Light is everything in photography. The job of a photographer is to capture light into an still image. As photographers all the time we spend fiddling with white balance, thinking about exposure, tone, contrast is basically all about trying to best capture the light we see that reflects back off our subject.
Looking back over a couple of recent photographs it is immediately apparent that the reason they work as photographs is because the lighting conditions are just right.
Product Photography Lighting
With product photography (indoor studio product photography) the aim of the game is to create your own light. In the studio you have full control to light the subject exactly how you want it in order to get the best shot. This doesn’t mean that you need huge expensive lighting to make great product shots.
To prove the point this watch photograph was shot using less than $100 worth of lighting kit. In order to get full control over the lighting I switched off all of the lights in the room. It was already dark outside but i also drew all of the curtains in order to prevent any street light creeping into the shot.
The watch was simply placed on the granite counter top in my kitchen. I shot a Vivitar 285 flash on 1/8th power through a cheap shoot through umbrella positioned above and to the right of the frame. To the left of the frame I had the oven’s extractor fan light switched on which provided some rim light from the left of the frame.
I think the lesson to be learned form a shot like this is that expensive lighting isn’t required to get a good shot. By using what you have at hand (oven extractor light, kitchen worktop etc) and taking full control of the light you can produce great photographs.
If you want to learn learn more about using cheap flash guns like the Vivitar 285 to get expensive lighting results be sure to head over to the home of cheap lighting, David Hobby’s blog strobist.
At the opposite end of the scale to studio lighting is natural light. The shot below was taken in a 15th floor hotel room. The early morning light was flooding in through the floor to ceiling windows. As a result there was little for me to think about. All i did was ask the model turn slightly to the left so that their wasn’t too much shadow on the right hand side of her face.
Many portrait photographers use reflectors to bounce light onto the subjects face from either the opposite side of the main light source (in this case the left side of the frame) or under the subjects chin, in both cases to prevent excessive shadows. With this shot there was no need as the model was leaning over a white table.
If you’ve read any photography books you’ll have heard all about the golden hours at sunrise/sundown when the sun is low in the sky and produces a nice warm light.
With the shot above I just got plain lucky. I make a habit of taking my camera with me everywhere. I was walking to work one morning during the winter when i was struck by how beautiful the park looked with the mist hugging the frosty ground. The timing of my walk was perfect because at that moment the sun began to rise above a cloud casting the most amazing orange glow on the park.
I stopped in my tracks and scrambled to get my camera out before the sun rose above the passing cloud. As i was getting my camera out i looked around for somewhere to get a decent composition. As I moved past a couple of trees to get a nicely framed shot I noticed the jogger approaching, perfect for adding another point of interest for the shot. As I rose the camera to my eye everything came together perfectly (the amount of light peeking over the cloud, the composition and of couple the joggers position in the frame).
Like I said above sometimes you need to get lucky with light. Take this same shot in midday light and it would be headed straight for the recycle bin.