Photographers work with a lot of elements to help them come up with pictures that speak their message. Aside from angles, exposure, shutter speed and ISO stuff, proper lighting is also important.
In fact, light is an essential factor in photography. So, if you want your photos to come out the way you envisioned them to, you need to learn more about light and how you can use it to your advantage.
More Attention on Light than on the Subject
One of the first things that you should remember is that proper lighting should be your priority, not the subject of your photo. If you are not focused on finding the right balance of light, your subject will come out either too dark or too bright. Your picture will not come out good.
Direct and Diffused Light
To avoid getting into this situation, understand what kind of light you should use in a particular scene. You can choose between diffused light and direct light. Diffused light is the kind that is filtered through or reflected off an object (like opaque glass windows, clouds or curtains).
You can also attach diffusers to your light. If you want a dramatic scene with soft and minimal shadows, shoot farther from your subject and go for diffused light.
Move a little closer to your subject if you want a darker effect and use direct light. This will help you create strong shadows in your photos. The scenes will come out with high contrast and strong highlights. Obviously, direct light is more intense than the diffused variety.
This is because it does not use any reflector or filter. The best example would be the sun, which is as natural as light can be.
Keep in mind, too, that using flash will not give you one solid effect. It depends mostly on where you are shooting. If you’re shooting your subject indoors, especially in an enclosed space, the tendency is that your photo will come out with one side brighter than the other. To create softer light, add a diffuser to your flash or use a reflector.
To find out which one best suits your needs, experiment by taking photos using both light qualities.
The Right Direction
It is also important to determine which direction light should take when you’re about to shoot a subject. If you shoot indoors, it will be quite easy to set up the right light direction compared to outdoor shooting.
When shooting indoors, you should have a good light stand. Choose one that’s portable so that you can move it around according to the scene you want to create.
Controlling light direction when shooting outdoors involves more work as you cannot just use a light stand. The first thing that you need to consider is the time of day. You see, the sun, which is the best natural light source, usually moves around as the day goes by. If you go out to shoot in mid-morning, the sun will be high up so you’ll get natural brightness.
If you shoot late in the afternoon, it won’t be as bright anymore and you might need back-up light. You need to schedule your shoot according to the time of day when the sun is in its brightest, especially if you want that natural light effect.
Some photographers, however, have mastered the art of modifying angles and shots so that the subject is not against the light.
Additionally, it is important for you to know which directions light can come from when shooting a subject. There are generally four directions: front, back, side and top.
You achieve front lighting when you place your light source behind yourself (as the photographer). This light direction is perfect if you want a photo with a two-dimensional effect.
Back lighting is one of the most popular because many like the effect that it creates. When the light source is directly behind the subject, the tendency is that it will create an enhanced and dramatic photo.
If you position your light source on the other side (from where you are), you use side lighting. This is what photographers do if they want photos with more depth and texture. Your photo will come out more detailed.
A light source placed on high areas could cast a lot of shadows if you do not know how to properly control lighting. This is especially true if you shoot outdoors on a sunny day. One instance – your photo of a beautiful young girl can be compromised because the shadows won’t allow you to give details of the face.
Everything will be shadowed. If you want to create bizarre photo effects, this might be a good choice. Otherwise, try to avoid using top lighting – especially if you’re a beginner.
There are still a lot of things that you should know about light in photography. But starting out with knowing what kind of light to use and which direction to choose will do you a lot of help. As always, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to do so.
Michael Gabriel L. Sumastre is a regular contributor to Contrastly.com – an online magazine about photography, technology, visual arts and the myriads of other topics that fall in between. Founded in 2013, Contrastly is a collaboration of several professional photographers, photography enthusiasts, writers and experts from all around the world.
The website covers a wide range of topics such as comprehensive photography tutorials, landscape photography, portrait photography, cameras, lenses, photography tips and tricks, among others.