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Lighting notebook: Window light photo shoot

From: Lighting with Flash: Basics

Video: Lighting notebook: Window light photo shoot

All right, let's take a second and go to our lighting diagrams and talk through this first shoot. I know it's very simple, but there are a couple things that are really important to remember from this, and the first is to always, always consider your ambient light as a light source. It's the first light in your bag, and that means to think about it in terms of quantity and of quality. In this little section we're really more concerned with the quality than quantity, because we're not going add any flash to it. So here we are. We've got a photographer and a subject in a room, and what I have done is take the light source as it exists and drop it right behind me.

Lighting notebook: Window light photo shoot

All right, let's take a second and go to our lighting diagrams and talk through this first shoot. I know it's very simple, but there are a couple things that are really important to remember from this, and the first is to always, always consider your ambient light as a light source. It's the first light in your bag, and that means to think about it in terms of quantity and of quality. In this little section we're really more concerned with the quality than quantity, because we're not going add any flash to it. So here we are. We've got a photographer and a subject in a room, and what I have done is take the light source as it exists and drop it right behind me.

There is that open shade window. It's going to be nice, gorgeous soft light, and I'm using it sort of as an on-axis big soft box. It really doesn't matter what's behind Ramona in this instance, because I'm going to take a moveable backdrop--in this case white--and we're going to drop it right in behind her, so that negates whatever backdrop exists in the room already and allows us to put that light where we want to put it, which is right on axis. So that's going to give us nice flattering full light on her face. So let's take a look at one of the pictures from there. So here we are with the color picture.

This is basically a driver's license picture that has a little quality edge to it. It's a can't-miss light source, and in many instances it's going to be available to you if you're shooting in daylight. So if you only have one flash with you, you can always grab this as your only light source obviously, or as a light source that you can add flash to. This light is really flattering. It's going to fit well with a lot of people. It reaches under wrinkles if Ramona had them, but she doesn't obviously. This also looks good in black and white. This has a neat little glamorous edge to it, and it's an easy light source that you can pretty much co-opt anytime you are shooting indoors.

So let's go back to our diagram. We're going to take that same open shade window now and we're going to rotate our shooting position 45 degrees, so now the window coming in at a typical 45 degrees up, 45 degrees over, kind of a portrait light source. So as we look at that, we'll drop in a background behind Ramona again, and in this case it's a gray backdrop. And this will give us the ability to put the light source wherever we want, because we don't have to worry about what exists behind her as we change our shooting angle. Now if we take a look at this picture, you can see that the light is different, and it looks very different than when the light is coming from directly behind the camera.

This has much more of directional look. It's still very soft, but this gives different shape to her face, and what we're really doing here is considering our ambient light as our first light source and really considering the quality of it and not just the quantity of it. So going back to the diagram, the last thing I would leave you with here is to remember that your ambient light, number one is your first light source in the bag, and before you even think about the quantity of the ambient light--you know grabbing any exposure or whatever-- look at the quality of the ambient light. See how you can co-opt it either as an individual light source, which may be all you need, or something that you can add flash to extend the number of lights you have in your bag by adding this one virtual light which already exists.

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Lighting with Flash: Basics

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David Hobby
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