Up and Running with Lighting: Natural Light
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Up and Running with Lighting: Natural Light

with Erin Manning

Video: Working with the light and diffusion

Alright. So we're going to take some great shots. Oh, this is a pretty area. What do you think? Really nice. Light comes from many sources and directions with varying degrees of intensity. That's why it's important to understand how to identify the light so you can begin to modify it to your liking. Reflecting and diffusing the light creates so many more possibilities for capturing a beautiful image. Because, you're in control. When photographing a subject outdoors, harsh overhead sunlight can result in dark, unflattering shadows on a face.

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Watch the Online Video Course Up and Running with Lighting: Natural Light
41m 2s Beginner Jun 12, 2013

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In this course, photographer and educator Erin Manning shows beginning photographers how to appreciate and work with natural light. First Erin takes a look at the qualities of light, from softness to direction to color, and details the camera settings that help you get the most out of the scene's available light. Then Erin works together with a student to shoot a natural-light portrait, employing inexpensive accessories such as reflectors along the way.

Topics include:
  • Learning to identify the quality of light
  • Avoiding color casts
  • Setting exposure, white balance, and ISO
  • Finding good natural light
  • Reflecting and diffusing light
  • Understanding lighting ratios
Subject:
Photography
Author:
Erin Manning

Working with the light and diffusion

Alright. So we're going to take some great shots. Oh, this is a pretty area. What do you think? Really nice. Light comes from many sources and directions with varying degrees of intensity. That's why it's important to understand how to identify the light so you can begin to modify it to your liking. Reflecting and diffusing the light creates so many more possibilities for capturing a beautiful image. Because, you're in control. When photographing a subject outdoors, harsh overhead sunlight can result in dark, unflattering shadows on a face.

You can diffuse and soften this harsh light by holding something translucent and white between the sun and your subject. Sheer white fabric, a translucent white umbrella, or a professional diffuser works well to soften this harsh light. I like to use a collapsible circular diffusion disk. And you can find them at most professional photography stores and online. The goal is to diffuse the light falling upon your subject creating soft even illumination. When we arrived on location to shoot photos of Josh during the mid day sun I soon realized the bright ocean would be too distracting for a successful portrait.

So we opted using the surrounding greenery as a back drop. Alright Josh you're going to back up just a little bit and just walk towards me slowly so I can get kind of an action shot going on here. Nice. A little too much contrast though, so let's see. Lauren, could you come in and do some, work some diffusion magic on the bright sun on his face? Thank you. Oh, that's looking nicer. It's difficult to shoot and hold a diffuser at the same time. I often use a stand and extension arm to hold the diffusion disc.

But if you're on the go, it helps to have a friend or two along to help. In this instance, I asked my friend Lauren to hold the diffuser between Josh and the bright sun. It really helped to soften the shadows. I like to experiment and sometimes use a one stop diffusion panel when the sun's not that strong. Or, switch to the two stop panel which offers greater diffusion. You can see how the diffusion disk really softens the harsh light, rendering a nice, even glow upon Josh. The next time you need to shoot images in midday sun, bring along a diffuser to help control the light.

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