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Thread: Identifying the "Right Light" in Photography

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    Adrian's Avatar
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    Identifying the "Right Light" in Photography

    One of the things that differentiate me from people who take really good photographs, is that they recognize good light when they see it.

    I have numerous photos that would be so much improved if only I had paid more attention to this.

    I wonder if anyone is aware of a resource anywhere that provides some good pointers as to what to look for. (I realise that early morning and end of the day are good).

    Often I find that I only really notice lighting defects (such as undesirable shadows or poor exposure) when I download the images onto my computer screen. I would value some tips that teach me what to look for prior to clicking the shutter!

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Hey there,

    I find all lights to be workable.

    The most bothersome light for me is the harsh sunlight.

    When it's took dark, it's an opportunity to try out low light technique. Indoors/ action I typically use an external flash. Sometimes a combination of higher ISO with a large aperture if gear/ conditions allow.

    I find overcast days great for walking and shooting around.

    Post some specific pictures / scenarios if you can. I also find shooting RAW and adjusting white balance helps a lot in many situations.

    Elie

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Perhaps a favorite Ansel Adams quote is appropriate:

    "There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs."

    More specifically, the commonly held conception of the "right light" is taking photographs during The Golden Hour: the hour or so after sunrise and before sunset. This is when you get the richest colors, long shadows and deep contrast, without being too harsh. However, I think that photography during twilight is highly underrated...
    Last edited by McQ; 26th February 2009 at 03:56 PM.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    It is interesting how many good photographers are familiar with Ansel Adams.

    Interestingly enough, there is disagreement in my household about what constitutes a good picture. Some of the ones that I am dissatisfied with (often portraits of my partner) - are regarded by her as the best shots. What for me are intrusive shadows, she sees as an unavoidable feature related specifically to the circumstances of the shot - and hence part of the story.

    I am not a completely inexperienced photographer. We have taken many shots with a film SLR (latterly an EOS 1V that was, in truth, a bit too much for me) but having taken the step into digital photography I find myself struggling to relate the camera image to the somewhat different image that appears on the monitor.

    The (iMac) monitor is calibrated incidentally. Perhaps I simply need to play with the camera settings for sharpness, colour saturation and so on until I find an image quality that suits me. Possibly the transition from full to cropped frame also has a small impact.

    A
    Last edited by McQ; 11th January 2009 at 01:59 AM.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Hi Adrian,

    I agree with Elie and Sean.
    I think there is not a "Right light" as there is not a "Wrong light". Different types of lights are fine for different types of photographs. There are some many rules that wish to teach us what are the "right lights". An example is the classical rule the tells to avoid midday light for portraits and prefer the late afternoon light.
    I think that it is important to understand how the light influence photographs and then it's up to us to use it to obtain the result we wish.
    One way to learn how to use the light is to look at the photographs of the great photographers we like and ask ourselves why did he choose that light ? How would that photograph appear if he used a different light ?

    Rules are here only to be broken .... at least in photography

    Ciao,

    Fabrizio

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    I certainly agree with Manis who agrees with Elie and Sean.......

    Especially that rules need sometimes to be broken.....

    While I consider lighting...I find that often I am working around the lighting especially in candid shots......Unfortunately in a few cases the work around occurs in the post processing which in digital is easier and sometimes effective.....

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    I found this book very helpful in understanding lighting when using strobes.
    It should also help if your are using natural light.

    Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers:

    http://www.amazon.com/Master-Lightin...956942-0019625

    For me I started out with one light and tried to figure out kind of images I could get.
    From there I introduced a reflector.
    After that I started using two lights then three and so on.

    Using a light meter will help you keep the ratios in line.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    I would also check out:

    Understanding Exposure:

    http://www.amazon.com/Understanding-...629969-8111633

    Find yourself a muse and schedule some shooting time with them.
    The biggest thing that help me was to know what I wanted the outcome to be.
    I flipped through Vogue and picked out a couple of shots then tried to recreate the light.
    It gave the practice more meaning because I learned when I got the shot right and how to recreate it.

    You can do it!

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    The industry standard book for learning lighting - bar none - is "Light: Science and Magic" ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Light-Science-...1663345&sr=8-1

    Dawn and Dusk are called the "golden hours" for shooting because of the saturation and softness of the light - but it's not very suitable for portrature as you get extreme colour temperatures resulting in strong colour casts that are difficult to correct.

    Cheers,

    Colin - flickr.com/photos/colinsouthern

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Quote Originally Posted by xeliex View Post
    I also find shooting RAW and adjusting white balance helps a lot in many situations.

    Elie
    I second that! Incidentally I also notice a huge difference in the light (and breathing the air for that matter) between seaside visits and back 100 miles inland. Inland the air never seems to be properly scrubbed and it accentuates the division between the warm early/late light and often very blue/grey mid-day when you have to work harder to squeeze some life in.

    See also the Lakeland worked example in my Nikon Capture NX2 gallery (even if not a Nikon user)
    www.pbase.com/crisscross/nx2

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
    One of the things that differentiate me from people who take really good photographs, is that they recognize good light when they see it.

    .....I wonder if anyone is aware of a resource anywhere that provides some good pointers as to what to look for.

    In my limited experience, the most valuable piece of equipment I have purchased in this regard, is a really good alarm clock.

    Being the guy {or gal} who drags out of bed to catch the light is probably 90% of the battle.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Quote Originally Posted by Bm7b5 View Post
    In my limited experience, the most valuable piece of equipment I have purchased in this regard, is a really good alarm clock.

    Being the guy {or gal} who drags out of bed to catch the light is probably 90% of the battle.
    So true, darn it (especially in summer time)

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Hi Adrian,

    This idea is somewhat dependent upon camera features and is in some cases just impractical due to time or subject constraints, but I find it helps to review the image on the LCD with all the data, histograms, etc. turned off - save perhaps for the rule of thirds grid lines.

    Now you can imagine it is your PC screen, and critically review the entire frame area (right to the edges and into corners) for things like unhelpful picture content (including shadows) and assess composition better. Think 2D image, not the 3D world, in the latter, the brain ignores small stuff not part of the subject, but sat at your computer, you only have the 2D image and that's when all the things you didn't notice jump out at you.

    Ideally this should be done before you take the picture, but for some cameras, it may only be possible after, although that takes even more time.

    Sometimes you just have to take the shot with something in there you don't want, but with the fore-knowledge that you'll clone it out in PP, you can compose for better chance of success at that too.

    This doesn't detract from the reading recommendations above, go for those too, they will increase your chances of success.

    Now, if only I did that every time!

    Anyway, I hope that helps,
    Last edited by Dave Humphries; 22nd February 2009 at 08:30 AM. Reason: added PP comment

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Quote Originally Posted by MoJo40 Design View Post

    For me I started out with one light and tried to figure out kind of images I could get.
    From there I introduced a reflector.
    After that I started using two lights then three and so on.

    Using a light meter will help you keep the ratios in line.

    I flipped through Vogue and picked out a couple of shots then tried to recreate the light.
    It gave the practice more meaning because I learned when I got the shot right and how to recreate it.
    Some really good points there Mojo.

    The sun is our main source of natural light.
    The clouds can act a diffuser to soften the light which is flattering for portraits. Overcast wedding days can be a godsend especially for wrinklier folk
    Other objects can act as refractors / reflectors / mirrors etc. such as the atmosphere, snow, water, buildings... to affect colour / shadows / contrast.

    I use an incident light meter (where poss) to ensure that the camera gets the right amount of light, which in turn controls highlight and shadow detail.

    Recreating a lighting state which you like will help you understand it.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
    Often I find that I only really notice lighting defects (such as undesirable shadows or poor exposure) when I download the images onto my computer screen.
    Keep practicing. At some point you will have seen enough of your own "defects", and the problem will stick in your mind, and you will remember to look for it, consider it, and solve it. Eventually dealing with those particular defects just becomes almost unconscious. Then you will notice new defects, and can start working on them. I found disgust with my own awful photographs to be a great motivator. The road to perfection is long; just keep walking.

    Early in my obsession with photography I came upon this quote.

    "I am always mentally photographing everything as practice." - Minor White

    I began pretending I was carrying a virtual camera as I went about my daily activities. I found that without the camera actually in my hand the compulsion to pound the shutter button gave way to really considering the scene, the lighting, the perspective, etc.... I'd look for problems, and imagine how I might solve them. It was an easy and fun mental exercise, and I think it really helped me learn to think before I shot and have more discipline when I was really carrying the gear.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    A simple tip that was given to me many years ago (more that I care to remember) regarding "seeing a shot". The tip mainly related to a 50mm lens but is very useful as I will explain later.

    Take an old fashioned matchbox and push the innards out of it, look through it and what you see approximates what you would see through a 50mm lens on a full frame camera.

    Now where this also comes in handy is "seeing the light" and contrast. When you look at a scene your brain is trying to cope with a large amount of information from a big area. If you look through the matchbox at the potential problem areas, you isolate a small section and so you can concentrate on the information you are looking for.

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    Re: The "Right Light"

    If you really want to learn to see enroll in Drawing 101 and Basic Design at your local college. Don't worry if you can't draw, or don't even want to learn. These classes are about learning to see what's really there (you didn't realize you mind and eyes are constantly playing tricks on you?), and learning how the 3D world translates into 2D. They'll cover composition, perspective, color, contrast, some lighting, optical illusions, etc... All of it except the pencil itself is very useful in creating photographs. In my opinion these classes taught me more useful things about creating good photographs than all of the actual photography classes I took in college combined.

  18. #18
    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: The "Right Light"

    I'd second Matt's idea, because thinking about it, I benefited similarly from doing both Art and Technical Drawing before I left school, which covered most of those things. I hadn't even realised the head start it must give me, I just know I don't struggle as much as some - mind you, I'm not sure I should be the judge.

    Cheers,

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