Lurkers Unite! - Assignment #5

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Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965
Lurkers Unite! - Assignment #5

See the Light

Have you guys heard that phrase before? Seeing the light? If you really examine the photos from the Pro Photographers that you love, you're going to notice that they all have beautiful lighting. You're going to see a bit of shadow on one side of the face, while most of the face is illuminated by the light:


IMG_2561-2editweb1 by Stephanie.Miller, on Flickr

Proper lighting isn't just reserved for studio lights. You also need to pay attention to the lighting conditions when you're shooting with natural light. So, let's get a grasp on directional light.

Do you all know about catchlights? That is the light that you see in your subjects eyes. It's always been said that you want the catchlights to be at the 10 o'clock or 2 o'clock position in the eye. For so long, I never knew the reason why, or how to accomplish that. That little bit of information confused me so much, that I pretty much gave up, and just tried what I could to get the light in the eyes, not worrying about the position of it. Usually the light was just all across the top of the eyes.

The reason behind the placement of the catchlights is so you can get directional light on your subject. But, the way that I like to think about directional light is by paying attention to the shadows on the face instead. So much easier for me to see the direction of the light when thinking about it this way.

So, how do we do this? We're going to do a little exercise in order to help you understand how to get this directional light on your subject. We're going to set up camp in your garage. The garage is a very controlled environment that will help you understand where to place your subject. (If you don't have a garage, just PM me, and we'll set something up somewhere else) Don't worry about your background. If your garage is a total mess (like mine!), all you need is a small area cleared out near the garage door. Enough room for yourself and your subject.

1. For your first shot, I want your back to the opening of the garage, with your subject facing you (their face to the door). Line up as straight on to the door as you can and take the photo. This will create an image with very flat lighting.

2. Rotate your subject about 45 degrees to the left. Stand directly in front of your subject and take the picture. You will start to see some beautiful shadowing on the left side of their face.

3. Rotate your subject even more to the left so that they are at a 90 degree angle to the door. Stand directly in front of them (your back should be to the side wall of the garage) and take the picture. Half of their face will be in shadow while the other half is lit.

4. Repeat steps 2 & 3, but to the right. You will see the same results, only on the opposite side of the face.

If I confused you, here's my go on the garage light test on my blog: Shutterbug Stroll: Garage Light Test

Share your results here, and we will discuss further Smile

Omrithekat's picture
Joined: 08/01/07
Posts: 62

Okay, I *kind of* see the difference, but I will be honest- I think that they all look pretty good. LOL. My eyes are not as discerning as they should be.

Maybe I will see a big difference when I actually do the assignment though (early next week, I'd imagine). Thanks, Steph.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

Just pay attention to those shadows on the side of the face. I'll admit that my "flat lit" one on the blog isn't incredibly flat lit. There is still a bit of shadow on the left side of his face (camera right) because he was pretty uncooperative when I did the test and kept moving his head. It was as close to flatly lit as I could get with him Wink

One thing that you can do to eliminate distractions is to convert it to black and white. B&W's NEED directional light (or lots of lights and darks in general) in order to work. Just look at the one in your avatar, Jess. It works so well because of the great direction you have with the light that is hitting him. A flatly lit b&w just turns out grey and with pretty much no contrast. There's so much more depth to a b&w with directional light.

Jillie Bean's picture
Joined: 07/21/09
Posts: 149

That is SO helpful!! I can't wait to try this one out!!! Smile

Muddee's picture
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

Can I duct tape my subject in place? Maybe I can talk my 13 year old to doing it with me...

Muddee's picture
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

With the hurricane affecting the weather in much of the US and parts of Canada I imagine this will be a difficult one. Here it is just and cold, but nothing horrible, i'm wondering can this it done with overcast skies?

Omrithekat's picture
Joined: 08/01/07
Posts: 62

I was kind of wondering the same thing... just in general. Our garage doesn't get much sun period, even on sunny days. Our front yard is all shade. I will have to check it out when it's not raining to see if any sun peeks in at all.

DrakePlusOne's picture
Joined: 06/29/09
Posts: 1889

Jess, another Ohioian here! What part are you in? I'm NE and it's not looking too promising for sunshine ANY day this week. :/

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

It should work in any skies. Think of it as an enormous window. You may have to have a higher ISO than you might on a sunny day, but it will work.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

Hey guys! Did any of you get the chance to try this one out?

Muddee's picture
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

Sadly I haven't gotten to this, I will try and bundle up Nat and myself and try and get to doing this.

Muddee's picture
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

Bundled up and got these done quickly today, don't mind the messy garage.

These were done with Auto WB

Straight #1

45 Right

90 Right

These were done with Cloudy WB
Straight #2

45 Left

90 Left

Omrithekat's picture
Joined: 08/01/07
Posts: 62

I'm doing it today, finally, Steph!

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

Awesome job, Amanda!!! How was this exercise for you? Do you notice a difference?

Muddee's picture
Joined: 03/13/08
Posts: 2119

I saw a difference though with it being overcast when I did it the shadow wasn't that obvious.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

I'm actually noticing some really great shadows in these. If you're having trouble noticing the shadows, try converting it to black and white. That might help you see the direction of the light. I would imagine that if you want more dramatic shadowing, you could pull your subject further away from the opening of the garage. If you're wanting subtle shadowing, I would think that moving your subject toward the opening would help with that.

My favorite is the 45 degree angle ones. The face is still nice and lit, but there is some depth to her face with the light shadowing.

Amy_&_Eva's picture
Joined: 08/23/07
Posts: 2378

I'm not a lurker lol but I thought of this assignment when looking through recent pics of mine....

I hope it's ok to share these to show the angle of light....

these are snaps of my daughter taken in one of my favorite indoor spots to take shots of her in.....this is in front of our big living room window, with her angled between 45 degrees to maybe 70 degrees from the window.

This one is about 45:

And in this one she is angled/rotated a bit more away from the window (but still the same distance away)...
IMG_23825crFxSm

Gives nice depth, so I love using that spot in our house for taking shots of her.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2965

Awesome, Amy! Gorgeous light!!

Another thing about good lighting: It helps your focus.

I'd actually like to encourage anyone to do this assignment and post here. Maybe I should open up all the assignments to everyone?

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