Tag Archives: hard light

Do you understand the play of light on faces?

Video

Video

Understanding light involves seeing it on your subject…

That understanding comes from seeing light in different environments. Next time you are outside look at the light and shadow on the faces of people around you. Look for light/shadow relationships and look out for light playing on the face – how it moves around as the face moves in the light.

The play of light on faces is interesting, but often ugly

When you study faces and light together you will see that there are some pretty ugly shapes and shadows created by light on the face. We are programmed to follow edges, lines and contrasts with our eyes. Oddly, we see these on faces all the time but tend to ignore them.

Normally we ignore the ugliness of bad light because we have no control over light on other peoples faces. And, our familiarity with the face turns off our attention to light. It allows us to forget that faces can be pretty ugly in bad light or a bad position relative to the light.

Somehow, when we translate a scene to a 2 dimensional picture, these shapes, contrasts and lines created by light on the face become more obvious than in real life. They seem to take on an ugliness that we normally do not see.

‘Picture-awareness’, what we see on pictures but not in real life, happens in a lot of things. With faces it is pretty important. For photographers doing portraits it can make or break a picture. Becoming familiar with the concept is important if you want your portraits to succeed.

How to use natural light and fill flash Portrait tutorial

In the video Tony Northrup shows how light and shadow can be changed to your advantage easily and simply.

Tony Northrup  External link - opens new tab/page

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A simple lighting technique with lovely light

The mobile phone light... soft and effective.

The mobile phone light… soft and effective.

Table-top photography works with soft light.

When you are doing still life shots you want soft, gentle light. Exposures can be longer so you can create lovely gentle shadow graduations. Your mobile phone provides an excellent light source for this. Here is how it is done.

White source image

The basic technique is to put a bright white image onto your mobile screen. When you display it on the mobile screen the illumination produces a white light. This is a wonderful, quite localised soft light for your shot. The steps in detail are…

  • Open your favourite image editor
  • Create a new image (approx size 800 pixels by 600 pixels)
  • Paint it brilliant (pure) white
  • If you are on your computer save the image then upload it to your phone
  • If you are on your mobile phone save the image to a known folder
  • When you want to use the light, display the image on screen

The white image on screen produces enough illumination to create the light you want for your table top image.

Other ways to use your mobile as a light source

Of course many mobiles are also capable cameras in their own right. So here are two other ways to use them:

Photographic light: Lots of mobiles have a “flashlight” app. This will allow you to use the camera flash as a photographic light onto your still life scene. Many on-camera (pop-up flash) flash units are very strong and have a harsh light. The flash on a mobile is often much softer and sometimes is coloured to be a similar colour to daylight (approx 5500 Kelvin). This ‘daylight balance’ is a great light and worth using if you have it. Prop your phone up with the flashlight app activated and start shooting.

Coloured light source: Traditionally coloured light is produced using colour gels. However, some apps on mobile phones can create both a white light or a range of other coloured lights. One such app for example is: Tiny flashlight + LED. This is an app. for Android phones, but there are other apps. for different operating systems. If you cannot find a suitable app. you can produce a colour image like the white one above. Store that on your phone and open the image when you want that colour light.

Versatile

While the light from the screen of your phone might not be very strong, for a long exposure that is not too important. The light is wonderful and soft. As it comes from a wide source it creates lovely wrap-around shadows. These are just great for still life. Other features of phones can help with the lighting for your photography too. So, have a look at your mobile in a new light – see what you think.

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Three rules of lighting… simple, but effective

• Three Rules of Lighting •

• Three Rules of Lighting •

The simple explanations are the best.

Here at Photokonnexion we try hard to provide simple explanations for the things we all want to learn about our favourite subject. If you think anything is too complicated let us know on our Contact Us page or leave a comment below the article.

Well, here is a video in the spirit of simple explanations. I really do not need to explain before you see it… just watch and enjoy.

More after this…

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Three Rules of Lighting for Photography

“We talk about the three important rules regarding the behaviour of light. As photographers we can use these rules to achieve the type of lighting we want, including the look of soft light.” – Ed Verosky
© Ed Verosky 2012  External link - opens new tab/page

For more background on lighting

Don’t forget to check out our Light and Lighting resource pages and especially the links on Hard Light and Soft Light. These are essential to the understanding of light.

All our resources can be found in the menu at the top of the page.

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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Ten simple ideas to help your portraiture improve

Video

Video

Straight forward portraiture advice is difficult to come by…

In the video we have some great ideas that help you to map out a great Portraiture session. This is straight advice aimed at getting you to a good quality completed portrait as directly as possible.

I have to add that the book advertised in the video is also a great book. It is packed with some excellent ideas and written in a simple and easy-to-read way. If you are interested in following up on the book I can highly recommend it. My copy is pretty dog-eared these days!

 

Portrait and Candid Photography: Photo Workshop This is a great book packed with lots of hints, tips and ideas like the ones below. A really worthwhile read.

 

Ten points at the core of good portraiture

In the video Erin Manning highlights the importance of the following ten points…

  1. Don’t fix your subject in the middle of the frame. Instead, think about the rule of thirds – a more dynamic outcome.
  2. Poses and “cheesy” words to force a smile are false and make the photo look strained.
  3. Make your clothes simple and un-distracting. Forget patterns and fussy details. Simple solid colours help the subject to stand out, not the clothes.
  4. Avoid straight on shots with a big flash. The open pupil in the eye will cause light to reflect back to the camera and show bright red eyes… You don’t want your subject to look like red-eyed monsters. Use red-eye reduction settings if your camera has them.
  5. Vary your poses, angles and heights. The more angles you get the more you are telling a story about your subject. Get them in many different ways.
  6. Use flash to help reduce harsh shadows. The sharp sunlight of the middle of the day is very unflattering. The use of fill-in flash softens the shadows bringing out the subjects character.
  7. Look for great quality of light. Remember that hard light (harsh edges and strong contrasts) is very unflattering. Shoot in the later afternoon or early morning to get soft light with better colours. Use shade to reduce hard light if you are forced to work in bright mid-day light.
  8. Don’t stand too close and use a wide angle lens. This exaggerates the nose. Stand away and zoom in. This reduces nose size and is much more flattering. (Great advice).
  9. Pay attention to the background. If it is too busy make sure there is nothing distracting. Check to make sure the background has not created odd effects like poles sticking out of heads and flowers in ears!
  10. Make sure you have enough battery capacity and memory card space to cover the whole session. You don’t want to lose any shots when you are in full swing.
Erin Manning’s Top 10 Dos and Don’ts for Great Portraits


Erin Manning

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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Simple videos showing how camera settings work

Understanding the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed…

These are the three critical factors in the exposure relationship. Getting a feel for how they work together is the essence of controlling your camera. Several people asked me to find a simple explanation for the way this relationship works after seeing this post yesterday: How to work with your camera settings – a simple, fun lesson.

The key point

The three settings, ISO, Aperture or Shutter Speed are set up on your camera in stops, or fractions of stops. The stop is a photographers way of measuring light in the camera.

The most important thing to remember is that a stop of aperture is the same as a stop of ISO, and in turn a stop of shutter speed. As they equal each other, you can keep them in balance. If you put one setting up a stop (or fraction of a stop) you can put one of the others down a stop (or fraction) and you will get the same exposure. This allows you to change your settings to get a different result (more bokeh, less movement blur etc) but retain the same exposure levels.

The two videos below will help you to understand the way the settings work. I have given you two versions of the same information. They both present differently, and they both have snippets of information that are different from the other. However, they both cover the same material. I hope that one or both of them will help you to see how the settings work. Enjoy!

Aperture Shutter Speed and ISO, Photography 101

The second video covers almost identical material but shows some of the points through the camera viewer. This helps you to see the context of the settings easier.

Exposure (Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO)

Now try out your new knowledge…

Now you can try out CameraSim in yesterdays post. Try varying the settings for yourself like they did in the videos and see how they work together to get an exposure balance.

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

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A little known idea that will help your photography every day

Learning photography is about understanding light.

There is a ready source of learning about light you see every day. Photographs and television provide valuable lessons in light. You can learn a lot by observing how light is used in different productions. Look for the way light is cast, which direction it comes from, its colour and it’s intensity. Also look for the way it is used to create mood and atmosphere – these often show off how shadows and hard light or soft light are used. Good producers of still photography, television and film are masters of creating scenes with and manipulating light. Looking carefully at the light itself in such productions will provide great insights for your own photography.

[More about eyes: The Eyes Have It… nine ways to emphasize eyes]

Portrait Reverse Engineering – It’s In The Eyes

In the video we see one aspect of how to see the light. I have written about catchlights before. They are the bright spots in peoples eyes that are reflections of the nearby lights. In this video an examination of catchlights is used to understand the nature of the light used in the portrait session. This is a clever and interesting way to understand portrait lighting. It is also something of a study in television too. Directors use lights to create catchlights for nearly all close shots. So watch out for them as you watch television.

The Michael Andrew Photography School External link - opens new tab/page

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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.

Twelve Simple tips for atmospheric candlelight shots

Candles put out a wonderful light…

Everyone feels the atmospheric impact of candlelight. The colour and the low light seems to draw you in. Capturing that light is easy with a few simple hints. Lets look at what is needed…

Tripod…

There is nearly always low light associated with candle photography. That means working with longer exposures. A tripod is excellent for that. Indoors, beware of a wooden floor, any move you make can be transferred to the tripod. Floor vibrations can ruin a shot or make it soft. For sharpness remember to use the camera timer for the shot or a remote shutter release.

Lighting…

The best way to view candles is by their own light. Because they don’t use a tripod many people are tempted to use flash. Unfortunately flash will over-power the candlelight. It will take out the colour from the light and tend to create hard, sharp shadows. It will ruin the atmosphere of the candlelight. Make sure you switch off your flash. If you need more light the you can use as many candles as you need to raise light levels. They don’t need to be in the shot, but they will keep the light the same throughout the shot.

Composition…

First decide if your candle or candles are the subject or are props. This decision will affect your focus and how you lay out your scene. Candles can create a strong bright spot in the scene. If it is too bright the flame will form a burnt out white spot. Once you have arranged your scene, ensure that the candle will only draw the eye a small amount unless it is the subject. You should consider the placement of the candle in a way that might minimise the impact of the bright flame spot.

Positioning…

If all your candles are close together the light will tend to act as one light source. This will tend to act as a hard light creating more defined shadows. If you want the light to be softer and the shadows with less well defined edges set your candles further apart. If the light is to be cast on a face then soft light will be more flattering.

Movement…

One of the peculiarities of working with candles is that the flames are subject to the slightest air movement. Unfortunately candle flicker is attractive to the eye in real-time; but looks like a loss of sharpness in a still image. It is quite useful in close focus shots with a candle to use an air break of some kind nearby to stop air movement. In a table-top study use a large sheet of card to one side out of shot. That will help prevent air movements. If not, keep an eye on the flames when shooting. Try to capture the flame upright or, if using more than one flame, make sure they are all going the same way. They look more natural that way.

Since candle light is low intensity, make sure you also prevent other sources of movement in the shot. They will inevitably be blurred as the shot will be using a long exposure. This will look like a distraction against still flames.

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Light intensity…

The light from a candle can be made much more intense if you use something to catch the light from the candle. A face, hand or other objects bring alive the picture and complements the candle. The presence of the object acts to reflect the candlelight. Light flesh tones are particularly good in this respect since the flesh colour is tonally close to the candlelight hues and they act as a reflector to bring out the light.

From

From “Candle Series” by Spicedfish
From “Candle Series” by Spicedfish on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Using reflectors in a candle scene is a great way to raise the light intensity. You can find other types of surface than the one in this picture in most scenes. Walls, ceilings and even off-shot reflectors are all good. Be careful to use neutral colours. Colour reflectors will affect the colour of the scene. If you are using a big card out-of-shot make it white. This will reflect the same colour light back into the scene, filling in the light.

Shadows…

The other side of light intensity is the shadows. The darker tones and strong contrasts of candle shots create most of the atmosphere. Spend time studying the shadows created in your scene. Strong contrasts are great subjects. If you create shadows that fall badly across your scene it will impact on the overall effect. The best use of shadows is often to the edges of the shot. If the light fades out to edges this holds the scene into the shot – naturally focusing the eye. Work with shadows to ensure the mood is harmonious.

Additional lights…

If you want to use fill light in the scene try to match the quality of light from your candles. Use soft light sources and natural light with hues matching the candles. Natural light will fill the scene well but tend to neutralise the colour of the candle light. The warm glow of candles is a great mix with evening, low-intensity light.

Some people use light with gels to give a warm glow. Warming gels can also be used with a flash. However, beware the power of flash. The candles will lose their soothing effect if all the shadows are taken away around the base of the candle and harsh shadows are introduced from one side. Typically use a diffused flash on the lowest setting – it also helps to be a distance away from the candles as well.

Multiple candles…

When working with one candle as subject the main focus of the shot is clear. However, there is a lot of scope for creativity. Consider two main issues. How to layout your candles and how to use the overall light with the layout. Using candles for making patterns is great fun and can produce excellent shots.

Patterns with candles

Making patterns with candles
Click to view Google Images “Candle Light” search

Try to keep the scene simple. Overlapping candles or indistinct objects in the pattern are confusing. Work with the sharp contrasts and keep your pattern well defined.

Exposure…

How long should you make your exposure? This depends, like any scene, on your light levels. To get more light in the exposure a long shutter speed is suitable for most candle shots. A range of 1/15 second down to 2 seconds is a good starting range with an ISO of 100. Camera settings vary significantly with reflectors, multiple candles or fill lights. Experiment to get it right. Aim to make the shot moody or atmospheric while providing detail for the eye to look at around the candle flame(s).

The main exposure concern with dark or shadowy shots is digital noise. If ISO is too high you will get more noise. It is better to use a low ISO, say 100 and have longer shutter opening. This reduces noise and means more detail is visible.

Lenses…

A fast lens allows a wider aperture. Faster lenses will allow a quicker exposure than a smaller aperture. Nevertheless, when experimenting check the depth of field. With big candle patterns, or larger subjects, a very wide aperture will give a very shallow depth of field. Too shallow and you will lose a lot of detail. On the other hand, lots of candles in the background with a shallow depth of field will produce pleasing bokeh. For choosing your lens, more than other aspects of your set-up, you need to have a clear vision of what you want your final shot to look like. Then do some “Chimping” to check results.

Prime lenses, especially the 50mm, will give an approximation to the human eyes. To capture the mood of a scene a 50mm will help. A wide angle lens close-up can provide great exaggerations of candle tallness or broadness – depending on lens orientation. There is great scope for artistic interpretation. Also remember that zoom lenses tend to foreshorten, reducing the apparent depth of the shot. With a zoom lens place your candles to give an impression of depth.

White balance…

The warm glow of candles is attractive. If you change the white balance you will change the characteristics of the warm glow. Candlelight shots are about moodiness and atmosphere. It is worth playing with the white balance to influence the shot and increase moodiness, but be careful you don’t remove it. You only need to adjust white balance when shooting in *.jpg as it will be fixed once the shot is taken. If you are shooting in RAW you have more flexibility with settings in post processing to control colours and the final exposure. If you cannot shoot in RAW then, again, make sure you do some “chimping” to get the colours right.

Being safe…

Although fun, candles are naked flames. It is all too easy in low light to leave something close to the candle. Fires start quickly and spread fast too. Feel free to experiment but make sure you don’t accidentally knock over candles, touch wall paper with one or do something else to set off a fire. Never leave candles alight and unattended. Always blow them out and wait for the smoke stop raising before leaving.

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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 photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
See also: Profile on Google+.