Digital Camera Magazine - Complete Photography Guide - Mastering Light

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Complete photography guide

LightTAKE DRAMATIC PHOTOS USING OUR EXPERT TIPS How to control and enhance natural light Creative ways to shoot with ash Simple techniques for spectacular results



LightMany photographers just starting out tend to think of the role of light only in terms of exposure. But nding the best light and learning how to control it can have a huge effect on the emotional impact of your images. This book will arm you with the knowledge and techniques you need to really begin mastering light.Light 3




Contents Lights character Chasing the light Improving the quality Master of light: Charlie Waite Fill-in with ash Master of light: Chris Johns Dealing with low light Light on the landscape Master of light: George D. Lepp Top 10 tips p10 p14 p16 p22 p24 p28 p30 p36 p46 p49



Start painting with lightur three previous photography guides have covered composition, exposure and colour now its time to look at the element which is the key inuence for all three aspects. As a photographer, you need to learn to love light, appreciate its endless subtleties and try to make the most of its mood swings. Soon youll feel your heart race a little faster as the black clouds of a passing storm tear apart and rich, golden light burns through to transform even the most mundane scene (just dont forget to carry your camera at all times youll kick yourself if you miss capturing such an event). Dont pull your hair out if the light isnt right though. You just need to learn a few tricks that can help you rescue the situation this book will show you them. Well give you ideas for taming harsh light, show you how to make the most of falling light levels and how to use ash in understated ways. We dont cover studio lighting in this book that will come later. Instead, we focus on natural light how to capture it, how to enhance and how to use it in great new ways.


Marcus HawkinsEditor, Digital Camera Magazine





Lights characterou really begin to grow as a photographer when you start being able to read the different characteristics of light and are able to adjust your shooting accordingly. Where photographys concerned, there are four elements of light that you need to be able to recognise: its quality, colour, intensity and direction. You can control each of them to a certain degree, whether its through a shift in camera position, the use of light modiers or during image processing.




Quality of lightYou can judge the quality of light by the shadows it creates. Hard lighting from the sun on a cloudless summers day or an undiffused ashgun creates inky, sharp-edged shadows and hot highlights. Your camera will struggle to maintain detail in both, and compromises might have to be taken. Soft light early morning, late evening, a cloudy day, a misty day reduces the contrast between light and dark and produces soft-edged shadows in which details still visible. Its ideal for portraits, close-ups and revealing the glorious colours of autumn. You can improve the quality of light to some degree on a small scale using diffusors, reectors, ll-ash and the like (youll nd tips and techniques for doing just that throughout this guide), but theres very little you can do other than wait for the very best light when youre shooting landscapes.

Colour of lightWe covered the colour of light comprehensively in the previous guide, but its such an important ingredient for creating images with emotional impact that we couldnt leave it out here. In general, warmer pictures produce a more pleasurable viewing experience. Colder pictures can leave use feeling exactly that. Fortunately, its one of the easiest elements of light to correct. You can change your cameras white balance setting to enhance or reduce the warmth of a scene. You can place colour correction lters in front of your lens blue to cool down a scene, amber to warm it up. Or you can simply wait until youre back home editing your images on your computer before you start changing the colour balance of your picture.

The sun rising or setting creates long shadows plan for them when you compose an image. Here, an ordinary locations been transformed by the play of light and shadow, creating a simple, powerful photograph.



Intensity of lightPerhaps not as important in enhancing the mood of a shot as the other characteristics of light, intensity, or brightness has a crucial role to play in terms of exposure. The more light there is available, the smaller your aperture can be and yet still retain action-stopping shutter speeds. Your ISO can also be set lower so theres the potential to create a higher quality image. The more intense and hard the light is, though, the more chance there is of highlights getting blown in a digital image. Check your cameras histogram an image on an LCD monitor might seem brighter or darker than it actually is.

Direction of lightLight can illuminate your subject from three basic directions front, side and back. Each brings its own unique feel to a picture. Backlighting, for instance, can be used to provide a halo around a portrait sitter. It provides mood, drama and visual interest. It brings foliage to life and gives water an edge. The only thing to watch out for is direct light striking the front of the lens. This produces are, which reduces contrast. You might nd a lens hood particularly on a wideangle lens doesnt always prevent are. In these instances, move a piece of card or your hand close to the front of the lens to shade it from the light (just be sure that it doesnt appear in the frame). Sidelighting is great for bringing out the texture in a landscape. It reveals shape and form and gives pictures depth. Frontlighting is good for close-up portraits, particularly of birds and animals. It might not have the impact of backlighting or sidelighting, but dont limit yourself just to these.

Backlighting can enhance mood. This shot wouldnt be as atmospheric if shot from the other side of the subject, with full frontlighting.

Early morning light is usually less intense than that of the sun at midday. Youll need to work with wider apertures in order to freeze movement.





Chasing the lightnce you start getting a feel for light, youll search out the times of day where the quality of light is generally at its best at the start and end of the day during the golden hours. The suns rays have to pass through more of the atmosphere during sunrise and sunset. This lters out more of the wavelengths at the blue end of the colour spectrum, leaving us to see wavelengths at the warmer end. This is why the light has a colder quality at midday, when the sun is directly overhead and passing through a much thinner part of the atmosphere. A sunset tends to produce a richer, warmer image than a sunrise because atmospheric pollutions built up throughout the day, scattering the light still further. Sunsets and sunrises are probably the most cliched photographic subjects known to man but dont resist capturing a truly breathtaking one when the moment presents itself.


You sunset shots dont have to be cliched skyscapes try incorporating the orb in unusual ways14 Light

Get there earlyMany photographers prefer shooting at dawn that way theyre not ghting against falling light levels as they would be at the end of the day. Lakes and rivers also tend to be more still at this time of the day perfect for capturing reections. Early morning light can have more of a sharper, clearer quality than at sunset and shadows tend to creep on you rather fast at the end of the day. For those of us holding down a day job, its unlikely that we can escape work commitments to catch the sunset on a regular basis but getting up early and getting out before the sun rises can be an option. You need to make sure youre in position and ready to start shooting before the sun actually clips the horizon though, as the magic light only lasts for a few minutes. Dont include the suns bright orb in your frame when youre metering its likely to cause severe underexposure in your shot. Instead, take a spot meter reading from a bright area of sky, lock the reading in and recompose with the sun back in the frame. Bracket exposures at +/- 0.5EV around this initial exposure.



Improving the qualityDo you want hard or soft light? Both types have their purpose in photography. If its striking, graphic shots with black, hard-edged shadows you want, seek out raw, hard light when the suns high in a clear sky or youre shooting with on-camera ash. Chances are, though, that youll want soft, diffused light more often than not. On a bright, cloudy day, the sky acts like a giant softbox. Youll have a much easier time metering for a scene as the contrast will have been reduced no deep shadows or bright highlights to try and rectify later on your computer. Youll be able to reveal much ner detail, and colour appears more saturated.

Soften hard lightThe reason hard lights are exactly that, is because theyre a point-source of light relative to the size of the subject of your photograph, resulting in unbalanced exposures. The suns big, but so far away that, on a cloudless day it too becomes a small, harsh light source. But it can be softened to produce a much more attering result. Commercial diffusion panels are available thin pieces of semitransparent material which, when held between the sun and the subject, spread and soften the light, removing glaring highlights and opening up the detail in shadows. Try using a sheet of tracing paper for macro subj