Photography Lighting Tips

21 01 2010

How can you take a few photography lighting tips, and change the way you look at images forever?

Wedding Photography
Weddings are by far the most difficult to shoot, and will test your true capabilities as a photographer. In one event, you may have to deal with harsh, bright sunlight streaming onto the wedding party, and trying to capture the bride and groom in a nearly dark reception hall. All with the extremes of a bride in a white gown and a groom in a black tux.

Start by finding the perfect location outside to take advantage of natural light. Whether you are at a church or a reception site, get there a few minutes early and walk around, noticing the direction of sun movement. Find one side with a lot of shade, look for interesting architecture, or a grouping of trees. Remember, you aren’t capturing the entire area in your photographs; you can find great areas that will deliver what you are looking for. Fill in with reflectors and diffusers to soften the light even further.

For your inside images, use a combination of on camera flash and stand alone light sources. Use diffusers to bounce the flash, giving your images a softer look. If the ambiance of the reception site is a dark, romantic look, you don’t want to flood it with harsh, unnatural light. Yet you can set up one or two light sources on the dance floor for all the main action images, and still leave the reception room as the bride and groom intended.

Portrait Photography
Lighting a portrait is similar to wedding photography – without the stress. With portraits, you can choose the time of day for the best lighting. Find different locations that work best at different times of the day. For example, we have several buildings we shoot at regularly because of their architecture. Some are shaded in the morning, some in the evening. This gives us many options, depending on when we head out to photograph.

To enhance a portrait, use reflectors or diffusers to control the direction of natural light, or consider a fill flash either directly from your camera, or using a stand alone source. Be careful when using flash outdoors so you don’t create a flat look. The idea of being outside is to give your images dimension. Soften the light, adding dimension to the face without flattening the people into the background.

Product or Still Life Photography
The wonderful thing about shooting products or still life is you have the time and flexibility to play. Don’t like the results? Set it up and shoot it again.

First, know what your final image will be used for. Should you use clean lighting? Or can you have some fun, creating harsh shadows and unique lines?

Then play with combinations of lighting sources. We’ve always been fans of natural light. We have a large window with a southern exposure that streams light all day long. We can set up a variety of different backgrounds and props, and use reflectors to get just the right look.

By adding strobes and directional lighting, we can add shadows from the side, or behind the object, bringing out entirely different looks. Don’t be afraid to play. With digital, you can shoot an image dozens of times, all while moving lighting sources a fraction each time. It’s one of the best ways to learn how to light.

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21 01 2010
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