Lighting in photography is a living, changing art. One of the most important abilities of a photographer is to see light and to remember it. Light is the most changing element in our daily life. We move among solid objects and among people who do not change drastically during a day or a week. But visually the appearance of our environment and of people around us may change from one hour to the next due to the time of day, the weather, or the particular source of light. Photographers are aware of these changes and store in their memory the impact different types of light have on our emotions and our subconscious. For a photographer, watching the light becomes second nature.
Some of the photographer's palette of tools:
-The angle of light
-Quality (hard or soft)
Angle of light
front lighting: side lighting: back lighting:
Quality of light
Hard vs Soft: Light can be hard, soft or gradations in between.
Soft lighting gained its popularity because it gives the scene a more natural look than hard lighting. But at the same time, it has a danger of lacking character. Soft light is very forgiving. Uncontrolled, it is still acceptable photographically. It's really hard for soft light to look bad, but it's not hard for hard light to look bad. If you go too soft in the lighting, it just becomes boring. The difficult thing is really to light softly, but to create a contrast at the same time.
The hardest source of light known in nature is the noonday sun; whereas an overcast sky is the softest source known.
soft light: hard light:
Light has color. We all can differentiate the different color temperature the light has when you are walking in that beautiful light just before the sunset or normal day light, or flash.
The amount of daylight changes with the hour, weather, season and latitude.
A fun exercise
- Staying as close to home as possible,find a location that lets you face east and head there in time for the sunrise. Compose your shot with a focal length between 35-50mm and shoot into the sunrise. Shoot the same composition one or two hours later, then at noon, then two hours before sunset, then one hour before sunset, and then at sunset.
- Repeat this exercise during these same intervals with another composition but as you face to the south.
- Finally, download the images into your computer and look at them in a slideshow. That way you will really see and feel the difference of the light and the difference that the right time of the day can make.
Feel free to share your results of the exercise in the comments below!
What kind of lighting do you tend to use in your photography? Are you a hard light lover or a soft light lover? And why?