"backlight"

Lesson 10 – Flattering Portraits


A while back, I was doing a one-on-one photography outing at my place with Nela, another photographer I had met. One of the topics for the evening was, "What camera lenses should be used to create beautiful, flattering portraits of my friends, family, and clients?" I thought I'd share a recap for ya'll to enjoy!

The difference between the right lens and the wrong one is dramatic. (I didn't do any photo editing on these other than to re-size and sharpen them for web use.) The boy didn't move at all. Doesn't the one on the left look like he has his neck stuck out?


The picture on the left was taken with a 17-55mm lens. (That's the type of lens that likely came with your camera if you have an SLR - your “kit” lens.) It’s a great lens for certain things, but NOT the right one to choose when you want to impress someone by taking a great picture of him or her. This lens will distort people’s faces terribly, especially if you don’t zoom in at all! Did you ever wonder why you are hardly ever happy with the way you look in photos? The camera lens’ focal length plays a big part in that. Nobody likes to look worse than they do in real life.

The photo on the right is taken with a 70-200mm lens, zoomed in to 200mm. This is the way the boy looks in real life. All I did was to change my lens, take several steps backward, and zoom in. The boy didn't move at all


What is "focal length"?

"The focal length of a lens determines how much magnification it provides. A lens with a shorter focal length will be able to 'see' a wider view of a subject than can a lens with a longer focal length, which would see a narrower view of the scene, but at a higher level of magnification.”
– Definition from mobileburn glossary
The smaller the number on the lens (e.g. 18-55mm), the wider the view seen in the camera. The larger the number printed on the lens (e.g. 70-200mm), the more things are magnified.

The good photo of the boy that I showed you earlier was taken with a 70-200mm lens. (It was one of those bigger, longer lenses.) You can easily see the difference between the good image and the distorted one.
Note: I mention the 17-55mm lens, the 18-55mm lens, and the 70-200mm lens, but you could substitute your 55-250mm lens or 70-300mm lens, etc. for the 70-200mm lens I have.

Q: Why did the wide angle lens – the 17-55mm lens – distort the boy’s face?
A: All wide-angle lenses distort straight lines: they make straight lines look curved. Look at these examples I took of a grid. See how the one on the left taken with the wide 17-55mm lens skews the lines? The photo on the right was taken with the 70-200mm and has much less distortion. Look at how much straighter the lines are.


If you have a small camera – a point-and-shoot – instead of an SLR, you can still benefit from this advice. When you’re taking a picture of a friend, step back and zoom in on your subject’s face instead of standing really close to her to take the photo. She will thank you when she sees the result and you will have a MUCH nicer picture to show for your trouble. Try it and see! It makes an AMAZING difference. 

Q: Are there times to use a wide-angle lens for portraits?
A: Yes, and we’ll talk about those times later – you can do some exciting stuff with wide-angle lenses! They aren't made for gorgeous close-up portrait photography though.

So.. there you have it! Step back and zoom in to get the best results!
Speaking of results, here are some of the photos I came away with after the photography outing.
Nela and I shared a wonderful evening together shooting photos to our heart’s content…well, not really. I only had about a million other places to show her and a hundred other techniques to talk about! It was fun. J All of these photos were shot with my 70-200mm lens.


We had a great time together.




Backlighting is fun and gorgeous...and so is long grass!






Lots of laughs.
Lots of photos.
Lots of fun.


"Surely I come quickly. 
Amen. 
Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
Revelation 22:20b

Lesson 8 - Light, Part 2


Dawn (sunrise) and dusk (sunset) often have the best light for outdoor photography. Know ahead of time when and where the sun will rise and set. If you know this, you will be able to plan when and where to be to get the best shots.

“Whether you’re photographing a landscape, a flower, or a castle, there is an appropriate light that will bring out the best attributes of your subject.” – Unknown  


The cool colors of early morning bring out the coldness of the frost in this picture.

  • Think about what kind of light would be best for your subject and why.


Backlighting this soybean pod at sunset highlights its beautiful feathery-ness.

Bad weather is often great for exciting pictures. If you include the sky, it needs to look interesting.
Plan ahead for great light. Keep a list of places or things and what kind of lighting you think would suit them best. To refresh your memory, review Lesson 7 on the kinds of light.

We can learn a lot from the masters in photography. 
Here is what some of them say about light.

Read the following eye-opening statements and then think about how to take this knowledge and apply it to your photography. Your photography will improve drastically!


“When the magic hour arrives, my thoughts center on the light rather than on the landscape. I search for when the perfect light is right and everything is working earthbound to match with it.”…”When the light is right and everything is working for me, I feel as tense as when making a difficult maneuver high on a mountain. A minute – and sometimes mere seconds- can make the difference between a superb image and a mundane one.” – Galen Rowel

“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” – George Eastman

“Of course, your camera also has certain limitations. While you have two eyes to take in a scene, the camera is limited to one. While your eye and mind can balance the details in highlight and shadow, you may find your camera and film unable to record these details as you perceive them with your eye. Understanding the limitations and strengths of your camera equipment and film are the first steps toward taking consistently better photographs.” – Jim and Kate Rowinski

 “I look for what I have seen before, and I follow the hints of magical light the way I would follow clues on a treasure map. As Luis Pasteur once said, ‘Chance favors the prepared mind’, and I almost never arrive at the right place at the right time to make a photograph by chance. I am there because my photography has led me there through an understanding of the nuances of mountain light.”     “I almost never set out to photograph a landscape, nor do I think of my camera as a means of recording a mountain or an animal unless I absolutely need a ‘record’ shot. My first thought is always of light”                   “It is easy to forget that light to photographers, like language to writers, is their only means of artistic expression. Without an understanding of language, combined with imagination and intuition, occasional strings of lyrical words are little more than intermittent accidents. So are photographs made without understanding the language of light.” “three components that need to merge at the instant the shutter is released in order to make a truly fine photograph of the natural world: technical proficiency, personal vision, and light.” – Galen Rowel

“Working the edge of a storm in hopes of finding dramatic light can be (both) frustrating and tremendously rewarding.” -Jim & Kate Rowinski



…”magic hour, soft light, backlight, light against light. Beyond those is a selective emphasis that sets them apart. Natural forms lose much of their significance when taken out of context, yet many photographers isolate single subjects in what I believe is a misguided quest for simplicity. Of far more importance is harmony, that is, combining the parts into a whole to create a clear message.” – Galen Rowel



I was reading some facts about light at Porter’s Camera, and thought I’d recreate some of them here for you to benefit from!


Light Facts:


Soft Light = broad light – A cloudy day will produce soft light because whole sky is transformed into one huge, diffused light source.

Narrow Light = harsh light – it’s coming from a small light source

Front light = flat light – In portrait photography, front lighting certainly helps when trying to make wrinkles disappear! Front lighting isn’t as interesting as side lighting though. It’s a trade-off. J

Side light brings out texture – and blemishes too! Good portraits often use something in between front lighting and side lighting. Highlights and shadows add depth and interest – just make sure there is detail in both!

All Light = colored light – Light has all the colors of the rainbow, even though it looks white, so remember to set your white balance to get the effect you want!


That’s all for today!
Talk to you next time,
Laura

“Find out what kind of light inspires you, then determine what subjects most often draw your attention and concentrate on them.” – Jim and Kate Rowinski


"Thy work is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalm 119:105

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, 
and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Matthew 5:16

Lesson 7 - Light, Part 1


Three things that are needed to make a great photograph:

  1. Superb light
  2. An interesting subject
  3. Dynamic composition            


We will be talking about the first component, light, in the next two lessons.

Light is very important to photography, but so often is taken for granted. Without light, we wouldn’t be able to use our cameras. If we can learn how to use light to our advantage, we will have come a long way.
Understanding light is critical when creating amazing photography.

We will be talking about five kinds of light in this lesson:

1. Hard light. This light is the harsh sunlight we get during most of the day when the sun is overhead. It is hard to learn how to use this light well.

This light is boring!
The hard, harsh light of midday is the least flattering kind of light.




2. Side lighting. When the sun is low in the sky, we can use side lighting 
in our pictures if we place the sun at our left or right hand.

Side lighting showcases the many textures in the world around us.



Side lighting is MUCH more interesting than the harsh light at noon or the flat light we get if we shoot with the sun coming from behind us


3. Backlighting your subject is a wonderful way to use light.
Try including the sun in the photo or, try using a tree, cloud, person, or flower to cover the sun.


Since the camera is often fooled into making the picture too light and overexposed when bright sky or the sun is in the picture, remember to use exposure compensation!


Here's another example of backlighting.


4. An example of Diffused light would be the kind of light we get on a cloudy day. It’s a soft light that wraps around the subjects in our pictures. With this kind of light it’s much easier not to have harsh shadows and blown out highlights.
Diffused light is great for close-ups and pictures with no sky in them. The super saturated colors you are able to get in this light make flowers and fall leaves look great.



This is an example of the soft, diffused light on a cloudy day. It can be great for portraits. Make sure to set your white balance to Cloudy so people's skin tones look right!

5. Reflected light is a fun kind of light to search for.
Look for it in water, canyons, puddles, ice, and many other places. You’ll certainly be rewarded and get some cool photographs along the way!


So, there you have it - the 5 types of light! Why not look for each of these kinds of light during this next week? It'll be good practice and you'll gain a new appreciation for the beauty and variety of the ever-changing light around us. Just think! God designed it all! (and out of nothing at that!) Wasn't He creative? Random chance would never have a chance to create something so absolutely amazing as our world!

Enjoy the day!
Laura

"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?"
Psalm 8:3-4