Importance of Understanding Light

However, I did go to a school that taught us all about shooting with strobes and flash and all manner of lighting situations. And I’m so glad I had that opportunity because it really helped me decide what I wanted to do and why. Even now – I continue to research and examine other ways to shoot. I think it’s incredibly important to know how to work in any situation… even if it’s not our ideal situation. And I did have one such instance occur when I am really glad I had the knowledge and means to still provide artwork for my client.

On a recent senior session, due to the start of the school year and some time delays on the day of her session – we ended up running out of daylight quicker than I expected. I was lucky enough to get to do the first portion of her session in the studio and then when we headed downtown we still had tons of daylight. I was able to use reflectors from the pavement and walls to get enough fill to create the images my clients know and love.

By the time we got to Rock Springs for the last portion of her session, the sun was starting to go down. I knew that I was going to need a little extra light to be able to get the sharp, crisp images I was wanting. So for these I had an assistant hold a simple video light about 45 degrees off to camera right. At this point we still had some nice ambient light so we just cranked the light all the way up and had my assistant stand way back to give it a little fill.

At the end of her session, it was pretty dark and the pine forest out at Rock Springs was even darker so this time I had my assistant stand at 30 degrees to camera left. This created some darker more dramatic shadows across Erin’s face. So the only light in this image is coming from my little video light. Then I had my assistant stand behind and to the right of my client and pointed our little video light down at the back of her head. This set up created an awesome hair light/back light/halo effect. By moving my assistant directly behind her, she ended up being completely silhouetted. Add a little flash to the shot and fire it directly at her to achieve a more glamorous look.

There are tons of other ways you can set up lighting to create really dynamic and impactful images, and I’m really pleased with what we were able to achieve with our simple lights at my client’s senior session. I still prefer natural light, but I love that I have the knowledge and equipment to be able to make a tricky situation work. Plus, I fully believe that if you’re hiring me as your professional photographer – it’s my responsibility to be able to work with whatever the day throws our direction. A little knowledge goes a long way!

Light Painting Techniques

  • Try out different light sources. This is one very important technique. You shouldn’t try painting everything using the same light. To avoid odd and flat pictures, consider using different light sources otherwise your work will defy the sole purpose of light painting which is creating different unique light impressions on different landscape parts at night.
  • Use dimmable light sources: For the best results, you need to choose dimmable light sources for obvious reasons i.e. because light painting relies heavily on light intensity. To get the best results, you must be able to alter light intensity whichever way you like to ensure every part of a photo gets the right amount of light.
  • Take care of the noise: It is important to note that long exposures create more noise. Because of this, take time painting in light but don’t forget to factor in this small detail because it can be the difference between good and bad lighting photography.
  • Take multiple shots: To get the best light painting photos, you need to take as many shots as possible. Multiple shots help you treat different parts of a photo separately which should be the case in light painting.
  • Use flashlights which don’t have hot spots: Moving your flashlight beam randomly when taking light photos doesn’t make a big difference even if your flashlight has a hot spot (a bright circle located at the center of the beam). The hotspot however makes a big difference when you are considering fine details in scenes. If you don’t have money to buy the perfect flashlight, consider taping tissue paper or wax paper over your flashlight lens to eliminate hot spots.
  • Include night photography techniques: This is another important tip to consider. Just because you are light painting shouldn’t mean you forget typical night photography techniques. You must consider techniques like mirror lockup, cable release, long exposure noise reduction e.t.c. to ensure you get the best outcome.
  • Mix ambient light: You should also remember incorporating ambient light like street lights, moon light e.t.c. to add mood in your photos. Using flashlights shouldn’t mean you ignore all other light sources.