Category Archives: Light and Lighting

Anything to do with light, lighting, soft light, hard light, light work, light use, light quality, etc.

Light intensity – estimating the light you need

Light intensity is about finding the natural look

• Computer user •
Get familiar with light intensity. Look for the right light intensity in every shot. It is not always easy – here’s how.

Aim for a light intensity that suites the subject.

When using artificial lights think about how light best suits the subject. Learners often use lights set too bright. We will explore the use of distance to reduce the light intensity.

What is light intensity

You might describe light intensity as the power that light has at a given place. A light is most powerful at its source. As it radiates away from the source it becomes less intense. Actually the light radiated still has the same total energy. As it gets further from the light source it is just spread out more.

At each point where you measure light travelling away from the source there will be less and less light. This is because the total light is more and more spread out. This relationship is called the Inverse Square Law. It is a bit of math which describes how light behaves. For our purposes we just need to know that as the distance from a light increases, the illuminated area also gets larger. The same amount of energy is spread out over a larger area. We can say this in a simple way…

As you move away from a light, the light intensity reduces by “distance squared”.

A camera only samples a small area of light. If the light is spreading out the amount of light it can gather is getting less. The light intensity it can capture reduces with distance. Less light is going to get into the camera.

So the light intensity gets less with distance?

At one meter from the light you can say light intensity is one unit. At two meters the light is spread out over four square meters (1 divided by four). If you take a photo you will get one quarter of the light entering your camera. Here is a table that shows how this goes…

1 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1
2 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/4
3 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/9
4 M from source :: Light intensity per square meter = 1/16
and so on…
[M = Meter]

Here is a diagram showing how light intensity falls off according to the inverse square law.

How does this help?

When using artificial light of any kind you should remember light intensity. Good light should match the scene for a good image. It should look natural and the right sort of light (colour, intensity, etc). You also need to have enough illumination for the shot. Too little and the picture will be under exposed. Too much? The picture will be washed out, over exposed. All simple enough.

You need to know that light intensity falls off with the square of the distance for one reason. If you take a picture close to a light (1m) that may be bright enough to achieve what you need. If you move to three meters the light intensity will be reduced to one ninth of its previous amount. That is very different light to use. It changes your light levels in the scene. It will also affect your cameras ability to make an exposure. It may affect the colour of the light or other properties.

For someone using a flash on a camera it works the other way around. If you move to three meters from your subject the flash will light them at one ninth of the light intensity of a shot taken from one meter. They will appear much less bright.

Moving close to or away from a light source

The point is simple. Light intensity determines both the illumination and the brightness of a subject. You don’t need to move a lamp or flash very far for a significant loss (or gain) of light intensity. So guessing where to take your next shot is made easier. You can predict that fall-off now you know how the lighting behaves.

Now you can control your flash two ways. You can turn it down using the menus on your camera (check your manual). Alternatively you can move back. Even a short distance back will reduce the brightness of the shot by a lot.

Next time you are using a flash…

Why not test the theory. Put your camera in manual mode. Take a picture at one meter. Without changing the settings, move back. Try two meters, then three, and so on. Each picture will get dimmer. Quicker than you expect you will not be able to make an exposure. This is probably one of the most important lessons about the behaviour of light.

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On-camera flash… advice for taming the beast

Taming on-camera flash

• Taming on-camera flash •
Left: harsh light and highlights are so unflattering!
Right: properly controlled you get proper skin tones and no highlights.
•••••||•••••
On camera flash can be a pretty tough nut to crack – learn how.
(Images taken from the video)

On-camera flash is pretty harsh…

In fact it’s often the source of ruined pictures from otherwise great dinner parties and family events. Dealing with with these little beasts takes a little work. You can make them do you bidding, you just need to know how.

A small powerful light source

The power of the little flash on your camera is misleading. For such a small light it puts out a lot of power. The learner is often caught off-guard. A great scene can be ruined by very unpleasant light, colour leached from faces, shiny reflections on faces and really hard-edged shadows. The whole thing is pretty ugly.

Here is some news. There are ways to control these little beasts and make them do your bidding.

Two of the most useful techniques for dealing with the problems are explained more fully in: Find out more about diffusing your on-camera flash. The other way is to help your flash work better in the room. Use the room itself as a way to bounce light around. Point your flash at a wall or ceiling so the light is reflected everywhere. It will make harsh flash into soft light – make it a more wrap-around light. This is always more flattering and shows the gentle curves of the face much better. It also means the light works its way around the back of the subject reducing harsh shadows cast onto the wall.

Practical use of the on-camera flash

For those quiet evenings where you are chatting with your friends and family here are some easy techniques. You can use your on-camera flash to good effect without the harsh shadows. You can escape the electric shock faces and startled expressions too. Have a look at the video and follow the sage advice of Mike Browne at a dinner party…

Using on-camera Flash Indoors – With Mike Browne


Mike Browne  External link - opens new tab/page

Using the proper tools is best

Let’s face it. On-camera flash is always going to be a bit difficult. As good as it looks in the video controlled results are always going to be difficult from such a little light source. Here is what Mike himself has to say about on-camera flash…

I’d suggest a speedlight is better because you can fit a diffuser and better still, turn the flash head in any direction and bounce the flash off a wall or ceiling.
Mike Browne  External link - opens new tab/page.

Have a look at some off-camera ideas. These are probably the most flexible options for moving your photography forward, especially for small intimate surroundings. Check out these options…

Off camera flash units

Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash Unit – a great branded flash for general use  External link - opens new tab/page

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight – a great quality mid-range Nikon flash unit  External link - opens new tab/page

Special pick…

This high quality own-brand flash unit performs like branded units but is much more affordable. The unit provides a range of functions as well as being compact, light and robust. Great value for your money. YN560 III 2.4Ghz Wireless Flash Speedlite Support RF-602/603 YN560-III For Canon Nikon Pentax Olympus  External link - opens new tab/page

 
All these units will fire as normal when mounted on the camera. They will require an off-camera flash cord or wireless radio triggers for off-camera flash units  External link - opens new tab/page to connect to the camera when shooting off-camera.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Autumn photography – 50 things to think about

Autumn Cherry Leaves

• Autumn Cherry Leaves •
As Fall is upon us. Think of new ways to pull in the eye of the viewer.
Autumn Cherry Leaves by Netkonnexion on Flickr

Autumn is a great time of year.

There is so much to see and photograph. Being out in the open air and lovely locations is part of the attraction. Here are some other important and photographic things to consider.

Locations
  • Don’t always go to the same spot. Find somewhere new every Autumn.
  • Fall colours depend on the species, which may not be shown on maps.
  • Check with park information centres to see if the colours are right.
  • Information centres are great at giving directions to the best locations.
  • Watch weather forecasts to see when the best light is likely to show up.
  • Check websites for the area near the location for useful information.
Colours

What makes Autumn particularly exciting is the lovely russet and golden colours. Making those come out is not always easy. Think about these points…

  • Even slight greyness in the sky can dampen the colours.
  • Bright colour can be lost against a bright sky, exaggerate colour contrast.
  • Shoot yellows against a darker background so they don’t get lost.
  • Golden colours are best with a red dusk. Aim for times in the Golden Hour.
  • Don’t use a pop-up flash. It will flatten the colour and depth.
  • Use off-camera flash from the side to make leaves translucent and bright.
  • Use side light as much as possible to emphasis shadows and define shapes.
  • Use any greens you can as a back-drop for golden colours.
  • Low sunlight peeping under clouds often brings out yellows.
  • Take pictures after rain – the wetness often revitalises colours.
  • Consider a filter on your camera to exaggerate natural colours.
  • Try shots with as many mixed colours as possible.
  • Try shots with lots of similar colours across the picture.
Equipment

Every shoot demands its own approach. But here are some ideas to help the Autumn shots work for you…

  • A tripod is essential. A fuzzy shot of a great scene is horrible!
  • Most people forget the wide angle shots.
  • Remember that zoom lenses flatten perspective – consider prime lenses.
  • Consider using white boards and gold reflectors to help bring up colours.
  • You can’t make great images if you are cold/wet. Wear proper clothing.
  • Beware of changing lenses in damp air!
The shots

Found a great place to rejoice in colour and texture? Now you need to think about composition and ideas for your shots…

  • Check out our resources on composition.
  • Before going spend two hours looking at images by others (Google)  External link - opens new tab/page.
  • Work out a list of, say, 25 shots you would like to try out.
  • Concentrate your efforts on a few ideas.
  • Use your trip to try at least one type of shot new to you.
  • Practice your chosen shots before you go.
  • Remember to work the scene at the location.
  • Remember The fifteen second landscape appraisal.
  • Have a go at this old sailors trick to improve landscapes.
  • People often look up when in trees. Look down, there is plenty there.
  • Get really low.
  • Get really close.
  • Experiment with Depth of Field:.
  • Light leaves from behind. Translucent leaves are wonderful.
  • Consider backlighting to bring out shapes.
  • Hold up something interesting and photograph it with your hand.
  • Dogs look great in leaves! Capture your pet having fun!
  • Take a macro lens or macro tubes. Get really close.
  • Look for golden, yellows and reds in reflections… they look great!
Try going to manual (M) settings…

There is nothing more exciting. Get great images knowing they came out the way you intended. Avoid ‘auto’ shots programmed by a boffin at the camera factory.

Autumn and you…

Don’t be so intense that its not fun! Love your trip, enjoy the moment and if possible share it with a friend. Make some great images along the way.

Have a great Autumn.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Rare black and white pictures – great examples

Rare historical pictures in black and white

• Rare historical pictures in black and white •
Great pictures go beyond the capturing of great events…
These are excellent examples of monochrome photography too.
[Image from the slide presentation]

Quality black and white photography is an art.

Early photography taught us there is more to an image than conveyed by colour. Black and white Photography can be emotionally powerful and visually satisfying. Sometimes colour reduces that impact.

Why is there so much impact in black and white?

The use of colour has seduced the eyes of the users of modern media and screens. The realism is amazing and the quality excellent. What people forget is that colour can reduce your awareness to the meaning in a picture. It is all too easy to lose the impact of a story when the picture is so vivid.

The underlying impact of an image is more powerful with simple presentation. Black and white or monochrome images simplify the message beautifully. They create a stark reality in an image. That reduces distractions and focusses the eye on the story.

This is a great lesson for modern photographers. Reduce the image down to a simple, powerful message. Make sure it also has great visual impact. Add a great story and you have captured the attention of the viewer.

What makes black and white visually powerful?

Here are some things to consider when thinking about making a black and white image…

  • Try to use a wide contrast range from darkest blacks to whitest whites.
  • Make sure that the darkest and brightest areas of the picture are not too large or they will distract from the greyscale in between.
  • Try to ensure there is a good spread of different greys between the darkest and brightest.
  • Using only deepest black or whitest white will tend to be too harsh for the eye except where there is a good pattern for the eye to follow.
  • Harsh shadows from hard light will distract the eye. Look to use soft light and graduated shadows.
  • Try to include as much detail as possible to bring out the subject of the image.
  • Work hard to bring out textures. This will throw up the subject without distracting the eye. It will help develop depth too.
  • Be especially sensitive to layers in the image (foreground, mid-ground and distance). Low levels of texture and poor layering will make the image look flat and lifeless.
Some great examples of successful black and white images

As you go through the great images in the slide show below consider the points above. You will find food for thought for your own black and white images.

Want to see regular historical black and white images?

As a lover of black and white pictures I signed up to Retronaut  External link - opens new tab/page. This great site is not exclusively about black and white images, but most of the historical material there is of that type. I get a daily email with some great images. It’s pretty instructive because black and white images are a personal interest. Why not give it a try? Enjoy.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Backgrounds – simple is best

Creating Perfect Backgrounds

• Creating Perfect Backgrounds •
Bryan Peterson looks at one of the simplest lessons in outdoor photography – but one that gets effective results.
[Image taken from the video]

Perfect backgrounds…

It’s easy to spoil a great subject by picking the wrong background or using one with distractions. Taking the time to look around is worthwhile – then do a background check. Here are some pointers to help.

Great images include great backgrounds

A wonderful subject is not the only thing that makes a successful image. It is the whole image that the eye sees. A great subject but a distracting background you will lose the viewers eye to the background. Equally if the background is too cluttered it will draw attention away from the subject. Strong contrasts, clashing colours, peculiar events or something ugly in the background all take their toll.

Simplify, simplify, simplify…

Try to find interesting textures, colours and scenes for the background. Keep the contrasts to a minimum. Make sure no one is going to walk into the shot or create another type of distraction. In other words make it as easy as possible for your viewer to concentrate on the subject. It is all about showing off the best – and that is what you want the subject to be.

What to look for in a background

A certain amount of uniformity helps. If your background is too diverse the eye looks to see what the background is all about. Then the subject is lost to the eye. If it is too consistent the same is true. You risk losing the viewer because there is no background interest to off-set your subject. So there is a certain amount of artistic decision required. But with practice your eye will begin to see when something draws the eye once you become alerted to the impact of the background.

The background check

No, it’s not about identity papers. The background check is all about looking around your viewfinder to see what you think of the background. When you frame up the shot it is easy to think of the composition and placing the subject in an interesting position. But forgetting to check the quality of the background is fatal. Parked cars, flying balls, litter blowing in the wind – a whole range of distractions – can all suddenly appear. Worse, they can be there all along and you have just not seen them.

To do your background check is simple. Check around the edge of the frame. Make sure no odd items are sticking into the shot. Look for an interesting texture and colour range. Make the colours complementary and well defined, but not too contrasting. Check to see there are no very bright or dark zones. Brightness drags the eye off the subject. Darkness tones down the interest in the shot.

When you have checked everything, the background should be clean, tidy, well composed and not distracting. Then you can do one last quick check on your subject. If all is well press the Definition: Shutter Button. Presto – a great shot.

Creating the Perfect Background with Bryan Peterson

By way of example Bryan talks us through a situation in a park where he makes the best of the background – checking for problems and emphasising his subject.
Adorama Photography TV  External link - opens new tab/page

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Umbrellas and softboxes

umbrellas and softboxes

• Softbox Vs. Umbrella •
Umbrellas and softboxes seem to have similar characteristics… or do they?

What IS the difference?

Photographers learning to use lights find it difficult to understand the difference between a softbox and umbrella set-up. It is important to understand if you want to have control of light.

The nature of soft and hard light

Hard light is not some mutated form of ordinary light. It is a type of light that is focussed and which shows a hard transition from bright to dark. The shadow line is a sharp contrast. On the other hand, soft light wraps itself around curves and has a soft transition from light to dark.

The definitions of hard and soft light tell us much about the characteristics of the light but not how the light is formed. Well, it turns out that the light source, its shape, size and focus or diffusion as well as distance from the subject all have an impact on the characteristics of light.

Photographic umbrellas and softboxes

In the video Mark Cleghorn examines the characteristics of photographic umbrellas and softboxes. He does some great shots with both. Pay attention to the way he uses the lights and what characteristics he points out. Distance and size of the sources play an essential role in the formation of the softness and hardness of the light. His experiments are interesting and show you how the nearness of a large light source can create softness. It seems counter intuitive, but it is correct.

The first half of this video is very useful and you will learn a lot about Umbrellas and softboxes as light sources. The second half showcases advanced features of Photoshop. This is a less useful section if you are only interested in the practical issues for umbrellas and softboxes. You can safely skip it.

Lastolite Umbrella Versus Softbox from Lastolite on Vimeo  External link - opens new tab/page.

Types of lights

There are many types of light source that can generate light for umbrellas and softboxes. For most situations it is best to use off-camera flash units. The more expensive studio flash units are more for professional use. If you are just starting out they will be more powerful than required for most general purpose needs. Off camera flash helps give you flexible use. It is also easily controlled. You can work with both umbrellas and softboxes with an off camera flash.

Fortunately, most umbrellas and softboxes units designed for off-camera flash will mount most types of flash units. When looking to purchase lights think about what you want to achieve. Then buy the flash unit needed to meet your need.

Below is an example of a photographic umbrella set…

DynaSun W968S Professional Kit with Holder, Umbrella, Stand and Bag for Cold Shoe Mount Flash Gun Flashgun  External link - opens new tab/page
This is a high quality but affordable photographic umbrella unit. The complete package includes everything you need except the off-camera flash unit. The inclusion of the small carrying bag makes the whole thing neat and well presented.

When it comes to the purchase of a soft box these too have the universal fittings for off camera flash units (although studio units are also available). Here is an example softbox…

24″ 60cm x 60cm EZ-Fold Studio Softbox Kit with 2 x Diffusers and Ballhead Bracket for Portable Flash and Speedlite  External link - opens new tab/page
This is a high quality, well produced softbox with easily adjustable fittings and a variety of ways to set up light diffusion within the unit.

Of course both these units are among many others in the field. You can see the various types of each on these search pages…
Photographic umbrella – Search page on Amazon  External link - opens new tab/page

Softboxes – search page on Amazon

These various examples include studio light units, always on bulb mountings and fittings for off-camera flash. Check for what you want before you buy. The most flexible is for off-camera flash when you are starting out.

No removable flash? Read this: Off-camera flash. It’s a great introduction and recommends an affordable flash unit.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

A quick and simple method to make brilliant water droplet images

water droplet

• Water Splashes •
The most beautiful scenes in the world include water. Here you can make your own water droplet.
(Image taken from the video)

The close-up world of the water droplet – endlessly fascinating

The captivating thing about water is that it is ever changing and creates a sense of magic in every scene. When you get in close some simple techniques make wonderful images.

How to photograph water droplet impacts

Ever enthusiastic Gavin Hoey takes us through the simple process of creating wonderful water droplet photos. Colour, light/shade and magic water droplet sculptures are the result.

The best bit about this is that you can make these wonderful photos yourself. It is very easy and great fun. When I first did this I spent hours of time on it and got lost in a world of wonderful colours and effects. There are three things to remember that will help you make this a personal and effective shoot…

  • The more shots you take the more great effects you will see.
  • Background colour should be varied. I’ve used wrapping paper to brighten colours.
  • The angle of the camera can affect your shot (not mentioned in the video).
  • Try different camera heights with respect to the water.

After yesterdays blog, the way you see it is about your style. Don’t look for “new”, look for you!

This is a short video (six minutes 50secs), but one that will give you hours of fun and excellent images.
Gavin Hoey  External link - opens new tab/page

No removable flash? Read this: Off-camera flash. It’s a great introduction and recommends an affordable flash unit.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.