Article by Mike Browne – www.photographycourses.biz
In part one of the beginner's guide to light
I introduced you to the concept of finding light that’s appropriate for the subject you’re photographing. But how do you know which light’s appropriate and which isn’t? And how do you go about finding it?
Here’s an exercise to help you get to grips with light. I seriously recommend you to do this for yourself because I can tell you how to do things all day long, but you won’t be able to do it for yourself unless you practice it and gain experience. It doesn’t matter what the pictures look like for now, we’re not looking for a masterpiece we’re looking for knowledge.
Knowing how light will affect the way an image looks before you even take it means you’ll always shoot amazing pictures in the right light. Ok – the exercise. This works best on a bright sunny day preferably mid morning or mid afternoon, not with the sun directly overhead.
- Get yourself something that’s easy to move about which you can make a still life out of some household items on. A picnic table would be perfect.
- Put together a still life with something translucent or clear, something hard edged and something soft with subtle textures. You can do it with a child’s doll, a coffee mug and beer bottle for example.
- Arrange a still life on the table and place it all in the sun. Photograph them with the sun coming from behind you but make sure you don’t cast a shadow over any of it.
- Next rotate everything around so the sun’s coming straight towards you and the items are backlit. You may need to over expose if it comes out looking a bit dark.
- Repeat the process with your items in the shade and you facing into the shade.
- Keep the items in the shade but this time set it up so the light’s coming into the shade from the side if your still life.
Try to find as many different places as possible to do this and keep a record of which shots were taken in which lighting conditions so that when you compare them you can not only see how the light has affected the way they look, you will know what the light was doing when you took it – direct sun in front, behind, from the side in shade, etc.
Here are some similar images I took when I did this exercise for the first of our Finding Good Light videos
Direct sunlight coming from behind me and to my left.
Light coming from directly behind the items. Don’t forget you might have to increase your exposure when backlighting like this.
In shade with the light coming from behind me.
Still in shade with light coming from the left.
In shade with light coming from the right and from behind through an archway.
Study these images closely and you’ll see how the different light has brought out different textures and shapes on the items. Personally I like the last one best because there’s superb detail in the Lilly, the side light is bringing out the shape of the stones and the rim light round the bottle cleanly defines the edge.
Hope this helps – and don’t forget you can repeat this exercise with a person by taking the same shot of them, with the same lens but do it in lots of different places, by a window, under the porch, sun in front, behind etc.
This exercise is just one small part of just one of our photography videos. If you’d like to see more we’d love to see you on our site.
Mike - www.photographycourses.biz