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Manipulating the Light

Manipulating the Light

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Shoot it like you’d paint it 2

Manipulating the light. The classic painters studied the light and often painted their subjects reflecting that knowledge of light. They created a duplication of realistic light fall and that made the world of difference to their works. They moved on from painting everything on what appeared to be a flat even light into developing shape, tone and form by painting with directional light and emphasizing shadow and highlights. Using light to sculpt always makes for more interesting images and so my next advice is to understand that and try to work that way.

This is not always possible but you do have more flexibility than perhaps you think. By this I mean of course using tools and modifiers to create the effect you want with both natural (often called available) and artificial light sources.

For example, if you want to make a portrait like a 17th century painted classic of a lady sat in window light, then sit her in window light. If by candle light, then use candle light. What I’m saying here is use the obvious first, craft your image by sculpting your subject with the light you have available and move the subject. If you cannot move your subject, perhaps we are landscaping again, then it’s a matter of time. Study the light direction and temperature and different times of the day and shoot then. I will often go out and if the light just isn’t right, take few or even no images because if I am just snapping then I am not creating anything other than a flat duplication of what everyone else can see.

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The craft here is about getting exposure right and that’s something coming along later from me, but for now we need to be understanding what we want to achieve visually and what effects that outcome off camera. Here is teh book I used when I started out  understand exposure. Understanding Exposure. Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

 

Then we have artificial lights. Flash (often called speedlights or stobes these days), continuous lights, indoor general lighting etc. These can often be controlled more accurately, especially flash and continuous types purposefully developed for photography. Here we have much more flexibility and can arrange and adjust these light sources to mimic natural sun light or create multi directional sources of varying strength. Whatever way you go, or have to go the same applies, paint the scene with your light and then capture it with your camera.

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The underlying point here is again to take control. Whether you have natural, artificial light or both you need to arrange it to get the best effects possible. Natural looking effects are always safe as the viewer can identify with it, if it looks believable we will appreciate it more.

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