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Creating Contrast with the Position of Light

Lesson 6 from: Understanding Light & Light Modifiers

Mark Wallace

Creating Contrast with the Position of Light

Lesson 6 from: Understanding Light & Light Modifiers

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

6. Creating Contrast with the Position of Light

Mark explains how the position of our light changes the contrast in the image. First, Mark charts different positions on a whiteboard, and then he demonstrates the principle by shooting with a model.

Lesson Info

Creating Contrast with the Position of Light

now it's time to talk about the position of our light. And this one is really fun for me because it helps us explain a few things specifically the difference between hard light and soft light and just moving the light to a different position or the camera around. Because those two things can sort of be confusing because moving the position of our light changes the contrast of our image. Let's talk about contrast and what the heck that is contrast is the difference between the brightest and the darkest area in an image. In other words, if you have high contrast, you have white whites and blacks, blacks. If you have low contrast, you really sort of have one tonal range sort of like medium gray or all black or all white. You don't have a lot of mixed around there. So what can happen is if we move the position of the light we change the contrast. Sometimes we can look at an image and go, huh, that looks like hard light but really what it is, it's contrast you like not hard light. And so I ...

want to talk about all of that stuff. So I got a little slide here that I've prepared all about the position of the light. And there are a couple of things that are sort of important to understand. So these bullet points, the relationship between the camera and the light defines the position of the light and so you can either move the camera or the light. I'm gonna get into that in a second. And I guess that's the second bullet point. So you can move the camera or the light to change contrast. And by doing that, you get low contrast or high contrast or maximum contrast. And so what we're going to do is I'm gonna stroll over here to Mark's fancy white board and we're gonna just sort of uh draw this all out now. Yeah, if you've watched any of my stuff before, you know, I'm a horrible artist, That's okay. So what we're gonna do is imagine if we're looking straight down and if we are right in the middle here, those are ears. Here's a nose that's Quinn, and in this image she's bald like me, Okay, maybe I put some hair on her. Okay, that's Quinn. So it looks like what's a guy from family guy Anyway, pretend that's Quinn. And uh we're gonna put our camera up here, so it's pointing at Quinn's face again, we're looking straight down on this. And so we have a circle around Quinn and this will help us understand the position of the light in relationship to our camera and how that affects contrast. Okay, so, first, let's talk about our light moving around and our camera staying the same. So I've got blue here, What we're gonna do is we're gonna put the light this little light here, that's a light behind the camera. So what's happening is now that light is pointing at our subject and this could be a mountain range, It could be a uh some kind of product. It could be a model. Could be anything. This is universal, but in this example we're talking about Quinn specifically. So we have a camera and a light and those are both lined up so they are in the same position. And when this happens, we get what is called front light because the light is shining on the front of our subject. In relationship to the camera, we're looking at the front of the subject, the light is pointing at the front of the subject. We get front light. What's happening is it's illuminating the entire front of that subject. So from left to right, everything is gonna be the same. So our contrast is really low. I don't have a bright side and a dark side, we just have a side that's evenly illuminated. So this is low contrast. So we'll put low right there, low contrast, that is low contrast light. There's not a big difference between the brightest and darkest area of that. If we take this light and we move to the side here. So now here's our light over here, it is now coming in to this side of our subjects. So the light is over here, this is sidelight. And what's happened is now if we look from the position of the camera, half of the subject has light on it and the other half does not. So that means this is really bright, this is really dark. Are contrast just went up because the difference between the brightest and darkest just changed quite a bit. So there's this happy little arc right here where we have low contrast medium contrast more and more and more and more and more higher contrast so we can change the contrast side to side and we can even keep going so now we can move our light over here now it's shining this way. So this light is called back light because it's behind our subjects are cameras here is coming behind our subject. In fact, we can get rid of these guys and what's happening is now we have back light that's going to give us maximum contrast because what will happen is we'll have a light shining into the lens. It's probably gonna be overexposed and no light at all on the front of our subjects that's gonna fall completely into darkness. So the difference is the absolute max you can get black and white. We can move to the side. Maybe our camera are flash or light is to the side. Now we have side light. Again, it just happens to be the other side. So now we have one side of our subject eliminated the other side and darkness and we can keep moving around until we have our boring front light. So front light, low contrast. Higher. Higher, higher contrast. Sidelight, higher and higher and higher. Maximum. Lower. Lower. Lower. Lower. Lower. All the way down to front light. It's really easy, it's easy to understand what we're talking about, our camera staying in one position and our light moving around. The problem is a lot of times we leave our light and move our camera around even unintentionally it can happen when you're taking some great shots and like oh that looks great. Move this way and the next thing you know, you have moved off to the side and that will do the exact same thing. It will change the contrast of your image. Let me explain that. So let me sort of clean this up a little bit. My messing this here. So now let's say that we have, we'll use a different color here. Let's say that we have our light right here. The light is not going to change. And we have Quinn down here with her fancy hair and then what we have is we have our camera, our camera, we're gonna start the camera in the same place. So now with the camera here, the light is moving and it's illuminating the front of our subject? We have front light and it is low contrast just like before front light. Okay, that makes sense if I could spell but what happens when we take this camera we move the camera to the side. So now the camera is to the side, the light has not moved. So what's happening is the light is still illuminating this part of the subject. But now the subject might be looking this way we are looking to the side. So what's gonna happen is this side is going to have light and this side is going to have darkness. So our contrast just went up because we moved our camera around. If we keep moving our camera around, guess what? Now we have black back light. So now this is back light because we're looking this way and our light is coming this way. So it's illuminating the back of our subject because everything when it comes to light is in relationship to the camera in the position of the light. So we move our light our camera, sorry for move our camera from here all the way down from here, we go from front light to backlight just as if we would have moved the light itself. Same thing is true. If we move our camera to the side or back, we have that same circle of contrast between front light, sidelight, backlight, sidelight, front light, it still works the same. Now, the best way to show you this is not on a whiteboard because what this does is assumes that the light is exactly level and moving around. So it's changing contrast from side to side. We can do that but we can also change contrast from low to high. So we can change the contrast from like white up here. Dark down here. Light down here, dark up here or any variation between it's a full sphere of light. So we're gonna do, we're gonna walk back over here to do and Quinn is gonna come out and what you're going to do this with a real live light and a real life Quinn. So Quinn, we're gonna have you stand perfect just like that. And what I'm going to do here is I'm gonna grab this light, I'm gonna turn this on this modeling light on. Okay, so what we're gonna do is matt who is running this camera here is going to pretend like he is our camera. Our photography camera are still camera. I guess what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna put this sort of out of the way so its on axis so its on axis of the camera and so I'll move this up so you can't see it. So this is the light and the camera on axis. So we're gonna do is we're gonna kill all the lights in the studio. Oh and now look what has happened. So this light is on axis, it's right above the lens of the camera and we can look and see that the light from side to side of Quinn is even so there is no real difference between this side and this side of her face. Now the light is a little bit to the side so that we can show you this but there's really no contrast left to right. So what we're going to do now is I'm going to move the light. So I'm gonna take this light and it's gonna go from front light real, It's gonna go all the way to the side and now look at that. When we put this light to the side of Quinn, you can see that we have high contrast light because the light is hitting her on this side and nothing is wrapping around on this side and this is where things can get a little confusing because even though we have this large source of light, this nice soft light, it could look as if this is hard light because of the way that the light is hitting her, you can look at this and say, ah there's no transition between the shadow and the highlight, therefore hard light. But that's not the case, What's happening is just the way this light is hitting her, makes it look contrasting, but it's still soft light. Now, what I'm going to do is I'm gonna take this guy, I'm gonna put this behind Quinn, something like that and this gives you that maximum contrast because this is white and this is absolutely underexposed. We are getting some bounce off the ground. So we do see Quinn's face, but if this was a black floor, you'd see nothing here, we get no reflection at all. But we get max contrast and then we can keep going with this, you can move this to the other side and you can see once again we have that nice contrast the stuff and then if we move this to the front to the side Yeah, there we go. Oh that's beautiful light, I love that, you can see how that works. Now the other thing that we can do, I mentioned it with the white board, so I'm gonna move this around. Well if you can get light stands with wheels do it will change your life, it will change your life. So what I'm gonna do is we're gonna go from low to high so I'm gonna move this as high as I can and notice how the contrast changes vertically now, so you can see that we have light above but we're getting shadows below, we can move the light on axis, we can move the light off axis, but just by moving around we're controlling where the light falls and how we see those shadows and how the contrast works. Okay, so the other thing that we're going to do is now we're going to not move the light, we're going to move the camera which is gonna be sort of fun. So what I'll do is I'm gonna move this sort of on axis, try to hide that. Okay, so now we have front light, so the camera and the light are lined up, we can see both of us. So maybe you can zoom out really quickly matt so they can see where that light is. I don't know if we can zoom out far enough. There it is. Okay, you can see the light, it's just slightly to the side so that we can see without blocking that. Um But the light is on axis, okay, so that's gonna zoom back in, get a nice tight shot of Quinn's face. There we go. So we can see that there's low contrast. So the light is pretty consistent on both sides of her face. Now watch what happens when we have another camera on the other side of her. So we're gonna turn that camera on and yes, Quinn's gonna face that camera, we didn't do anything, we just moved which camera angle we're using and now we have high contrast. So in fact take a half a step back when perfect like that, you can see that Now this light is hitting to the side of her but not this side. So we have high contrast. So we're gonna turn back to the main camera there. The front camera, low contrast and even small adjustments, so matt's gonna move the camera just a little bit and as he's moving that you can see that the contrast changes ever so slightly. So what happens is sometimes when you're shooting, you might start out like this where you're right underneath the light and you have this low contrast look and it looks amazing but as you're getting excited and seeing things. So I want to have matt uh dolly over again and Quinn look at the camera as as he's moving. So look at the shadows in her face, see how it's getting more and more and more pronounced as he's moving. So that can happen in a photo shoot when you're like, this is great, this is great, that's perfect. You're changing the position of the light in relationship to the subject, you're changing the shadows, that's changing the contrast and that can fool you into thinking that you're soft, light is becoming hard. It's not, you're just getting different qualities of light. It's really, really cool. So what we're gonna do this is fun to do with the video, it's even more fun to do with actual camera and photography is we're gonna turn back on the lights so you can see what's going on here. Very cool. And I'm gonna take some photos. So what we're gonna do, quit, maybe just stand right about here and put this over you. Thank you that I'm going to move over here. Yeah, great. Now for this, if you're wondering, I am going to use ah T T. L metering and the reason for that is we want to do this really quickly. And so if the exposure is just slightly off, I don't think it really matters too much. Okay, Quinn look just right at me really quickly, I just wanna make sure that my camera is set to go I've got to turn on my remote. It's always good to turn on your remote sometimes I forget. So this guy is in Tt L mode, like cameras in manual mode. 1/60 of a second. F Well let's do F 10 and then that way we can people here we go. Yeah, we heard that kick. Ok, so that's coming in perfect. So what we're going to do is first, let's shoot with this on axis as much as possible. I want to lower this a little bit so if we look over here on camera too, you can see that the light and Quinn then I'll put the camera there, it's all lined up and so we have what is considered on axis light. So the axis of these are all the same. And let's take a shot, I might even leave the the light in their very perfect, just like that, click Ok now in a second this is going to come into lightroom there it is. So take a look at the shadows under the chin. I always like to go under the chin to check out the shadows and you can see that this is really soft. There's not much contrast here. There's a little bit more on this side than this side because I couldn't block the camera and so the light is on the right hand side and the shadow is to the left. What we can do now is I'm going to take this light. I'm going to move it way to the side and I'm gonna get it pretty close. Why not? I love that. Just like that. And now Quinn, let's shoot one more time. Perfect click. Ooh, look at this. Look at how this light is just wrapping around her. Now. This is an interesting thing about the position of light. So look at her nose so this image is huge so it's going to come in and take a couple seconds. But look at, look at her nose, notice that this transition area is really abrupt. So this is where you might think we have hard light, but we don't. The reason that is abrupt. If we go back over here, I'll show you the reason this is abrupt is this light is hitting her nose and then there's nothing that uh it's not big enough to wrap around and kill the shadows on the other side of her face. So let me show you from this angle. I don't if we can zoom in there. Um so this guy right here, yeah, there we go. This light goes past her. There's nothing to fill in this side of her nose so it looks like there is a really sharp shadow. But it's just that this has no way of wrapping around, I could either move this forward a little bit or if I had a larger soft box. So if this soft box was much larger, maybe by a foot or two, what would happen is all this area over here, the soft box area that light would then wrap around and kill some of that shadow and make that transition a little bit softer. That effective size is now showing up and making a difference. So by changing the size of this, we can change that transition on her nose and how that works. So we're getting the contrast we want, but then we can change the quality of light that we want by using the position of light and the size and the specific type of light modifier is really sort of cool. So the other thing we're gonna do here, I'm gonna take this guy, I sort of put it behind Quinn, how crazy is this? Now notice this isn't directly behind her, there we go or it's not directly behind her, it is sort of to the side, so it's sort of in front of her a little bit maybe. I don't know if we can see it better on this camera, sort of. These angles are wacky, but notice it's to the side over here, so we have a lot of ah of area in front of Quinn. So yeah, you can see it better with this angle right here, there's a lot of stuff in front of Quinn, so let's see what that does just by moving the position of her light. It's really sort of a fun thing to do, click. Okay, this is sort of fun. Uh look at that. Look at what we get on her cheek and her nose that's really, really cool. But because we've pointed this sort of away from her, we're not really getting anything on the other side of her face. So what I'm gonna do, so I'm gonna come back over here and I'm gonna do what I said I was gonna do before I'll take this, I'm gonna move it forward like that and then just a little bit to the side, so it's almost not even illuminating her at this point. We'll take a look click. I just moved the light just a little bit and what a difference that makes. So look at the difference in these, of course we would crop this out, but you can see here by moving that light forward, we're getting more light spilling over here, filling in the shadows, this transition, see how it's moved over just a little bit on her nose. Uh Not the same as the previous one was just really, really hard. We're just changing the position of our light. Look at the transition of her nose right here, it's uh to the other side of her nose. These are really, really small details. Now, the cool thing about this kind of stuff. Moving your light around and seeing just a subtle difference. I mean the shadow on Quinn's knows the only difference was one was on one side of her nose and one was on the other side of her nose. We're talking a fraction of an inch, but that can be a huge difference If you're doing beauty shots. If you're doing product shots, if you're doing and that kind of stuff changing just slightly the position of your light forward back for effective size left, right, for contrast will make really, really big changes in your image. Okay, so the next thing we're going to do is I'm gonna put this back around about here just choosing a random sort of place about like this and now what I'm going to do is I'm going to move my camera. We're gonna do a series of shots and we'll see. I'll make sure this is the last one up. So I'm gonna shoot these first and then I'm going to show you the results of these images. So just give me a thumbs up so we know for sure. Ban. Okay, so this is the starting point. Are you ready? Okay, so Quinn's looking right at me. Excellent. I am moving Quinn is staying the same. Look right into that uh that yes, perfect. That light is the word. I'm looking forward. Move back here. Oh, I'm glad I have a jerk stop around there. Excellent. Look toward me a little bit. Excellent. Excellent. Okay, so now what I wanna do is I want to show you these images. Remember, The only thing I did is I moved my camera in relation to the light, That's all I did. So we have from the thumbs up to the end, look at how different these images look. It's crazy, we'll go one x 1 on these. So we have the thumbs up, we have low contrast light, we have higher contrast light. Super contrast the light. Oh I love that. We have Quinn looking toward me, look how contrast to those that images. And so just by moving around we changed the look also look at the background, look at how the background the light is falling on, we get nothing, their background is completely dark. Why is the background completely dark with that? Well, because the light, it's pointing that way, background is that way. So there's just there's no light hitting here, None at all. And so we can move the light um to decide to get our background to fall into back black, do all kinds of stuff, we could probably just keep going on this one thing for hours and it be a ton of fun. So now that we know about this or just peeling back the layers of all these different principles of light, what we want to do next is I want to start talking about shadows specifically, we've been working with one single light, when you're working with a single light controlling the shadows is pretty predictable, you can move the light closer and farther away as we saw before to change the hardness of that light, you can change the direction to get rid of a shadow. But what happens when you start using multiple lights and doing some lighting setups? Things can get a bit tricky, so we're gonna talk a little bit about that next.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Bonus YouTube Videos.pdf
Frio Grasp Mini Discount.pdf
Pop Quiz.pdf
Sample Photos for Pop Quiz.zip
Tether Tools Pro Kit Discount.pdf
Tether Tools Starter Kit Discount.pdf
Understanding Light and Modifiers-presentation.pdf
NanLite_WALLACE5.pdf

Ratings and Reviews

user-a07413
 

Wow, Impressive with lots of information on light modifiers. Lots of variations of use and the bonus material. Mark is very good as a teacher. Glad I purchased the subscription plan so I can see the other Mark Wallace classes. Now to go to work and use the information.

Paul
 

I've heard much of this before, but this class really does a good job explaining and demonstrating the principles and techniques it covers. Mark is certainly quite knowledgeable, and he makes the material accessible and easy to grasp. It does cover quite a lot of ground, and while others may go into more detail, I think this class is great for building a good foundation.

Mario Furtado
 

Mark and his crew did an excellent job in this class. Now I am eager to see Go-To Lighting Setups and Studio Lighting Essentials. Congratulations.

Student Work

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