3 Jan 2008

The quality of light - Part 3

Top Photograph: Shooting straight into a light source like this window can create very hard, empty shadows. But here a large white reflector has been place below the camera to the right of the picture. You can see its effect on the brickwork underneath the dusty shelf – there is lovely soft light there bringing out the detail in the wall and brick

You can often create good quality light, even in hard sunlight, by using reflectors to re-direct light into deep shadows. Reflectors are all around you in many everyday situations: white walls, snow, sand, water – your own white shirt. Even the wretched white van, the ruination of so many good photographs, can be used as a reflector if it is behind, or at the side, of the photographer and not in the picture. Expensive, purpose-made reflectors are wonderful, but not essential. I always have at least an A4 sheet of paper in my back pocket for those impromptu portrait shots. Just an ordinary sheet of paper, it weighs nothing, costs nothing and can reflect light back into the shadows under eyes and chin – creating beautiful, high quality light. This piece of paper was used fo the photograph of the sea shells below.

In the demonstration portrait session, Picture 1 shows the set-up using the hard frontlight with the wall behind the subject and the sun behind the camera. The result (2) is unpleasant with hard, empty black shadows in the lady’s eyes and under her nose.

By turning my subject right around, putting the wall behind me and shooting into the light (3) the effects on the model’s portrait is fantastic. Now her face is lit by soft, high quality, reflected light from the wall. Just look how it has lit up her eyes and softened her features (4)

Yes, there are downsides – be wary of flare in the lens when photographing into the light, and don’t use light green or brightly-coloured walls as reflectors – they will give a nasty colour cast. This wall was slightly off-white and has added a natural ‘warm’ effect.


altamiranyc said...

Thank You! I love the 1, 2, 3, 4 step-by-step pictures...I was just thinking if I could only see what your position was, it would verify what I saw in my minds eye. Now I know what to practice on the streets.

Cathy said...

Hi Philip
Your blog is growing and growing with truly wonderful content. Every single technique that you demonstrate and explain inspires me and leads me to rethink how I see potential images all around me. You demystify so much technical stuff that I, and probably many others, often find gets in the way of our simple love of photography. Thank you so much - and see you in Menorca! Cathy.

Philip Dunn said...

That's me Cathy - a simple soul. Truth is, I fail to understand why people get so techy-geeky about photography - to me it's all about capturing interesting images.
You'll love Menorca. I'm certainly looking forward to getting back there.