Learn to use nat­u­ral and flash light to best ef­fect for su­pe­rior de­tail and colour

Digital Photograper - - Techniques -

Light­ing is the el­e­ment of the en­vi­ron­ment that gives a sub­ject shape and depth. In most con­di­tions, the pho­tog­ra­pher has am­bi­ent light to work with and must de­cide if the ad­di­tion of ex­tra ar­ti­fi­cial light­ing is nec­es­sary, to con­trol shadow den­sity and en­hance con­trast. In stu­dio en­vi­ron­ments, the bal­ance of light­ing is tipped to­wards ar­ti­fi­cial sources, mean­ing ex­tra pre­ci­sion is re­quired when set­ting up stu­dio strobes or off-cam­era speed­lights, with a view to yield­ing a pleas­ing dis­tri­bu­tion of high­lights and shad­ows. For cre­ative pur­poses, we can ex­per­i­ment with the way we use nat­u­ral and ar­ti­fi­cial light in tan­dem, by al­ter­ing how much each one con­trib­utes to the to­tal light­ing in the frame, for a vari­able rel­a­tive bal­ance.

The first step in any cre­ative light­ing work­flow is to as­sess the am­bi­ent il­lu­mi­na­tion and choose how we would like this to ap­pear within the fi­nal im­age. Nat­u­ral light is it­self var­ied, con­sist­ing of di­rect, hard-edged sun­light and dif­fused win­dow light, so how we choose to use this is the first cre­ative op­por­tu­nity. Con­sider dif­fu­sion meth­ods, to al­ter the den­sity and struc­ture of shadow ar­eas. A sim­ple hand­held dif­fuser, or even a shower cur­tain placed at a win­dow, will spread the light for a more stu­dio-style look that is flat­ter­ing for por­traits, while us­ing un­dif­fused sun­light pro­vides high-con­trast land­scapes.

Next we can look at adding ar­ti­fi­cial sources, for more cus­tomis­able light­ing. In­tro­duc­ing off-cam­era flashes al­lows more con­trol over light di­rec­tion, so try mul­ti­ple speed­light po­si­tions to see how this mod­i­fies the ap­pear­ance of your sub­ject. Fi­nally ad­just the ra­tio of each light source – ei­ther choose to utilise flash as a fill light, thereby al­low­ing am­bi­ent light to dom­i­nate, or over­power the lat­ter for greater con­trast and drama. By in­creas­ing or de­creas­ing the shut­ter speed, the bright­ness of the back­ground can be con­trolled rel­a­tive to the flash-lit sub­ject, by ad­just­ing how much am­bi­ent light reaches the sen­sor. This al­lows the pho­tog­ra­pher to finely con­trol how the two types of light blend.

There are nu­mer­ous ways in which light­ing can be var­ied: ad­just­ing the over­all amount of light in­flu­ences the im­age-wide tone and at­mos­phere; light di­rec­tion af­fects how much of the sub­ject is vis­i­ble; and the ap­par­ent in­tended fo­cal point and colour of light in­fers tem­per­a­ture, for nar­ra­tive func­tions. These pa­ram­e­ters can be used to ei­ther en­hance nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring con­di­tions, or to sim­u­late a light­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic in an­other set­ting, for greater con­trol and added in­ter­est. With any light­ing style it is vi­tal to re­mem­ber that where light

doesn’t fall is as im­por­tant as where it does, so con­sider tak­ing light away as much as you do adding new sources.

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