The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners

Lesson 14/17 - Light


The Photography Starter Kit for Beginners


Lesson Info


Alright, time to move on to a new section, very different topic here. Obviously very important to photographers, writers of light. Understanding light. And we're gonna try to keep this rather light and simple (laughs) in this section here. So a few of the qualities that you wanna think about on light. Is the direction of the light, obviously that's gonna have a huge impact on where your shadows are. Where's the light side? Where is the dark side? The direction of the light will determine that. The size of the light source is very important in determining what types of shadows you're gonna have, how much of your subject is illuminated. And so if you have a window, how big is that window? That's gonna have a great determination in how distinct those shadows are. How intense is the light? Think about noon sunshine in the middle of summer to sunrise, right when the sun's coming over. The sun's cutting through a lot of atmosphere, it's very diffused, it's not nearly as intense. And so all o...

f this has to do with the light and the dark and how distinct those shadows are between the two. And then finally, there's also the color of the light source. We talked a little bit about this in white balance. The different types of lights. Fluorescent lights and tungsten lights. The sunlight. Sunrise, middle of the day versus sunset. You're gonna have different colors and so thinking about things in different ways. And so, just some different photos and thinking about things that, of categorizing the light. Front light. Is the front side of your subject illuminated? You can usually see your subjects very very clearly. It's not the most exotic or exciting lights, but it's great for simple displays of your subject. Back lighting can be very interesting. It's also very tricky and hard to work with 'cause you have, your subject is in the shadows. But in this particular case, it's great for our subject because the front side of our subject is all under even lighting. The face, all the body is under even lighting. And we do have some tricky lighting and so this is where I would probably wanna be using manual exposure rather than auto exposure. Side lighting is one of my favorite types of lighting because it really shows texture and depth. And so you can see that, these shadows coming in from that strong light to the side. And so side lighting works really good for showing those types of attributes in portraits, landscapes, and a lot of different other types of scenarios. Overhead lighting. Middle of the day. It's convenient to get out there and shoot at noon time, but that light is what we often call very flat light. It doesn't show a lot of depth and texture because our subject is just all illuminated by sunlight, or the flat lighting. And so overhead light, it's the least favorite light for most types of photographers. Soft light. Nice cloudy day is where you have this diffused light where you don't have any distinct shadows at all. And this is really good for details. It's also very good for color. We can see color very very easily with these soft diffused lights. Another category would just simply be the warm light. We talked about the color of the light. This is why landscape photographers love to be out early in the morning. Not only is it a soft light, but it's a warm light. Which are two good attributes both at the same time. And so we have these nice warm colors. Great for portraits and landscape photography again. But weaker in power. Can be harder to shoot sports at that time. Probably the biggest thing to kind of impress on somebody getting new into photography is that it seems like we are born and bred to love the sun. And I know when the newscasters come on and maybe it's just because I live in Seattle, they get on and they're really excited about a sunny day. "Oh, if it's a sunny day, it's the best day ever!" And if it's cloudy, they're like, "Oh, I'm really sorry folks, it's cloudy today." But actually cloudy days could be really good for photography. So can sunny, so I'm fine with both. So if I had to grade how much I like sunny days and cloudy days and how I work with them, here's what I think about bad light versus great light. And we'll start with a sunny day. Starting at sunrise, I love shooting at sunrise. You get this great morning light. But the middle of a sunny day, you get this overhead light and it's very flat, not so interesting. And then it's great at sunset again. And so if it's a sunny day, I wanna go out shooting in the morning and I wanna shoot in the afternoon. And the whole middle of the day I'm gonna be doing something else. Now a cloudy day on the other hand, has a very different curve to it. It's not nearly as exciting for sunrise and sunset. You don't need to get up and be ready for the sunrise, but it's pretty good for shooting all day long, right in the middle of the day. If I was gonna go shoot some sort of sports jamboree where there's, I'm photographing for hours and hours and hours, I would love cloudy weather. So it's nice even lighting for everything. The sun can just be very harsh with a lot of harsh shadows. As an example, downtown Seattle on a sunny day, we have areas in the sun, we have areas in the shadow. And those areas in the shadow get to be very very dark. If we go back on a cloudy day, we can see everything much more easily. And if we were to look at the histogram, we'll see where all this information is. You can see on the sunny day, the histogram a great big mound of that information is in those really dark pixels on the left hand side. Whereas on the overcast histogram, most of the information is peaking right in the middle where it's very easy to see that information. And so a cloudy day is gonna make things very very easy to work with and very very easy to shoot in many many cases. One of the worse things that you can do is shoot your friends Facebook profile on a bright sunny day with them staring into the sun. You're gonna get these harsh shadows under the eyes and under the chin. And if you have no other lighting equipment in the world, simply do a 180. Turn around and do a backlit situation so that the face is evenly lit. So that you don't have these awkward points of bright light and shadows coming in on the face. And so that's just a quick tip if you have to shoot under the bright sunlight. And it's not that I don't like the bright sunlight. I love the sunlight when it can illuminate my subject and the shadows will hide everything else. It's just that the shadows so often are hiding things that I think are important in the photograph. And so you have to be very careful with the light side and the dark side.

Class Description

“This is a great starter class. I thought I understood how shutter speed and aperture worked together, but this class made it come together in a matter of minutes. I'm already taking better pictures and this is just the beginning!” -Jennifer Manley, CreativeLive Student

Learn how to take the kind of photograph you’ll want to print and pass on to the next generation. John Greengo is back to teach this updated photography for beginners class. You’ll learn the principles of good beginner and intermediate photography and get the skills necessary to create amazing photos. 

Advanced cameras are available at modest price points, but learning how to use them takes an investment.

  • Learn the the most essential functions of your camera 
  • Gain confidence in putting new functions into action 
  • Get the swing of basic photographic terminology 
  • Feel prepared to move on to more advanced classes 
  • Gain a solid understanding of must-know lighting and composition techniques 
  • Lean to position yourself and your subject to capture the best photo possible with the camera you have – no additional gear needed 
If you want to take more memorable and inspiring photographs of your travels, your friends and family, or the great outdoors then this photography for beginners class is for you. Learn how to make average pictures amazing photographs and gain the ground necessary to continue your photography education.  

“This is a super introduction to photography for anyone who really wants to learn how to understand and begin to use the camera to its full extent. John is an excellent teacher, very easy to follow, with great graphics and examples.”  -Sarah, CreativeLive Student  


Kanoelani Patenaude

I am a pro photographer in my dreams, where I know the in's and out's of my camera; however, reality proved differently, as real life would tell you, I was a deer caught in headlights just looking at my new 7D Mark II. I am a photographer enthusiast without the skills, but a lot of love for the moments one, or the profession/hobby of it can capture. I mostly shoot my husband, friends, and community surfers in the lineup, and of course, my children, who rarely sit still. Thus, I switched from Nikon to Canon, venturing on the 7D Mark II for the grand reviews of how stellar of camera it is for action shots (surfing, and kids, this was a no brainer). That said, and overwhelmed with the way beyond my skill set, but noted desire and aspiration to grow, I made the purchase, and sought help rather quickly as I wanted to feel confident with what I was utilizing to capture the best memories possible. I came into this John's courses knowing the "on/off" button, and "auto" shoot mode. I came out of the course feeling like the pro in my dreams, and ready to shoot manual. John's teaching style is on point, and his detailed visuals are a huge plus. My first shots post this photography kit course, I thought were great for my first educated shoot, and shockingly, I even received and email from one of the sponsors of the surfers I captured, asking if they could use my image for their sites and publications. Not bad for a newbie. Though, my intent was never a business purpose, I did not know if I should charge a small fee, or give it for free. I don't mind free as it's not my business, yet I don't want to ruin it for any professional photographers in town doing the same thing that are charging. Perhaps another course to help me with that. I highly recommend courses by John Greengo! Thank you so much, John!

Megan Wagner

John is extremely articulate and is a great teacher with lots of visual aids and metaphors to help understand photography. I have been doing photography for a few years now and this class was a tremendous help in boosting my knowledge and refreshing my memory in multiple aspects of photography. The graphics that John uses are helpful and he even goes through images and asks which settings would be best to use and will go through the why. He makes things easy to understand and is very clear about the information he provides. I am so glad I took this course and I would highly recommend it even to an experienced photographer. Thank you John Greengo!