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.
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