Category Archives: Photography Books

Week 4 Taking Better Pictures – Light

Shot using a giant window light with a reflector copyright Carla Coulson

To all of you who have been along for the ride in my little ‘smirkshop’ a big thank-you. This is the last week of Taking Better Pictures and my favourite subject, light.

Photography is truly about mastering, understanding, feeling light and if you can do that you are well on the way to making beautiful pictures.

I am light obsessed, I watch light wherever I am, always looking at it’s nuances, what if I move my subject a little bit to the left, or a little to the right? What happens to the light on my subject.

There are many different kinds of natural light and they all have their own unique properties. The softest light is in the morning or the afternoon if you want to use direct light on your subject and it has wonderful long shadows. Open shade gives a nice even effect, mixed light is a mixture of different types of light (could be shade and direct sun) and can be hard to manage, backlight makes for great pictures and wonderful halo’s around your subject. And of course window light, my favourite.

Morning light Noto Sicily Copyright Carla Coulson

Window light is like a soft box, it creates nice even tones or can be drammatic depending on how you use it. Light can be changed by diffusing and reflecting so you can add or subtract light depending on what you need.

Window light with direct sun hitting subject and black backdrop

Fashion pic shot using large window as only light source copyright Carla Coulson

Open Shade Copyright Carla Coulson

Here are some tips to understanding and playing with light:

1. When placing your subject look closely where the light is falling, are there any shadows, is the light flat, too strong or even?

2. Before shooting try moving them slightly to see what changes. Is the light better or worse?

3. Watch areas around where you live or work to see what happens to the light at a particular time of day, note the time when it is spectacular.

4. Always move your subject even if you are happy with your shot, change light, create variety.

5. Don’t be afraid to play, ask someone to be your model and shoot them in as many different lighting situations as possible and get a feel for what lighting situations you like.

6. Watch the light no matter where you are, see what causes the light to be better in some places than others? Reflections, light bouncing off white walls etc.

7. Have fun!!

Some great books for beginners in photography:

Understanding Exposure

Better Photos Basic

The Photographers Eye

Light the Way

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