Shooting in Ambient Light

In photography, we cannot present an image without the use of light. The type of light we decide to use is what makes the process an exercise in creativity as much as skill. There is lighting which we deliberately set up to illuminate the subject, mainly flash units and light kits. Then there is ambient light, also known as available light, which already exists in the scene.

natural ambient Shooting in Ambient LightExamples of ambient light sources are sunlight, moonlight, candles, lamplights, incandescent lights and streetlights. One of the main advantages of ambient lighting is that it is often free and readily available since it is already found in the environment where you will shoot. The trick is to familiarize yourself its properties and the various ways they can light up the subject matter. Sunlight, for example, can illuminate the same subject in hundreds of ways depending on the time and the weather. Its intensity can vary from the harsh light on a cloudless noon hour to the very soft and diffused light on a misty morning.

 There are limitations to ambient lighting since it can be difficult to control. These light sources may be immovable, unpredictable, or out of reach. You might encounter low light conditions, especially at night or indoors. To compensate, set your camera at a low light setting such as slower shutter speeds or larger aperture. A tripod would come in handy, or at least place the camera on a steady surface when making the shots. There are times when you will have only one light source. If you want more light to fall on your subject, try using a reflector to bounce back some of the light. These can be mirrors, aluminum foil, white cardboard, and the like. These reflectors have different effects and the light from a mirror will not be the indoor ambient 300x228 Shooting in Ambient Lightsame as the light when using a white cardboard. Why not have one of each and experiment with what works best for you for that particular shot. 

Ambient light can create a strong mood in the shot since it is a natural element of the scene. Aside from providing illumination, it can also help tell the story or drive home the concept you want to present. By including the light source, for instance, you are introducing a prop which can support the emotional impact of the subject. The ambient light source can even be the subject itself. Certain ambient light sources, such as indoor incandescent light bulbs, leave a strong color cast that, if presented well, can further impact the mood of the shot. The more you practice using ambient lighting in your shots, the more aware you will become of its versatility and can then make full use of this fact.


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Shooting in Direct Sunlight

 

 

Sunlight can be a photographer’s best friend since it is a natural light source that can illuminate your subject in several different ways, free of cost. Knowing how to use sunlight to get an intended effect is part of the tricks of the trade. Many people prefer to shoot on a bright but cloudy day when the scene is adequately lit but the intensity of the light is just enough not to cause any harsh and strong shadows. There are other times, however, when you just can’t wait for the clouds to come and you have to shoot in direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight can negatively impact the shot. It can cause blown out highlights, hard shadows, chromatic aberration, lens flare and oversaturated colors. These are quite a lot of issues that we have to consider but there are simple ways to counter the problems we might face when shooting in the bright light of day.

Shoot in the shade – If you’re shooting a person or a portable object, transfer to the shade.  Be prepared and bring an umbrella or a sheet of cloth in case there is no shade nearby. This also drastically lessens the chances of the subject to squint from the sun’s glare. A photo of a person squinting will not look so good.

Use fill flash – direct sunlight behind a subject will darken the foreground. By using a flash to illuminate it, you can make sure that the subject’s features will be more visible. Adjust the intensity of the flash to a setting less than its regular output so that the lighting will appear more natural rather than as if the subject was caught by a car’s headlights.

Change the perspective – just moving your camera at a different angle can cut down on glare caused by the sun. Move around your subject; play around with different camera viewpoints until you are satisfied with the composition as well as the lighting.

 

polarized 1024x768 Shooting in Direct SunlightUse a filter – a polarized filter can mean a world of difference when shooting in bright sunlight. It cuts atmospheric haze and darkens scenes that looked washed out by the glare. Colors come out more vibrant with less blown out areas. If you don’t have a polarizer, you can improvise by using a pair of polarized sunglasses instead. This photo shows the outcome of using the sun shades with polarized lens. The upper left portion that hasn’t been included in the glasses’ frame looks very different from the area which the lens covers.

Use a lens hood – lens hoods are pretty basic accessories but they do help a lot in shielding the lens from the sun’s harsh glare. A lens hood lessens the possibility of lens flare and chromatic aberration.

Use a diffuser – a simple diffuser such as a white sheet or foam board can soften the intensity of the harsh light. This creates a more even lighting for your subject and reduces areas that might become over or underexposed without the diffuser.

Turn your subject into a silhouette – If your subject appears too dark because of the sun hitting it directly from behind, and you choose not to or are not able to use a fill flash, then turn your subject into a silhouette instead. Lines, shapes and textures become prominent as well as the mood of a scene can become more dramatic. Ships sailing on bright empty seas, trees swaying in the heat of the sun, people frolicking on the shore, these and many more would make fantastic silhouette shots.

 


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Painting with Light

Light painting or light drawing is a fun and effective technique to let loose your creativity. An ordinary flashlight can be your ‘brush’ to ‘paint’ your subject and make it appear something more than it usually looks like.

There are a few things you’ll need to make light painting work.

Your camera should be capable of taking long exposures – how long depends on what you plan to shoot but a shutter speed of at least 5 seconds is enough to light paint a nearby object.

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How To Light Your Subject With Cost Effective Light Sources

Proper lighting has always been vital in taking great pictures and a lot of photographers invest thousands of dollars on loads of equipment such as light strobes and speed flashes. But what about the rest of us who cannot afford to buy lighting kits or set up a light studio? That should not be a problem because here are several tips on using inexpensive light sources to show off your subject:

nebula 300x235 How To Light Your Subject With Cost Effective Light SourcesSunlight – What could be cheaper than sunlight? It's free, it's natural, it's available everyday, and it can light your subject in different ways depending on the hour. Popular belief maintains that the best time to take pictures with sunlight is when the sun is low in the sky. This would be early morning or late afternoon when the light rays still emit a soft and muted light and there are no harsh shadows. Sunlight can give off dramatic effects such as bathing a flower field in golden hues or driving home the heat with an image of a street vendor at high noon. It can be used for several kinds of shots that you can take in a studio, from macro to portraiture. With sunlight, you don't even have to go out of the house. As long as you have a window that lets in adequate sunshine, then you're ready to shoot.

Candles – Who says candle lighting has to be cliché? It can provide great ambience, from romantic to creepy to strange. It costs a few cents and you can play around with just one candle or think out of the box and see what you can do with a thousand (have a fire extinguisher nearby, though!)

In this shot, I stuck a birthday candle in a candy sprinkled doughnut and used a flashlight to also light up the doughnut hole. This brings me to my next light source, the flashlight.

Flashlight/Torch – one of the most creative and fun ways to light up your subject is with light painting. Regular flashlights are usually enough to turn even the most mundane object into almost a work of art.

Overhead/Ceiling Light – Now these lights are just all over the house. Why not make use of them, as well, by incorporating them into your shots. It can be a light source, and if it looks interesting enough such as an elaborate chandelier or a dirty light bulb, may even be the subject itself.

Lamps – your bedroom lamp or reading lamp can be a great light source. It's effective for macro and still life shots and if used creatively, will really make your pictures stand out. Backlighting and side lighting can show off your subject in various interesting ways and even a tattered dishrag can appear out of this world.

You don't have to go out and buy expensive lighting equipment just to take fantastic shots. Use what you have, be creative and you will be amazed with what you can capture.


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Lighting Up Your Subjects Using the Backlighting Technique

Contre-jour, more commonly known as 'backlighting', is a lighting technique that can add great impact to your images. The light source comes from behind the subject which can cause it to become silhouetted. There is greater contrast between dark and light and shapes and lines become more defined. Certain details can disappear into darkness, such as the body of the subject. However, it can also show the details of a subject's edges such as fur or hair.

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