This week, we’ll have two blog posts from my friends from “down under.” Can you tell I’ve always wanted to use that expression? In all seriousness, though, this first one up is a guest post by David Robertson, a Canberra Wedding Photographer. Follow him on Twitter.
As photographers we’re fed this basic message that a bigger lens = better photos. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting with good quality equipment but as soon as you replace a passion for knowledge with a passion for equipment you’ll find yourself frustrated when your photos aren’t improving and will get burnt out. As a young photographer I bought the gear that I had lusted after and spent thousands of dollars without even realizing that I can make some amazing photos when equipped with the right knowledge and understanding of light.
Lighting in photography is one of the most overlooked aspects by today’s photographers and even the ‘professional’ photographers. Amateurs and professionals alike are completely oblivious to the effects of light of the human body and how different lighting can reveal or hide things, tell a story and bring your subject to life. Through this article I’ll go over some very simple and basic natural lighting techniques that I use for 90% of the work I do.
Many photographers over chop their images to try to make up for their lack of ability to understand light. We’ve all seen those ‘professional’ wedding photos that really just make you cringe and die a little inside. The aim of my work is to provide a very exclusive and high end photography experience, not just great images and being able to utilize the available light to the best measures is absolutely essential to that.
Amateurs and professionals alike are completely oblivious to the effects of light of the human body and how different lighting can reveal or hide things, tell a story and bring your subject to life.
There are a few different factors to consider when you’re lighting for portraits; size, diffusion (hard or soft), color and angle. Before I take a single photograph I analyze the scene and choose one of the below based on the factors above.
Hard light – shoot into the sun with the subject in front of you. This prevents squinting, gives a great wrap around light and if exposed correctly can give you amazing results. If possible try avoid shooting with midday sun. I always get a few wedding clients every season boasting about how they’ve planned to have the ceremony at midday and how good the light is then. Truth is that it’s very hard to avoid making people look likes pandas when the sun is at its apex.
Soft Light – The easiest light to work with, there is usually no squinting of the eyes (important) and it gives really nice warm, soft skin tones. The clouds act as a massive softbox; it’s my preferred light to shoot with. Shoot with the subject facing the light source (sun behind clouds) to get the most of all the color in the eyes, catchlights from light source (sun) and the best skin tones.
Sounds too easy? Well, it kinda is really :)
I encourage you to buy a small mannequin or get a willing model and study the effects of light on the person in a room with a nice big window. Rotate around the model as you’re shooting and very carefully observe with your eyes all the subtle differences that occur when you change the angle of the light and position of yourself and the subject. You’ll soon find yourself being able to get familiar with the effects of light and in no time you’ll be a light connoisseur.
If I had known all the things I do now when I first started I could have saved myself a lot of stuffing around, I hope it helps you :)
Do you have a preference for hard or soft light? Sound off below and let us know. Tell us also why you like one over the other. What challenges do you face when photographing in different types of light.
Definitely prefer soft light for all the reasons you mentioned – however especially shooting weddings, it does not always happen – often picture time falls during a hard sunny day, so I’ve learned to bring clients into more shaded or covered areas for most pictures, but also to embrace the sun and shadows and colors for a few “funky” and bold sunny images. :)