When I entitled this post, I was thinking about the Jamaican Dance Hall Artist, Sean Paul and his single, Gimme the Light. If you’re not familiar and want to be, you can check it out here. Anyway, every week I wonder, hmmmmm…what will I write about? Light! Light is the basis of photography. You can’t have photography without light. Light is a major part of photography, along with learning how to find it, shape it and use it appropriately to bring your vision to fruition. One of my issues, in the beginning, was being able to find the light. Finding the light is only an issue when using natural or incident light. So, whenever I was on location, I had to look for the light. Not only is the quantity of light important, but so is the quality of light.
For instance, depending on the image you are trying to create, you may need a lot of light or just a little bit of light. Here is an image where I needed a lot of light. This was a 1-year-old, toddler portrait session and he was very mobile. I needed a lot of light so that I could have a high shutter speed to capture his movements. And believe me, he hardly ever stopped moving.
In this portrait, I didn’t want a lot of light. I wanted very dramatic lighting. The light itself was bright but it was sparse. I just placed my subject where I would be able to get just a sliver of light on her. One thing to remember is, that along with getting the desired quantity and quality of light, you also have to make sure it is directionally desirable, as well. Just because the light has a great quality to it and the quantity is what you’re looking for doesn’t mean that it’s coming in at the angle that would best light your subject.
You might wonder what I mean by “quality” of light. Well, not all light is created equal. Let’s take fluorescent light. That has got to be some of the worst light there is. You can make it work for you but in general, it’s no bueno. For one, if you photograph in color, you will need to adjust for the color temperature because if you don’t, your images will have a green color cast to them. Two, it’s harsh and overhead. If overhead light is not diffused, then more than likely, you will create shadows under the eyes, which we fondly call, raccoon eyes. By the way, that can happen in noonday sunlight as well. Some of the most beautiful light is on overcast days. The clouds act like a giant softbox, diffusing the light and making it soft. Here’s an example of an image taken on an overcast day. I captured this image before we had her session in my garage, which by the way, has beautiful light. As you can see, there are no harsh shadows on their faces or on the ground for that matter. It’s just a soft, even light with no hotspots either. A few months ago, I wrote a blog about the various types of shade that can produce beautiful light and used my garage as an example of covered shade. If you would like to read about that, you can click here.
For the most part, I am a studio photographer. The only thing is that my clients’ homes become my studio. I bring everything that I need, including a light. Sometimes when I get there, I find that they have the most beautiful natural light streaming through their windows. When that happens, I usually don’t set up my light. I just use what’s available. Below is an example of an image created with natural, window light.
Ok, now I’ll show you an image that I created with a studio strobe.
Finding the light is the goal of every photographer. Being able to find it and see it is an entire journey in itself but it’s a worthwhile journey.