Photo Exercise

Photo Exercise

Exercise 1

Here’s what you do; go into a field in the early morning, just after the sun clears the horizon. With the sun directly in front of you, get down low to the ground and scout around until you find a nicely shaped spider web.

Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Photo Exercise

Beautiful isn’t it? Now, as long as you’re there anyway, take a few shots for your collection. Get down low and fill the frame with the web. Don’t forget to pre-visualise and write everything in your notebook. Once you are done with that – make a mental note of exactly where the spider web is and go around to the other side of it. Now, with the sun at your back, what do you see? Is it as beautiful? Can you see it as well? Can you see it at all?

Hopefully, it will have some dewdrops on it. If not, bring a spray bottle of water with you and give it a gentle spritz.  By the way, spritzing “dewdrops” onto flowers and spider webs is an old professional trick. It makes them look so much better that few pros would go into the field without a spray bottle! Want bigger drops? Add some glycerin to the water.

The dew drops or the spritz of water should help you see the filaments of the web.

Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Photo Exercise

This is not just an exercise of hard light versus soft light. You are now learning a bit about the angle of light. When you put the finished photos side by side in your notebook, which one do you like best? Why? This exercise should help you to remember to always turn around and check the scene behind you when you are doing a photo session. By that I mean, the scene in front of you may be beautiful, but the scene behind you could be even better. The angle of the light can make a big difference.

Hmmm… I got a little off topic there, talking about light angle rather than talking about the light being hard. Let’s get back to hard light and talk about how to modify it.

Exercise 2

Go back and look at each of the ways we shape and control our hard light source, then try to figure out a way to manipulate the sun and your on camera flash using these techniques.

Can you make a snoot for your flash? How about a cookie?

Find ways to use flags to control the light hitting your scene.

Stop by a local camera store and ask them if they will show you a flag, a cookie, a snoot.

Just because these modifiers are generally used on studio lights, doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to get the same look. Try making a snoot out of paper and tape it to your light.

Next time, we’ll go into soft light, you’re going to like this one!

Light Angles Matter

Light Angles Matter

Light angles can make a big difference to your photography. Using a side glancing light to accent an item with shadows can soften and balance out your image. Hard light is great for that.

Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles MatterWhat about the face of a young girl wanting to be a model? How would you light her face? A glancing, hard light is going to show every blemish and line in her face. Do you think that she would want that type of photograph in her portfolio? Probably not! By the way, she doesn’t have to be a model. Any woman is not going to like a photo that shows all her acne scars, and other bumps and bulges in her face. Boys and men generally care less than women, but they won’t like seeing every mark and blemish either.

Many model photographers use a hard light source – an on camera flash – but they use a “ring flash” to fill in all the wrinkles and shadows from blemishes.

Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles Matter

Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles Matter

There are several drawbacks to using a ring flash. First, there are problems from red eye. Second, it creates really odd looking round catch lights in the eyes. And third, since it eliminates shadows, you end up with a flat, 2D image. I recommend against using a ring flash for portrait work. If you need or want a hard light source, use one but put it at an angle to your subject. Then fill in the shadows as needed.

Want to see masterful usage of angles with a hard light source? Pick up any bodybuilding magazine. They use a hard light source glancing across the body to define and visually enhance the muscles.




Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles Matter


Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles Matter

Consider the angle of your light. A hard light that is off to the side and glancing across the face (or body) will show every muscle, scar, pit and bulge. But move that same light so that it is shining directly into the model – from the camera viewpoint – and you fill in all those facial anomalies, totally erase all their muscles and give your model smoother skin. Sometimes – a pretty girl for example, shining the light directly into the face is a good thing (but try to avoid using a ring light).

The trade off is that you flatten the face and body, and lose most of the 3D effect you get from shadows. The shadow that defines shape is called “modeling”. Sometimes like with a body builder – shining the light directly into the subject will ruin the portrait.

Every photographic situation has trade-offs. It’s how you deal with them that will define your photographic vision or eye. Stepping away from taking photos of people for a second, here’s another example of how the angle of the light can change everything. Suppose you want to shoot a photo of a spider’s web.

Shooting spider webs can be done with hard light or soft light, but in my experience hard light makes a more dramatic shot. With the hard light of the sun, it is easy to see the thin filaments of the web as well as the glistening dewdrops in the early morning; assuming of course that the angle is right.

If the sun is behind the web (shining towards you), the spider webs seem to pop up everywhere. But if you are looking for them with the sun at your back, you could spend all day searching and never find one!

There is a spider web in the below photo on the left. The below photo on the right is much less obvious as the light is at our back.


Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles Matter


Dark Photography - Starry Night and Aurora Photography - Light Angles Matter

 

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