Photographers wield light like authors wield words to tell stories. Different qualities of light evoke different emotions, and poor lighting can make even the most lovely person in the world look like Quasimodo.
From a photography standpoint, you always want to be thinking about light. It’s comprised of three components — quality, color and direction.
Here are five photography tips to help you make the most of your light.
1. Let there be light!
Your flash is a powerful tool that lets you manipulate light, and with it, you can guide a viewer’s eye, and make them notice what you want them to notice.
But flashes aren’t your only light sources. Windows, lamps, overhead lights, mirrors — heck, even flashlights and the light from the screen on your phone are light sources.
Now, since you can’t always be in the room with someone when they’re looking at one of your pictures, that’s where your ability to manipulate light comes into play in your photography.
One important thing to remember? You don’t always have to point your flash directly at your subject. Light reflects and bounces off surfaces, and you can use that to your advantage. Experiment by taking pictures near windows, lamps, overhead lights, bright walls (keep in mind that walls will throw a colorcast), and combine light sources — literally move them around sometimes — to create different effects.
2. What are soft boxes and umbrellas used for?
Soft boxes — those large, usually black or white rectangular boxes you see mounted on tall poles on film sets and photo shoots — are referred to as light modifiers. They’re often used to diffuse powerful lights, reducing harsh, unflattering shadows, like the kind that the flash on your camera can produce.
Without a light modifier, a flash is like a machine gun of light. Modifiers like umbrellas soften the light as it passes through them. HINT-HINT: bedsheets, curtains and other semi-transparent fabrics you already have around the house do the same thing.
3. Going the distance
Changing the distance between your light sources and your subject can create dramatically different effects. Sometimes, taking one step left or right, or forward or back, can totally change your picture. This is particularly noticeable in direct sunlight on a bright, sunny day. Sometimes all it takes is one or two steps to move your subject into the shadows, where your light is softer and probably much more flattering.