Light is the heart of photography. The camera does not see the image. For him, there are no lines, no shapes, no textures. A film or digital sensor is susceptible only to a stream of photons of a greater or lesser intensity projected by the lens on them.
Light is much more important than the subject, because, in essence, we are not able to see the subject as such, but only see the light reflected from it, which allows us to judge the properties of the subject. A novice photographer is looking for a subject for shooting, while an experienced photographer is hunting for light.
The problem is that both good (from a photographic point of view) and bad light are not always obvious to an unprepared eye. Our brain does an incredible job so that we can see the world around us in any light. People are used to this and forget that the camera is designed much more primitive than our vision, and this must be taken into account when planning a future shot.
The color of this photo is boring and cold. Moreover, it can not be revived by a change in white balance or exposure compensation. The blue color of the sky is already not saturated enough, and the warmer white balance will completely discolor it; and no exposure compensation will reduce the harsh contrast between the sky and the edge of the forest.
It was worth returning to the same place in the evening, when the light of a declining sun changed the scene beyond recognition. The foreground became warmer, the forest acquired volume and detail, and the sky showed its gentle azure hue.
As an artist, you should be able to see the light, understand its properties and clearly imagine how this or that lighting affects the appearance of the object. Light is the tool that you must use to capture the viewer’s gaze and direct it according to your plan, rivet it to the picture and not let it go.
Quality and quantity
The quality of light should not be confused with its quantity. There is always little light for a poor photographer, meanwhile, bright midday light is often the most subtle kind of lighting. Not always, but usually. On the contrary, a weak light in its intensity is often the strongest in its expressiveness and its artistic potential. The total amount of light is easy to control by varying the exposure, the quality of the light, which is determined by its direction, concentration and color, requires much closer attention and thoughtful study.
Light defines composition
Properties of light
Light can be either directional or diffused. It depends on the size of the light source and on its distance to the object. I will make a reservation that for the photographer, in principle, it does not matter whether the light from the source is its own light, or whether it is the reflected light of any other source. The sun, moon, sky, snow, white wall, water surface, electronic flash, chrome bumper – these are all sources of light.
The larger the source and the closer it is to the object, the softer the light. The smaller the source and the farther it is, the harsher and sharper the light.
If you shoot a portrait in the studio with a single flash, without reflectors, the light will be extremely harsh: half of the face facing the flash will be dazzlingly bright, the other half will dissolve in the darkness. Put a diffuser on the flash and the light will become soft as you increase the size of the source. Move the stand with the flash and diffuser away from the model and the shadows will become sharper, since increasing the distance to the source, you reduced its relative, angular size.
The sun is huge, but its light is harsh, because the colossal distance that separates us from the sun turns it into a point source of light with an angular diameter of only half a degree.
Direct light is light from a source located approximately in line with the optical axis of the lens, therefore this light is also called axial. The hard direct light used as the main light gives a flat, lifeless image – this is the last kind of lighting that you should use. Such a light is produced by a camera flash directed directly at the face of your victim. Pictures taken in this way are acceptable as reportage or protocol, but their artistic value, as a rule, tends to zero. Nevertheless, direct light can, and sometimes needs to be used for portraits, but you need to do this wisely. Use an external flash, positioning it above your head so that the light falls on the model in front and a little above, and the light flux needs to be softened as much as possible with some modifier – this will allow you to most delicately show the shape of the face, while concealing the texture and minor skin defects. If you move the flash a little to the side, the relief will appear stronger, and asymmetrically placed shadows will add a dynamism shot.
Direct light can sometimes be used with success for shooting landscapes in the morning or in the evening, when the low sun shines from behind you. The picture may turn out to be somewhat flat, but as a compensation you get a very low level of contrast.