how to get the perfect light for your photo shooting
If there’s one thing that can’t be missing when it comes to taking pictures then it’s light. Well, you may think that’s obvious, because you won’t see anything without light. And if you don’t see anything, you can’t take photos. But what I mean is a lot of light. A lot of beautiful light. Ok, he’s going crazy. No, honestly: if you’re able to take photos in the first place depends on if you’ve got enough light. But if you like to take really good and beautiful pictures, then it depends on how beautiful the light is. So, quantity and quality. This post is all about the available light, the daylight. Flash photography and what you have to bare in mind when using flashes will be the topic of another post.
Why do I need a lot of light? (quantity)
Every camera has an image sensor that, depending on the quality and type, needs a specific amount of light to expose pictures correctly. Correctly exposed means that the pictures are neither too dark, nor too light. In the following example you see a correctly exposed Dana in the middle. You can control the amount of light by changing (attention – technical terms) lens opening, shutter speed and ISO speed. I guess you’ve already heard of these thing, right!? You’re not interested in that? You should be, because without knowing you’re not going to take beautiful pictures. But let’s work on that in another „basics“ post. It’s no problem, if you’ve got too much light, because by changing the lens opening or the shutter speed you can easily darken everything (stopped down lens opening and/ or short shutter speed) to only let the needed amount of light hit the image sensor. But if you haven’t got enough light, you need to open the curtain (lens opening) completely and keep it open (shutter speed) until your picture’s got enough light and is exposed correctly. Okay, where’s the problem? Well, if you open the curtain completely it’s almost impossible to photograph a person or any other movable subject, without getting a blurry photo. And when I don’t move? That means, the person in front of the camera isn’t allowed to move as well. Because the longer the curtain is opened, the more impossible it gets to shoot a non-blurred photo. That’s called motion blur. For your camera or let’s say for your image sensor it gets much more earlier too dark, than for your eyes. If you still think everything is pretty light, your image sensor might already be blind on one eye. This holds true for the most interior spaces and can also happen when it’s very cloudy or when the sun is about to go down.
What is beautiful light? (quality)
Light can indeed be very ugly. And unfortunately you’ll see that in the pictures. Because with ugly light, you cannot expose a subject in a beautiful way. Even the light we’re longing for in summer – sunshine – will make your pictures look like unprofessional snapshots. That sounds a little absurd and isn’t that easy to understand, but I’ll try my best. If the sun is shining at midday and there aren’t any clouds, you’ll get very direct and hard light. Hard light makes hard shadows and these shadows are very definite and don’t blur. You can easily experience that from your own shadow. Hard shadows mean you’ll get hard contrasts and these two things in combination won’t look good in your pictures. Especially not when the sun comes from straight above. In the end, you’ll see every pore and you’ll have dark shadows on your face and your outfit. The magic word is: soft light.
What is soft light?
Candy cotton, fluffy, silky, sweet and yummy. Nonsense, what I’m talking about is soft light, or better: diffused light.
Diffuse doesn’t mean anything else than scattered, the opposite from direct (=hard). And where do I find this kind of light? Where you probably don’t expect it: in the shadow.
If the sun shines from straight above, it doesn’t make any sense to take your pictures outside under the open sky. Just search for a leafy bower. That could be a big tree or a side street, where the sun doesn’t hit the ground. If you can’t find anything you like, you need to wait. But hey, the sun is shining, you could have ice cream or go to the lake.
What am I waiting for?
On the one hand we’re waiting for more and bigger shadows, so that you can do the photo shoot in the shadow. By the way, you’ll get the most beautiful pictures right there where shadow and sunshine meet. That’s where you’ll meet the beauty of sun rays, without the ugly part of sunshine. On the other hand you’re waiting for…
Oh no, can you see this huge cloud, the sun will be hidden in a couple of minutes. Great!!! That’s the best thing that can happen to you on a sunny day. Because the sun isn’t gone, but just hiding behind a huge diffuser. A cloud scatters the sunshine in every direction and you get beautiful soft light. Maybe you’ve ever seen a photographer photographing with a so called soft box!? Mostly that’s a black box with a milky area in the front and photographer use this box to flash through it. A cloud has the same effect, but is much more bigger. And bigger automatically means softer. Watch your shadow now. There isn’t any shadow, although it’s light? Great. Perfect pictures are guaranteed.That went great. It’s too bad that the clouds moved away. What are we waiting for now? The „golden hour“! Um, yes, sure… ^^
You’ll get the most beautiful light of the day shortly before sunrise (that’s not my time) and shortly after sundown. Everything appears beautiful in this light. Why? That’s complicated, has something to do with physics and our atmosphere. But who cares, the light is just perfect. And it comes from the right direction: head-on to the subject. So, we have to hurry up a little, because as the name „golden hour“ may tell, we’ve only got one hour with this beautiful light. From one second to another we’re back at the problem with too less light. Time to go home and have a look at all the beautiful pictures you took today. Has been a pretty busy and exciting day, hasn’t it!? :)
What kind of light do you prefer for your pictures? Do you have any questions?