Harsh Light Solutions


Natural Light Basics


Lesson Info

Harsh Light Solutions

Let's get into harsh light situations. Now this is really gonna be some great ways, because that's the problem with natural light. The only real problem with natural light is when you go outside and you see sharp shadows on the ground. It's harsh light. Then it gets to be difficult to shoot. But if you can learn how to shoot in these difficult situations, you won't be afraid to use natural light anywhere anytime. So let's look at some of the problems. Some of the problems is because the sun is so high, what's gonna happen is, it doesn't really put light on the face. Because it's so high. And so what happens is with the sun as high, if you notice you get these raccoon eyes, is because your eyes are inset, right? And so when the light falls on your face you're gonna see these dark shadows that your eye sockets create. And that light, because the light is so strong, it's actually creating a very strong shadow and it's hard to get out. You know not when you're in bright light you think, "O...

h maybe I can get it out with the video light." A lot of times you can't. You need a very very very very strong source to get it out and that makes things difficult. Okay? And also you're gonna have sharp shadows. And so if you have sharp shadows across the body or across the face it doesn't look pleasant. And so you're gonna learn how to eliminate that. The subject will squint facing the sun. So if this is really bright sun and you have 'em there, they're going like "Ahhh". Forget it, right? It's really hard to pose that way. And you're gonna have a lot of over exposed backgrounds. Let's say the sun is this way, and you position your subject this way because you don't want them to look directly into the sun. That is a lot brighter than where I am here. And so if I expose for this darkness that's gonna get blown out. And in a lot of times that's your sky. So let's talk about some solutions here. One, okay every situation has advantages to it. And in bright light, colors pop. When you're using large f-stops like f11, f16, because there's bright light, whenever you see a color, it's just gonna boom! Pop off the screen. Two, you can use a reflector. Reflector softens the shadows. So you can use that to soften the shadows or to bring light into a situation where it's dark. You can diffuse the light. And so when you use a diffuser, generally that takes down two stops of light. Which is it reduces by four times the light using a simple diffuser. And you won't get the kind of, sometimes you can get hot spots on your like part of the arm might be highlighted and not the body. But if you wanna even out all the light then you can use this diffuser to do that. Okay? You can actually use shadows. And that's one of my favorite techniques, is when I'm in a bright light situation, I actually look for shadows. To make my photos more interesting. And side light is a big key to that. Using bright light. Using side light. And shooting into darkness. And this is how to make your subjects really really pop off that screen, is with shooting into darkness technique. And then of course, creating a silhouette. And I think a lot of us know how to do that. But that's another method there. And then open shade technique. I'm not gonna talk about it here 'cause I already talked about it. So let's get going with these bright colors and making them pop. So you see the sun, and you can see, look at the blue sky. You want everything to show. That pops because there's bright light there. If it was overcast you're not gonna see these colors, so you're gonna look for backgrounds that are bright. Sometimes it's the sky, right? Or sometimes it's just a colored wall. And so if you're in a situation and you see a nice colored wall. That's your friend. Go to it. Those colors are gonna just pop right off. Here again, here's the nice sky, I'm gonna use it to my advantage when I'm in a bright light it was so hot that day, but I'm gonna get the beautiful sky at that point, right? This is in China. I know there's a lot of smog there or air pollution. But if you get up by the Great Wall of China, smog doesn't quite reach there and it's a little bit better. And it's a very bright day and then if you've gotta a nice colored dress on. So if you're planning a session and you know it's gonna be bright sun. Tell 'em to wear bright colors and it'll really pop off, okay? Here I'm using a silhouette but I want the other colors to pop off. I want the sky to pop off. I want the boat that she's standing on. And I'm using the bright light to accentuate those things. Let's say you're out in the water and you don't wanna bring your $3000 camera out there. Guess what folks, I shot this with my iPhone, smartphone. I just got a waterproof case with it and let's get out there. Let's take some fun photos but I don't wanna worry about screwing up all my equipment and gettin' it all wet and actually using my insurance policy. So here, now this is without the reflector, right? If you wanna get blue sky you're gonna have to stop down your camera or your exposure so you can get the blue sky. But the problem is that she's gonna be dark. And so now if you bring in a reflector you can also lighten up your subject using that sun, and there's my final image there. And so that's just with my iPhone. Sometimes you put your subjects in the shade but you wanna add a little bit of light in there. The sun is behind and so I just use the big reflector to push a little bit of light into them and it looks really nice. Do you notice the contour on the arms ladies? (laughter) Okay. Sometimes you can use something that's not obvious like I used flowers as a reflector. So the sun is behind her. I'm using the flowers, the bouquet, to put some light right back into the face. And at other times I use wall. So the light is coming from behind them. It's hitting this wall here and it's reflecting some nice light back into their face. Right there. See the catch-light in the eye? And I do that a lot where I get two light sources at the same time which is beautiful. So you get the sun, get it behind them so their hair lights up beautifully, right? And then use the wall and look at that catchlight that's put in right back into her eyes there. And so it's a very easy technique for you to do. So here's the diffuser here. And that's just evening out light. There were some hot spots there. And so I just used that diffuser to even out that light and that's very easy to do. Creates even lighting. Here's another situation. You could see the diffuser 'cause you see the shadow that's below him? That's what the diffuser is creating. And so it's putting even light on my subject. And you can see where the diffuser isn't on the subject behind. How contrasting if you look at her legs, right. You'll see a big contrasting shadow there. But you see how the diffuser just kind of evens out the light and it makes it easier and more manageable to take a shot. And you don't have to worry about hot spots. Here's shadows. I love shadows. So I look for shadows. And then it creates mystery. And what I'm doing. It also creates very interesting compositions too because the shapes and shadows are very interesting. And so all you do is place the eyes in hot spots. So you see a hot spot. Place the eyes in the hot spot and expose for that brightest point in the image and then it's gonna really create contrast with the shadows. But you have to expose the brightest part of the image for the shadows to really come out, okay? And so here, I see some shadows on the wall. Perfect! I'm going to that. Look at that. Give me some shadows. And bam! There's the photo right there, okay? Here's some more shadows that you can see. I just placed the chair there. I put her right so here eyes were right in that highlight. Here's another one where she's walking through some trees. So if you see some trees with some shadow let your subject walk through it. If you see a bright spot just adjust it. Just make sure that bright spot is right on her eyes or his eyes. And you're gonna get some beautiful photos. Here, what's gonna happen is a lot of times when you're shooting in bright light, and I say nose towards the what? Light. What happens if the light is really high? Where does their nose go? Do you like shooting up people's nostrils? No. So what's the solution? Well, get your subjects to kneel down on the ground and so when they look up you're shooting still down on them and you're not shooting in their nostrils. Okay? So this technique is very useful and this is what this gentleman did here. The light was coming up from so high look at the catchlights. You can see that they're very high in his eyes. And so all I did, was sit them down. And if your vertically challenged like myself, I'm not very tall person, it's more flattering to shoot a portrait when you're shooting down on your subject too. This also helps with that also. If the sun is high shoot down on your subjects. Here's the same thing. I literally, because I have a tilt screen on my camera, I was shooting like this. If you notice the angle, right? And so I had to get that. So I'm literally shooting like this. I flip the tilt screen down and so if you have a tilt screen on your camera this is how you use it effectively. So I can be six inches taller now, you know, so that's very very very helpful using your tilt screen. I'm using the shadows to kind of create a place where I can place my subjects. So that's nice for using shadows that way. Here, finding a hotspot that I love the texture that these trees are bringing. So I'm gonna put her in the hotspot and I'm gonna position my camera so I could see some depth and some texture behind it. And here's another shot here where I'm just placing the subject right, the eyes, right in that hot spot there. And it's interesting. It creates mystery. So when shooting bright light, look for shadows. It's gonna really give you some very interesting looks that maybe that you woulda not thought about and give you just a variety of lighting and create more drama and mystery in your photos. Okay, sidelight here. So what's the key to looking for sidelight? I love sidelight because it creates depth, okay? And so some of the keys to finding sidelight is in your environment you need to look for patterns of light shadow, light shadow, light shadow. And then you always what? Put the nose towards the light. So let's look at some examples here. Do you see light and shadow? And you see a repetitive pattern here right? That's gonna be a beautiful shot. So whenever you see patterns of hightlight sha- it could be trees. It could be whatever. But if you see a pattern of light and shadow, light and shadow, you've got a shot and you can use sidelight. Where is the nose pointing towards? The light. And so that's half of posing. Half of posing is just knowing where to point that, position that head. And then you can go from there. So here's light and shadow. Do you see light and shadow here? Right? You see the beautiful light and shadow and they're gonna be lit just like that column. So if you pose them like that column then everything is gonna look great. Because you see the highlight and shadow. See that sidelight? And when you're using that sidelight, it gives a beautiful short side shadow that you can use. Look at the edge of that chair. Do you see highlight and shadow? Right? So I'm gonna use that and if I point and so which way are you gonna put the subject's nose? That way. So it already tells you how to do the pose. Basically. So if I could have Sarah come up. And maybe what we'll do is have you sit maybe this way like this and then look over here. Do I have some nice short side shadow? Arch your back. It's not a posing but I'm sure she can easily do it. Okay. So So you're gonna lean this way. Put your arm Yeah, you can do nah Just open up your arm a little bit and maybe lean on it. Yeah there. Okay so now I want you to turn your face this way. Okay? Alright, beautiful. Now I can see some really nice light on her face. And I'm using what lighting is given to me, so let me do this and let me make sure I expose for the highlight. An then it creates some drama that you never thought that we could get in here. So one, two, ready (camera clicks) Great, if you could just bend this arm a little bit. Just, yeah that looks good. Let's do another shot. And so see how the drama that we can get by using the sidelight and a bright light source. Just with that. I'm exposing for the brightest point in the photo which is her face here. And this is giving me a very very hot spot. And so it's bringing the drama out. If, can we turn this light off real quickly? If we turn this light off real quickly, then you can do a less dramatic shot because the light is not giving you contrast, okay? So doesn't that look cool? Like you would've never thought that that was right here. But all you're doing is okay so now, I'm doing a shot. It's less intense. I should be able to open it up and it shouldn't be as dramatic as that so if you could turn your head just a little bit and look back at me with your eyes. Let's try just a little bit different pose. And so I can now open it up and have more of a lighter feel to it. One, two, three (camera clicks) Good. And if you see this photo here, it's not as dramatic. Actually I can go a little bit more because the screen is a little bit darker. I'll just open it up just a tad more here and that's great. One, two, three. (camera clicks) Just to open it up so you get two different styles of lighting. Okay? So that is how to use sidelight and using bright light to your advan- Thank you very much Sarah. Thank you. Let's move on. We've got a lot to cover. Shooting into darkness. I love this technique here. You find a sun spot. A real bright sun spot. And then you find darkness behind them. Usually it's shade. Okay? So you point the lens towards the shade and nose towards the light. And of course you expose for the brightest spot which I did right here. So in general I was sort of shooting into darkness. If I wanted to make that more dramatic and knowing the inverse square law, how could I on that last shot that I did with the bright light, how could I have made that background even darker? (answer from the audience) Yes! If I would have moved this this uh, chair farther away from the background, that background would have been really really dark. It might have been almost black. And you would have just seen a rim light. And so that's the technique that we're doing right here. And that subject will just pop off the background. And this is a great technique to use. All you gotta do is find a hot spot and some shade behind. Expose for the hot spot, okay? Again. Here it is. I found the sun coming right down on these stairs. And I found shade behind her, and look how she just pops off. Nose towards the what? Light. I got contour on her cheek there. So her face is defined. Now here's the previous shot that I took. Look at the background. This doesn't look as impressive because the sun is also shining on the background that's behind her. But I literally just move over off to the side and point it into the shade and it's much more impressive. Same thing here. I found a little ray of light. I'm putting her there. Nose towards the light. Shooting into the darkness. Bam! Pops off. This works great if they're wearing colored, like if they have bright colored whatever they're wearing. This is gonna, this technique's gonna really work well for you. Okay. Silhouettes. That's an easy thing to do. If you see bright light. You can use a silhouette. And one of the rules for a silhouette is first again, you point your lens into the brightest area and you expose for the bright area or the desired effect. What I mean by that, sometimes you don't want it completely shadow. So what I'll do is I'll open up my lens. So as you can see on this photo, you can see the detail on their face still and the dress. So I'm not doing a pure silhouette. I'm overexposing a bit. And so I can bring out some detail there. Now, when you're doing a silhouette, it's okay to expose the background because it's supposed to look white anyways. So you have full freedom to totally overexpose it and sometimes it looks cool when it just looks white behind them. So you don't have any problem of overexposing your photo on a silhouette. Especially if it's indoors. Another thing is when you're doing a silhouette, you need to see shape, okay? So you can turn your head sideways. A lot of times I make sure that they turn their head sideways so that I can see the profile of their face. If she's shooting a silhouette and shooting in the back and the face is not turned to the side, you're not gonna see their shape. So make sure that you do that. And here's some different examples of doing that. Here, I'm using that bright area there. Placing them there. And creating an interesting shape. Here again, we saw this picture before. I'm exposing for the background. But I did, I changed my exposure so I could see a little bit of that orange bathing suit that she's wearing. So when I first did it, it was completely all black. Because I'm shooting at f22 here. There's a ton of light here. So I opened it up. Why did I want that orange to show through? Because I wanted to match that orange on the bottom of the boat, to kind of key in and tie in with each other. A lot of times, as a bride, you'll see these getting ready rooms. And they'll have these nice beautiful lights like that. You can use that as a silhouette. And here again, I'm turning this subject to the side and I'm making her do something. "Oh pick up that lipstick "and pretend that you're putting it on," right? Because you wanna create an interesting shape when you're doing a silhouette. Here again, using that bright light outdoors. And then giving a semi silhouette because I still opened it up, overexposed it a bit. You see the sky is blown out but who cares, right? And then I can see a little bit of the dress and the seat still. And here's another one where I'm using, it was a bright sun outside. I actually in Photoshop and made the sky darker, but I just created an interesting shape. So you can use your creativity on these shapes. Don't just use the same shape over and over. Challenge yourself to create different shapes and you'll have interesting silhouettes.

Class Description

Join award-winning photography Scott Robert Lim as he breaks down lighting basics and how to find great light and solve problems when in difficult lighting situations. He'll cover how to work through extremely bright light by using your environment and the available resources only. He'll also discuss how to use reflectors and diffusers to control the light and how to keep your set up really light with minimal gear and still get amazing images.


Phillip Tour

Great course!!! I learn a lot about natural light, im very good with natural light but I can't wait to get out of my studio and start shot again with natural light! Thank You Scott!!!

Luna Esterhuizen

One of the best classes of so far. I liked the way he demonstrated what he was talking about. Lots of fun and I learned a lot.

a Creativelive Student

My favorite course of 8 so far. Concise. Examples. Instruction. Great speaker with enthusiasm. Take this course if you want to use natural lighting. It helps with studio lighting too!