so different leaves are hit by the sun and others aren't makes a really beautiful texture like you see there no reflectors no diffusers just exposing for their face and you can see yeah there is shadow in his eyes a little bit if you look straight at me for a portrait might be a little bit shaded but there was open sky behind the camera that gave them some of that illumination in this shot thiss portrait of this little girl is kind of like a nineteen fifties teen child shoot this is actually think garbage cans in front of my apartment so I needed to shoot a really wide after sure to make it all disappear some using a fifty millimeter one point four at about one point eight and it's an overcast day and I definitely don't want darkness in her eyes it's a child they want to connect with the eyes you want them to be sparkling so just underneath her built a silver reflector it's an overcast day it's not the main source of illumination on her face but instead just to fill in some of those shadows on her eyes for a portrait not of a child I probably wouldn't have done this much silver phil because it does kind of flatten out the face there isn't really that much shape but here I was just this big glowing beautiful skin so I have a little bit more fill from the silver reflector um I photographed this in the deserts in dubai and that it's sunset and nothing else just the light from the sun and the same thing with this this this sunrise and the light notice it's softer it looks like it's defused because there's not a crisp ah shadow and highlight barrier as you would usually see because there's a little bit of haze a little bit of kind of desert cloud in the sky and so what it did is it diffused the light and just gave it a little bit softer quality and I did warm up the white balance because I wanted to look really warm in desert in its feel um obviously photoshopped but the light on her face is natural light I have her in the overhang off the bathroom in coney island because I went to do a shoot and it was pouring rain and the dress was a couple thousand dollar dress that couldn't get wet so what did I have I had the bathroom in coney island and I said okay well you know what I've got overhead shade I've got covered shade so I stood her just on the edge of that shade that it's like a gigantic window like that garage door light it's exactly like that illuminating her face and I laid on my stomach and shut up probably not super sanitary in the bathroom but it's made for a really good photo um for these shots shot in harlem in new york city shooting pretty much as wide open as my lenses would go this this hes thatyou have its own purpose I took pieces of glass and plastic and held it in front of my lens if you're shooting in a backlit situation on especially on an overcast day it just creates a little haze on a sunny day it creates all this different lens flare so for these I'm using silver reflectors to fill in it was like in between cloudy it's like one of those bright overcast days so I could take a silver reflector and bounce light back into the face so that's why those eyes are pretty well illuminated and you can see a little bit of catch lights in her eyes shooting late in the day used a california sun bounce sons water to defuse the late day son know the reflectors diffusers just defused I mean no other reflectors or lights just a few son diffuse light middle of the day high noon diffuser overhead and that car we talked about the silver car bouncing a little bit more light in her face and barn door lights she standing basically in the barn of a door it gives you the exact same thing as porch light or doorway light or garage door light shooting this is getting later in the day and dubai sunlight on her face and my three by four foot california sun bounce reflector from this side to even out some of the shadows on her face because it was going to darkness and I wanted to have it a little bit more balanced this shot is absolutely nothing early morning sunlight and efforts I call everyone I show that like how did you like that is that studio strobes is it it's just the sun and nothing else and that whole day all I did is I shot with my segment twenty four two one o five and um my had one reflector that three by four foot reflector and then of course there's always the ability to completely and totally ignore every rule if it fits so that's kind of where I wanted to end this is very late in the day it is probably like eleven thirty in the morning almost noon this is terrible light on the face it's harsh but it fit exactly what I was going for so while I taught you all these rules that are supposed to be you want to improve the quality of the light in the face and the direction and the intensity none of those air fixed here but it's exactly what works so I'm basically saying take everything I learned today and ignore it when appropriate

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class was amazing. Lindsay Adler is a great presenter...I learned so much.....I love that she spoke about natural light..strobes and speedlites. Wonderful information. I purchased this and I am glad I did. Great job Lindsay. Jean


Lindsey Adler is one of the best and most engaging photography instructors in the USA. I highly recommend this lighting course. It felt more like a 101 and a 102 course than just a basic course. She teaches in a way that makes learning alot of fun and the amount of time & effort that she puts into her video and class presentations are second to none. Her classes are well worth their weight in gold and you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge!


Lindsay is amazing , I love the way she explains everything!! This course is filled with GREAT information and helps you better understand natural lighting,strobe and flash. Thank You Lindsay, please keep your classes coming!

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