Join Joseph "PhotoJoseph" Linaschke for an in-depth discussion in this video Natural and available light, part of Small Business Photography for Non-Photographers.
- Let's start with the worst possible lighting situation. Just full sun and to be honest, it's actually a little bit hazy right now. So, this isn't as bad as it could be, but if we look to the camera right now, you can see that we've got really big highlights, really harsh shadows. It just overall doesn't look very good, so I'm photographing this pocket knife on top of a wooden stool. Very, very simple setup. The wooden stool is a little bit on the glossy side, so we're getting some glare from that. Of course, the knife has its own shiny parts and getting some glare off of that. This as it is is just way too harsh.
With the introduction of something as simple as a diffusion panel, we can change a whole scene. Now, this is something called a five-in-one reflector. We'll see the rest of the parts of this later, but this little product here is actually really affordable and can serve five different purposes. Right now we're using it for what I would say is its primary purpose, the diffusion panel. All I have to do is just put this between my light source, in this case the sun, and my subject. You can see immediately how much of a difference it makes. I mean, it's absolutely phenomenal.
We lose all of the harsh glare. We have, still have shadows, but they're not as harsh. They're not as dramatic and we can actually see inside of the shadows a little bit now. With something as simple as a pop-up diffuser, you can shoot pictures in the full sun. Next, let's head indoors and we'll take a look at shooting with window light. Next up, we're gonna be working with window lighting. In this situation, I've got one nice, big window here bringing in some very nice, pretty light, and on the other side I have nothing. I've turned off all the lights in the room. You can see just looking at my face how much brighter it is on this side than the other and this is gonna be great to work with for what we're doing here.
Now, you may have noticed that this window is suspiciously soft. I've actually sprayed over this window with this frosted glass finish. It's just something I got at the hardware store and it gives me some really nice, diffused light. Now, this is my photography studio, so I use this a lot. It's the kind of thing that's okay for me to have permanently. You may not have that option. That may not be something you wanna do though, in which case may I suggest (rustling) a shower curtain? A simple, white, opaque shower curtain that you can hang up over a big, bright window and if the sun is coming in really directly and it's really strong and this isn't enough, well, fold it in half, have two layers of it.
Three layers, whatever it takes. You can fold it over and get really nice, soft, diffused light through this and then, of course, when you're done, you can just take it down. This is a great option to get that nice diffused, soft light. It's just like we did outside where we had the pop-up diffuser to soften out the light. Same thing here. In this case I'm using the sprayed on, matte finish over the glass or you can just hang a shower curtain, or maybe you don't need anything at all. It may turn out that the window that you're gonna shoot by is already giving you that really nice, soft light. In which case, move on to step two. Now, in this situation, step two is about bouncing light into the shadow side of the scene.
Take a look at the scene right here. I'm gonna take a picture of these cool headphones and you can see looking through the iPhone that it's a little bit dark. I wanna bounce some more light into that side that's looking a little bit flat. How am I gonna do that? Well, a couple of options. I have something here from a company called Light Right. Now, this is a really neat little product. It is basically nothing more than shiny cardboard with a couple of flat magnets on it and the neat thing about the magnets is it makes it really easy to tilt this into any position that I want. That's a pretty cool option. Now, these aren't really cheap, so if you want to do something totally D-I-Y, no problem with that.
Just grab yourself some pieces of cardboard, some aluminum foil, wrap the foil around the cardboard, cut it into whatever shape you want and away you go. You got a great reflector. The cool thing about using aluminum foil as a nice little D-I-Y tip is if you keep it smooth, it's gonna reflect the most light, but if you crumple it up into a ball and then stretch it out again so it's all crinkly, then it's gonna diffuse the light that it bounces a bit more. It'll be bouncing it in a bunch of different directions at once. Aluminum foil is a great, great D-I-Y option, so consider that. In this case, though, I'm gonna go ahead and use this reflector since I've got it here.
All right, let's take a look at the headphones through the iPhone here. As soon as I bring that reflector into place, we see the light bouncing, adding shape, adding dimensions, sculpting the subject. It's a really, really neat thing to play with. Now, at this point, I may not know exactly what I wanna do, so why not just take a bunch of pictures of it? You'll notice here that I am using the headphone cable again. This allows me to not touch the camera, not move the camera while I'm taking the picture. I'll just go ahead and get in here and snap a few shots. (camera clicking) Get a few different angles here, a few different options, and then I'll take a look at them later and decide which one I think is best.
Diffuse that light coming into the window, bounce some light back onto your subject, and when you start looking at your scenes this way, you start looking at your product this way or whatever it is you're gonna take pictures of, you really start to think about sculpting the light, making the object look really nice and shapely, and you're off to a great start of making pictures that look much better than if you hadn't used anything at all. Next up, we're going to work with completely overhead lighting. Just boring, indoor, overhead lighting. We'll see what we can do with that. Okay, you're wondering right now why I'm in the bathroom.
There's a reason for this. This is by far the worst lighting that I've got in my studio. There's no nice lighting from the side. There's no natural light. There's no window light. All we've got is the overhead, fluorescent tubes and it's awful. At least it's not a really sharp, directional light. It is a big, long tube so I've got a pretty, kind of a spread out light on here, but this isn't gonna do any favors for anything I wanna take a picture of. I figured that if we can get a decent photo in a room like this, then you can get a decent photo in just about any light.
Let's take a look at the subject of what we have here. I have this little figurine and I've got him sitting on this glass block that I found. It's a, it's kind of a prop that I picked up along the way. Kinda cool and the door to my bathroom is red. I'm using that red door as part of my backdrop. We can see in the shot right now, it's just way too wide, but if I use the zoomed-in lens on my iPhone, well, suddenly it's a pretty good shot, right? It's a pretty good composition. We've got a pretty good surface that he's standing on. The red background looks good. I think we've got the makings of a good shot here.
Now, remember the light is coming just from overhead and in the previous lesson, when we were looking at window light, we learned how to bounce light onto the subject. Since the light is purely coming straight down, we can see just looking in here that he's really quite dark on the front of him. Let's start by bouncing some light in there. I'm gonna use the same accessories that I used last time. This is just the bigger version of that and I wanna bounce some light in. We can see that we can, we can get some pretty good light bouncing in on there. Even though we have this big, huge, soft light from above, this does a good job of bouncing it in.
I just need to find the right angle to tilt this at to kind of fill him in a little bit. That's looking pretty good there. We can see the difference mainly in the highlights. If you look along the edge of his jacket on here, we're seeing a little bit of that. We're also getting a little bit of a catch light in the eye on there, which is pretty cool, but that's not enough. We still have too much light coming from above, so the little bit of light we have bouncing back in, it just isn't enough. What that means is I wanna actually remove some of the light coming from above.
This big, huge, top-down light source is just not doing us any favors, so let's get rid of it. Now, I can't just turn off the light because then, well, it'll be dark in here and I won't have any light to bounce in, but I can block it. Now, I'm gonna use a piece of foam core, this is something from the art supply store. Super, super cheap, but you don't have to use foam core. You could use your hand. You can use a magazine. You can use anything you've got handy, but I'm gonna use this to block the light that's hitting our subject. Watch what happens as I cover our little friend here and when I block the light coming from above. Now, the majority of the light is coming from either the reflector or bouncing off the table.
It helps that I've got this white table here, kind of bouncing things up, but look at the difference in there. It's really remarkable. There's our finished shot. Let's build it up again. I'll take away the reflector, take away the foam core. We see the original, put that back in to block the light, put this back in to add some light back in, and it's phenomenal. That is such a huge difference. All right, let's go ahead and get a picture. (camera clicking) If we compare that to the original, what it was like without any of these accessories, you can see it's a huge difference.
There you go, you don't have to get fancy. Just block some of that light coming from above, bounce some other light back in from another direction, and you will have completely changed the shot. If you can do a decent photo in lighting like this, you can do a decent photo anywhere. Just think about it. Be very aware of where your lighting is coming from, sculpt it, bounce it, shape it, soften it, do what you need to do to make the shot look awesome. Your photographs are gonna take a huge step forward.
- Camera selection and settings
- Lighting tips and techniques
- Taking advantage of natural light
- Flashes and strobes
- Composition and props
- Image storage
- Editing tools and techniques
- Optimizing images for various services
- Publishing on a schedule