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How to Find the Right Light Direction

Lesson 36 from: Photography 101

SLR Lounge, Pye Jirsa

How to Find the Right Light Direction

Lesson 36 from: Photography 101

SLR Lounge, Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

36. How to Find the Right Light Direction


Class Trailer



The Camera is Simply a Tool


How Does a Camera Work?


How to Adjust Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO


Exposure Triangle


What is a Stop of Light


Reading Exposure Via the Histogram


Blown Highlights or Clipped Details


White Balance & Color Temperature


No Such Thing as the Correct Exposure


How To Measure or Meter Light


8 Key Points to Understanding ISO and Image Quality


Understanding the 3 Primary Metering Methods


How to Get Perfect Exposures in One Shot


Equivalent Exposure but Different Images


Compensating for Light and Dark Scenes


Starting with Automated Modes


Auto Mode and Flash-Off Mode


Portrait Mode on a Fashion Shoot


Landscape Mode on the Beach


Sports or Action Mode


Macro Mode with Food Photography


Creative Effects Mode - Floral Photography


In-Camera Processing


A Glimpse into RAW Processing


15 Tips When You’re Having Trouble Focusing


3 Primary Types of Autofocus


Single Shot with Portrait Session


Single Shot with Action Shots


AI Servo with Action Shots


Focus Recomposing vs. AF Point Selection


Shutter Speed and the Reciprocal Rule


How to Hold a Camera and Panning Tutorial


What Makes a Great Photograph?


How to Capture Candid Moments


How to Find the Right Light Direction


5 Basic Compositional Theories


The Power of Cropping


Color Schemes


Diving into the Narrative


If It’s Not Working With, It’s Probably Working Against


More About Your Camera and Lenses


Understanding Megapixels


Crop vs. Full Frame Cameras


Crop vs. Full Frame Cameras Demonstration


Prime vs. Zoom Lens


How the Lens Affects Composition


Dynamic Range and RAW vs. JPEG


5 Tips on Memory Cards


10 Tips on Buying Gear




The Good Karma Jar


Posing and Action Shots with Female Model


Posing and Lighting with Female Model


Posing and Lighting Couples Portraits


Lesson Info

How to Find the Right Light Direction

I want to talk about the first of the forces and that is cast and cast is basically defined by the way light and shadows are hitting a surface, and what we're essentially talking about is simply light direction cast is just, well, a nice little acronym that fits into our foresees, and it actually is what it is. All right, so to demonstrate cast, we have our couple out here, and we're gonna basically be moving around this scene to show you guys exactly how cast works now with our life direction right now, it's around two p, m and it's sort of a round went. Is this still wintertime? I don't know. It's february, right. That's still in your time? Okay. We're not quite to spring so in different times of the year, it's going to be different and also in different locales. So locales. That is the right word, right? Look, it sounds like I'm saying low calories, locales, all right, in a different location. So in california is kind of cool because in the winter time well, we always have light dir...

ection, the wintertime me that the sun never goes above our heads during the winter. It comes like an arcs in that little fashion, all right, just like that, just like my hand motion okay, so as long as the sun is giving us a direction of light, it's very easy to work with. The problem is, when the sun is directly overhead, when it's directly over our heads, it shines straight down and we get basically these dark shadows cast over our eyes and it looks really terrible. The worse that like direction is the mohr modification that we generally need. And here we have our two modifiers. What we have right now is direct light. So if we take a look at them, we can basically see that if you has looks straight towards the sun, you can see that the light is what we would refer to as flat lighting. Okay, so it's coming top down and it's flat so that we don't have basically any shadows on each side of their face. But the problem is that the light is still harsh. Generally, when we're shooting with direct lighting, we wanna wait for those golden hours during the day. So during sunrise or during sunset, when the sun is at its lowest on its horizon, because that's, when that light is basically reflecting off the entire atmosphere and it looks incredible, like a giant soft box that's reflecting onto your couple or your subject or whoever you have. But when we're not working there, in these times of days, we need to modify our light, and so we're going to do here is I'm gonna modify so if we were shooting with this kind of direct light, when I would do is I would use a scrim scrim in our standard five and one, this is the inside of it is going to basically share the light it's goingto let light through, but it's going to defuse it and soften it? I want to show you guys exactly what that looks like. So I'm gonna come over here just on the other side of the camera, and I'm gonna hold this up just so it's covering them now, I want the camera to get in close and to shoot just our couple and take a look at that soft lighting over their skin. So, if nice it's, bright it's still that same flat light it's, not directional, is coming straight onto them, but we've softened it by using this nice diffuser. Okay, so let's, go ahead and do a little turning action now. Generally, to check out the direction of light or to check out the cast. We just use our hand trick and are handling is just simply to turn and to study the the direction of light wherever we are and we can see it as it falls onto her hand. Right now we have a model and a couple, and so we're going to use our models to do that for us. But if we didn't that's what we do, it kind of makes you look like a crazy person too, which is totally awesome. But remember, too, that light direction is there, even when you're working in the shade. If their regards of where you're working, you just need to find it and that's why we're going to use the hand trick, okay? So instead of our hands were going as a couple now what I want you guys to do is just start to rotate a little bit, okay, so rotate towards me, let's, go to right about there and camera come over a little bit more. So you're shooting straight into the couple. Now from this direction, we are side lit, okay, so you can see the highlights on each side of their face and again, this is not a very flattering look when that sidelight is basically as harsh that it is right now. This side lit look is great for creating dimension interface for creating a little more drama in the face, but we don't want that light to be as hard so again what we do is we bring up that scrim and we defuse it so again from this side you can see that the light direction is coming from the side and we get this beautiful kind of wrapping light falling off with the scrim from this direction okay let's, go ahead and move again and now we're going to move until you're backlit now this is one of my favorite positions to pose in why? Because the sun we're using it as a secondary light we're using it as a hair light in this kind of a scene so we don't need to have as many lights because well, the sun is acting as our hair light now we just need either a modifier or a main light to fill into their faces but the problem with when you're shooting against the light like this like if we're shooting with the shooting this way and this is against the light is that well we have a lot of shadow areas of the face and you can use objects around you like for example, we have dirt and grass and stuff that in front of us that's going to reflect light dirt is always better ask paul is always better cement is always better because those going to reflect more neutral tones or dirt reflects kind of amore brown tone which matched the skin but surfaces that are, say, red or green, they're going to reflect that color and it's not going to look nearly as good. So look for these types of natural reflective surfaces that you can use as these fill lights. So in this kind of a situation, well, I have a couple different options I could use. I'm going to grab my silver side real fast. I could use this silver reflector and weaken basically reflect light back up just from underneath and remember that I'm not catching basically the direct sun I'm catching light from the shadow from the shadows from the shadow that should be a new term. We're catching light from the shadow. All right? We're catching light from the shadows and we're directing it back up. So take a look at how it fills the face. If this were catching direct light, we would get that up light look and that up, let look is not very flattering. It looks something like this. Okay, see that up? Let look, looks absolutely terrible. It also makes them squint, which is not good. So this is just a nice fill that kind of evens out those shadows when you're shooting against the light. If we wanted to, we could also use this light as a main lights, so basically the sun is going to cast a light and we're going to catch it directly and we're going to put it right under their faces and it's going to become our main so basically this would look something like this where this becomes the main light that we're using the scene, but again, this is a technique that works awesomely well as a main light but it's a constant light, meaning that as long as this reflector is pointing at them it's going to be extremely bright it's going to be hard to look if it makes you guys squint right when you guys see it and especially if you're models or if your couple arm maur fair skin is going to be even brighter for them and if they have a lighter tone eyes it's going to be very difficult to hold their eyes open. So if you are using the silver as a main light, give your subjects good breaks in between shots don't keep it on the whole time otherwise they're gonna walk away with well probably damaged eyes and very dark skin afterwards we want to give you guys like a tan during the shoot right like that were like two birds, one stone all right, so that's another option we can use the silver side as that main light the other way we can go about it too is we like to stick the white in front of silver at times so with the white in front of silver it gives us a softer light it still gives us a light but it's not quite as harsh okay the easiest way by away toe find your light guys when you're using reflectors is to first pointed at the sun and then directed to the models so all I would do is bring it right up to the sun and bring to the models again always come high to low light should be from high to low that's what way we naturally perceive it so as soon as I start up lighting things like we did just a second ago well since I started doing this automatically it does not look right because well psychologically we're used to a light coming from the top down and also just doesn't look flattering either so when someone sees the image they're going to feel like something is off okay? We don't want that so that is backlit great so we have the sun and this is by the way, if you guys are trying to shoot naturally this is one the best way to do it if you notice behind us we have a darker scene the scene behind us with the darkness of ah with kind of darkest of the leaves and with everything being backlit, well, it creates a beautiful surface to basically make the couple standoff because you can see that we have this hair light on them. And since the background is darker than the hair light, well, they pop off that background, and I were going to show you that in just a second. Okay? So, let's, keep turning, guys. We're gonna turn towards this side. Perfect. Once again from this side, we could bring the camera over, and we are again side lit. Okay, so from this side, we would use our scream again because we don't want that hard side lit. Look, and let me just go ahead and sit down our silver and again, so we bring that scream up to kind of block that light, okay? And then we go again, rotate one more time. We go right back to direct light. Okay, so these are the basic, like directions that we have, and this is when the sun is out, when we're using the sun basically in our shot. But what about when you're shooting in the shade? Well, I want you guys to actually follow us. We're gonna go over here and work in the shade because I'm going to show you that in the shade. We have a light direction as well whenever you're working to shade or in indoor spaces, we always have a light direction and that's really where your hand is going to come in qi let's go ahead and move on over here okay? So we're here in the shade now now what I want you guys to pay attention to is right now if you guys stand just over a little bit right here and then look directly into the camera this is backlit now we still have the sun coming from the back side so basically the entire scene is backlit but we're getting a phil look at their faces right now it actually looks almost like we're using the silver side to reflect light back up this's exactly we're talking about because this ground are all around us is a nice light brown soil is reflecting light back up in addition we're also catching light from outside so if we actually move them so let's go ahead and move guys I'm goingto rotate you guys a little bit let's go rotate to this sign perfect now look, if this were my hand then look at their faces right now where is the direction of light coming from? We have light kind of hitting the sides, we have it, it looks like what we've done is we've backlit them with the main light area so when we had them facing that way light from the sky was actually coming in I was feeling like from the ground was coming in I was feeling it was creating that direction of light now they're against it in this direction all over shadows are basically in the center of our face and we have highlights on the edges this is a very unflattering look and this look would require a lot of modifications but even if I brought my silver up it would help us out but it's not going to completely do the job for us because we get that up let look we want to use the silver from the bottom on lee for a minor minor modification if we're doing it like this it's not going to look at it all again guys I want you guys to rotate okay? So that was basically backlit we could see that okay, so what we normally do is use our hand now we can see and this is kind of really cool because we can see again that same direction of life the sun is actually over there the sun is right behind you guys okay, so you're well you can see where I'm pointing I'm pointing directly against the camera so why is it that well their faces are not directly lip because that's not the main light right now in the shade again, the main light is that light coming from the sky out there, we can see that as their faces are directionally lit, so we're lighting from the right side again, we rotate them and now they're facing the sky. I'm gonna have this camera come around and look at this. We found our direction of light if this was your hand basically, if fills in, it fills in all the shadows and you can see that right in their faces look at every shadow being filled. We have this beautiful soft light and we're gathering it just from the sky that's out here. So in general, when you're shooting in the shade, remember that there's a direction of light, just a cz much as when you're shooting out in direct sunlight or if you're shooting indoors, if you're shooting anywhere, typically, the light is going to come from the brightest area where basically light is filling in. So for example, if the light is in front of us, which it is that's, where the light is going to be coming from and you can see on me right now, I should be very well lit and look nice and flattered do I look nice and flattering, yes, I will stand over here from the rest of time.

Ratings and Reviews


I watched this class "live" and was simply amazed at the amount of information Pye covered. Yes, he talks a little fast, and since I was streaming the class I couldn't stop it to review anything, but this guy really knows his stuff and explains it very well so I absorbed quite a bit. Bye is enthusiastic, clearly enjoys his craft, and delivers excellent information to students in a light heartedI and fun way. I think some reviewers are a bit harsh about his humor. Lighten up, people! His examples and the additional information his co-host provides are very worthwhile and you can tell the course was well thought out. I plan to buy the class to help me get back into DSLR photography.


I really enjoyed this class. I am not a beginner, but there were still things I learned here that I found helpful. I really enjoy learning from Pye. He is quick, gets to the point and doesn't spend a lot of time going over and over the same point. There is a wide variety of things that he covers, so really something for everyone. I would recommend purchasing this class if you want to understand your camera better, improve your technique and start taking better photos.

Joy Bobrink

I have tried to learn photography myself via the internet / YouTube but always felt like I was missing something in my foundation. Sure I can zero out my meter...but why? How do I know the settings I've selected are the correct ones? I've been circling this drain for a year until this course. WOW! Pye has SO MUCH information in every video. He doesn't just stand in a classroom and talk, he's out in the field actually putting his settings into his camera, talking about why and why not and then shooting. He's hands on the entire course. You don't just hear him, you see exactly what he's doing! I'm a visual / listening learner and this is my eureka moment! Thank you Pye! Watching the Exposure video and how you changed the settings yet maintained the exact same exposure was mind blowing. Awesome course! I would recommend this to anyone new to photography or anyone that feels like they don't have all the info.

Student Work