Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Right Light For Photography

The most common complaint for photographers is that the light is just never "right". Photography is nothing more than capturing light, so "the right light" is really important. Many times the complaint is valid. If you would like to increase your chances for great photographs, don't wait for "the right light", shoot whatever subject is right for the light that you have.

As amateurs, we're not bound to a customer who wants a specific shot. It's ok to spend time looking for other subjects when our goal photo is just not attainable. Here are some general guidelines for what to shoot in what light. As amateurs, there's no real benefit to staying with one style of photography, so adding more to what you shoot to suit change light removes those limits.

The Golden Hours

Added note - sunsets are better with something of interest in them. 

The "golden hours" are the hour before and after a sunrise or sunset. the angle of light at these hours is always the most warm and dramatic. If you want more interesting photos, don't shoot sunrises and sunsets, shoot the landscapes that are illuminated by them. 

For great landscape photography, the golden hours are a must because this is when the best photos are taken. If you're going to take great landscapes, you need to work in these hours. That means rising early and missing supper in most cases. It's kind of been a turn-off for landscape photography for me during times when I'm just plain lazy. 

For me, limiting my photography to only the 4 golden hours everyday, just isn't practicle.

Cloudy Days

Cloudy days make bring out colors and detail due to lack of shadows.

I live in Ohio and there are so many cloudy that waiting on "the right light" is common for landscape photography. One solution is to take the photo anyhow, dramatize the clouds if possible, and convert to black and white. It can have a nice look, but it's obvious that you're making up for the lack of "the right light". 

A better solution is to switch to macro photography or to photography that will not include the sky. Clouds diffuse light and that allows for richer colors and reduced contrast. Flowers and anything with color have an entirely different look than they would on a sunny day. 

But what if it's windy and the low light makes fast shutter speeds impossible. Flowers and other small objects will blur due to the movement of the wind. Portraits are a good option. So are other still life images that benefit from color saturation and low contrast. Outdoor markets and festivals come to mind for a good source of images on a cloudy day. 

Don't forget to switch your white balance to the cloudy day setting. It will give a warming effect to your photos.

Direct Light

Direct sunlight adds to interesting architecture like this office shaped like basket.

Direct sun is great for anything that requires fast shutter speeds. Sporting events are the first things that come to mind. Street photography is another option. 

Direct light brings out the texture of objects. If the direct light is low, it elongates shadows giving an interesting effect to any architecture or object. 

Direct light gives a dramatic look to photos with the harsh glow it produces. People's eyes tend to squint giving their photos a sense of intensity.

Night Photography

Night photography is tricky, but worth the effort. Everything changes at night.

Night photography is a light situation that forces a photographer into bend to the light's will. There is less off it, so subjects are more limited or you need to illuminate it with your own lighting. 

It's easy to get carried away with gear acquisition with night photography. As much as I dislike carrying tripods, they are the most important piece of gear for the night. Inexpensive cameras with slow lenses can do very well if the camera is stable. If you lack a tripod, just look for highly illuminated subjects like signs and lit streets. 

Always Be Shooting

I think I've covered most lighting situations that can be encountered and they encompass all 24 hours of the day. The light may not be right for what you initially intend to photograph, but it's always right for something else. It's just a matter of knowing what to look for. 

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