It’s all about exposure
What is photography?
According to Wikipedia;
The word “photography” was created from the Greek roots
φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), “light”
and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”.
The Yin Yang of light and shadow
Now without darkness or shadow, there would be no light.
If you don’t believe me, pick an object in your house on a sunny day. The sun should be shining through the window on it.
Set your camera to take a picture with a shutter speed of over 1 second. Never capture the sun directly with such a setting.
What you will get is white. In order for light itself to become visible, you need the contrast of darkness.
Types of light
The type of light reflecting from an object can be hard (direct) or soft (diffuse).
Hard light gives you hard shadows and soft light creates soft shadows.
The most obvious example of this is sunlight.
If the midday sun is shining directly on the object then you see hard light, which gives you hard shadows.
If it’s a cloudy day or you capture someone standing in the shade of a tree, you have soft light and shadows.
Here are two such examples.
In this image there is a relatively small source of light pointing over my shoulder at the object. Sunlight.
Hard, harsh light and shadows.
This brother of the first bloom was in the shade.
In the second image – even though the source of light is the same – the light is being diffused by the clouds overhead.
The light is coming from everywhere above and around the object.
The reason for all of this is;
the smaller the source, the harder the light will be.
Wait a minute you say, the sun is not small at all.
Granted, in a cosmic sense the sun is huge, however we’re talking about a light source.
So direct sunlight is – relative to the clouds – a small light source.
This principal will become clearer when we get into using flash.
Is there a right way to choose which light to use?
Yes, and it’s a very simple rule to follow; Start by using whatever light is already there.
If you have direct sunlight and capture an image of a person, examine the result. Look at the light and shadows. If you are happy with the image, take another one.
Now, whether you like the image or not, ask the person to move into the shade.
Stop up the exposure setting. Now take a couple more pictures, comparing each to the hard-light pictures you took earlier.
This is especially easy to examine later on PC.
Direction of light
Another consideration concerning light is the direction from which it meets the object.
You can achieve interesting photos by taking any object in direct sunlight and walking around it.
Capture 4 images from all points of the compass.
Best done at home on PC, you can then examine the texture, the light and shadows to see what is more pleasing to you.
Unfortunately, I was only able to get one image to demonstrate.
I’ve had some issues to deal with over the last few weeks.
Still, this one image shows the difference in texture and shadow.
There are two magic times every day to take images outdoors;
- About an hour before sunrise to about an hour after.
- About an hour before sunset to about 90 minutes after.
These are the times of day to capture the special works of art that you sometimes see in magazines or the web where the light is special.
- Images taken in the golden hour around sunrise appear to have a light source with a golden filter applied.
- Images taken in the blue hour around sunset have a wonderful blue toned light.
This has to do with the angle at which sunlight enters the earth’s atmosphere, coming in – as it were – from the horizon to reflect the light to your position.
Time to get out
I hope you enjoy drawing with light and, as always, my call to action for you.
- Go out and find some items that are in direct sunlight, and in shadow. Flower bushes are good to look at for this. Compare the results.
- Find something to walk around and take images from all sides. Sunlight on one side, shade on the other. A tower or small building is good.
- Choose something nearby that you can return to whenever you choose.
Get out once around sunrise and once around sunset.
Capture an image with the midday sun.
Same location but you will get very different images.
Above all else, have fun.