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Shooting when the light is flat

From: The Practicing Photographer

Video: Shooting when the light is flat

As photographers we're always on the lookout for good light. I may have waited just a little bit too One thing that I think is cool about this is the lake And I can get just a really true representation

Shooting when the light is flat

As photographers we're always on the lookout for good light. And we usually define good light as being the light of the early morning and the late afternoon. That is, light that comes in at an extreme angle. It's got a color to it and it produces lots of contrast. And I know that if you've watched many of my videos, I'm very guilty of saying, oh, you know, good light is light that's giving you shadows and texture and things like that. Does that mean that when the light goes totally flat like it is now there's nothing I can do with my camera? It's flat right now because it's twilight. But it might just as easily be flat right now because it was the middle of the day and overcast.

Do I just have to stay inside and not use my camera? No! I can come outside and look for subject matter that works very well in flat light. And I would suggest one of the first places to start looking is interesting texture. I've got these roots of this tree here, which are really wonderfully twisty. They've got texture of lots of different scales. There's a little fine texture, there's very fat texture. If this was in direct light, or, or really contrasty light, yes I would be able to shoot and it would be interesting, but I wouldn't be able to see the finer details of the texture.

The highlights would go too bright. The shadows would go too dark. Here is some examples of things that I've shot in really direct sunlight. Yes, they reveal a lot of texture. And sometimes you want a harsh light to reveal a particular type of texture. Dirt and mud and things like that. Concrete gets really texturey and crunchy. Other things get too difficult to read. So, flat light can be a really nice way of simply recording basic texture without, whoa it's actually dark enough here that my shutter speed has gone way down.

It can be a way of really seeing texture that you can't see as well with really bright light, or really contrasting light. So this is a, a nice way to work, if you feel like shooting, but you also feel like the sun isn't working in your favor. I may have waited just a little bit too long, to get these, because it's getting pretty dark out. But actually, the camera is exposing fine. I'm going to go ahead and dial down my exposure, just a little bit, because I think I've got some brightness to spare.

And that'll kick my shutter speed back up. So, I'm just working purely graphically. I'm looking for interesting folds and combinations of lines. One thing that I think is cool about this is the lake has been much higher, and I know they've been flooding around here. It's been much higher recently, and the roots are all exposed. So I get this wonderful view of the roots and the earth underneath. It's very mythological. Feel like a troll should be hiding underneath there or something. And I can get just a really true representation of the texture without exaggerated shadows and exaggerated highlights.

So, next time the light goes flat and you feel like taking pictures, consider this. And you don't have to be out in the woods to find interesting texture. City streets are full of texture that may represent itself differently in light like this than in full contrast light. Give it a try. You may find that it doesn't work, and you want to come in, come out and try again in brighter light. But next time that someone says to you, well, you can only shoot in good light, remember that good light varies depending on what it is you're trying to capture.

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This video is part of

Image for The Practicing Photographer
The Practicing Photographer

75 video lessons · 46424 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 6m 25s
    1. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 7h 16m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 55s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s

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