Monday, November 22, 2010
Breaking Bad Lighting Habits—11/22/10
Challenge yourself to create better pictures with these five questions
1. Is natural light enough, or should I add illumination? Many times, we approach lighting a scene out of habit. If we’re in the habit of adding flash, we add flash. If we’re in the habit of working with the natural light, we live with the natural light whether or not it’s the best solution for the scene at hand. So the next time you’re ready to shoot, ask yourself: Is the natural light enough? If it isn’t, add a flash. And if it's great as is, remove any excess lights to make the most of great ambience.
2. Is my flash off the camera or just stuck comfortably on the hot-shoe? It’s awfully easy to plunk an external flash on your camera and call it a day. But on-camera flash is rarely the ideal way to use an external flash. At the very least, connect the camera to a cable and hold it out at arm’s length. With a little more planning, you can place your light on a stand farther from the camera. Any amount of off-axis lighting will be more flattering for most scenes, adding texture, dimension and the illusion of depth.
4. Could I do this with fewer lights, or have I overdone it? If you’re lighting a scene and you’ve pulled out every light and modifier you can think of, ask yourself: Can I really justify all of those lights? Many photographers believe that to create interesting photographs, they need to use a lot of lights. But great photographers have proven time and again how less is so often more. After all, there’s only one sun and it makes marvelous light!
5. Does my light create the right mood or does it just deliver a usable exposure? No matter what story you’re trying to tell with your photo, make sure you’re not settling for a lighting style that you’re comfortable with in lieu of the style that serves the subject best. Creating the right mood requires the appropriate lighting style—be it soft light, specular light, warm tones or cool, all of these things directly impact the mood of a scene. For drama, try hard lights from extreme angles. For a soft, relaxing mood, the kind you might try with a baby photo or feminine portrait, try omnidirectional soft light to set the mood. Ultimately the right light should flatter the subject—unless the appropriate mood requires that the light look awful, in which case make sure it looks awful in exactly the right way.