Understanding Light in photography

Understanding Light in Photography is easily said but challenging.  One of my sources of inspiration is Rick Sammon.  His images are inspiring and he has a way to communicate which enables me to deal with what otherwise would be very complex.  One of his awesome books: Exploring the light released in 2008 is still on the top of my list in this area.

Seeing the Light in Photography

Importance of understanding Light in Photography

When going on a shoot, I have two main challenges. Be ready and Understanding the light and all its possible interpretation in the form of a picture.

Recently I was given the task to take pictures at an outdoor concert.  In preparation, I first reviewed my camera’s settings and set these to maximize the potential at hand. When the event is in progress, there is no time to change these settings between two pictures. I have to be ready.

Going to the performance location early, I was able to test the different angles of views and decide which position would be the most promising. The scene was all set-ups for the performance. Gleaming guitars, keyboards and other musical instruments were in plain sight.

The light was still very good; I therefore took the opportunity to ask to take details pictures. These are at the beginning of the photo album created.  At one point, an assistant came onstage to check that everything was ready. He was backlit with smoke.  Understanding the Light in photography led me to believe this would created a great atmosphere for a picture.

I knew immediately that I could not trust my camera automatic exposure reading. To achieve the expected result, I needed to reduce the exposure readings by two stops.  Everything went very quickly. A light press of the shutter button to take a light reading, rotate the switch backward of six clicks (3 clicks per stop of light), and them press the shutter all the way down for a full seconds to get a burst of pictures.  You are looking at one of them.  The resulting picture was lightly retouched and cropped. Understanding the light help me took this picture.  I was to be able to see the light and be ready.

At this same event, while I was taking pictures of the main subject, Louis-Jean Cormier, I saw from the corner of my eyes an intriguing flash of subdued light.

Understanding Light in Photography: Get Maximum Impact!

Understanding Light in Photography: Get Maximum Impact!

I swung on myself, zoomed-in and focused, sequence burst to capture at least one photo with the drum illuminated in the foreground. I especially like this picture.

As previously said, Understanding Light in Photography is more easily said than done. The best way to understand the light is to take pictures and explore the results.  After a few thousands pictures, it comes more naturally.

Be ready also takes time. I am used to put my camera and my watch on a flat surface. I then change one of the settings that I am used to change in the field counting the seconds needed.  I then start over, again and again. When I get it fast enough, I shut the light and start over again.  For more details on this go over my do you know your gear article on Visual Wilderness.

Could you change your ISO setting in the dark keeping your eye to the viewfinder?

I confess that I still have a long way to go. I have my 5D3 since two years and I still fiddle around at time. Tell me, does Understanding Light in Photography is a challenge for you?  Link to one of your pictures where you did good Understanding the Light in your own photography.