Lighting & Depth

Take advantage of your lighting situations. As a normal everyday photographer you often don't have time to get the exact lighting but you can learn a few tricks to get the most out of your photos.

Common Sense Tips Often Forgotten:

  • Look for bursts or sources of light. The sun, light bulbs, spot lights, windows, etc... can "white out" photos so avoid shooting towards these objects.
  • Use Filters. UV and other filters can be used to decrease amount of light.
  • Notice your lighting surroundings and determine how you can the appropriate amount of light on your subject.
  • Avoid Flashes when close to the subject as it can "white out" or make the object look pale.

New River Gorge, Lower Railroad Rapid which shows the sun has whited out most of the imageSun

Bright sun creates horrid photographs of people. An overcast sky creates a general soft light more suitable for portraits and people photography. So the sun controls when and where you can take pictures... NOT, You have to take advantage of it.

Day Time

This is when most everyone wants to take pictures, and most generally where pictures go bad. As seen on in the picture to the left of the New River Gorge, the light is monopolizing the sky and has whited out the photo. This can usually be taken care of by use of a filter or changing the speed on your camera on film to have it not absorb as much light.

Cheap American Fix for Too Much Sun Light: Cup your hands and put them above you camera so that the lens is in the shade. Some pictures can be greatly increased just by keeping out direct sunlight which harms the lens anyways.                     Fall colored tree showing shadows and depth

Film Vs. Your Eye

Look at what you see vs what the film sees. If you look at a person with sun shining on them from behind it creates a great natural back light. However the eye is unique in viewing opposed to the film and you can naturally filter we look at a person with the sun shining on their backside, illuminating their hair and creating a natural backlight.

My style of lighting through the years has been to always try to create depth with the use of shadows as seen in this tree photo. Or, to create the illusion of depth, I find using a hairlight or backlight in my personal photography to give 3 dimensional quality or depth. This is cheapest way to achieve depth when you do not have high dollar photo equipment.

Start by having your subject face away from the Sun. Do not let the Sun light the face, use the Sun to create your hairlight or backlight. On a bright sunny day , typically with 100 ISO film, your meter will probably read about 1/125 sec. Now set your camera on manual at 1/125th Sec. You will get perfect fill flash images as long as you do not let the sun fall on the subjects face, and you must set your camera on manual.

Applying this same backlighting philosophy to your studio lighting will create the same dramatic results. Intensify background lighting stronger than the light falling on the subject and your images will appear to jump off the paper. Add a colored gel to your background light for some striking new effects.