10 Jun 2011

The Author

Andy Lim got started in photography after leaving design college, and has given several public talks on the subject of photography. SimpleSLR Workshops Photography workshops from beginners to advanced levels. SimpleSLR Guides Author of best-selling e-book series. Photography Tips Author of useful and practical tips on GoodPhotography.info website. Emotion in Pictures Accomplished professional wedding photographer. His brand attracts clients worldwide with his unique flavor of wedding and portrait photography.

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Learning to See The Light
Photography Tips: Dusk Photography

Photography is very much about using light. Very often, we take pictures without planning ahead. With digital photography, the temptation is to shoot first, then review the picture to see if we like it, then shoot again if we don’t. In the old days of film, photographers probably exercised more discipline in planning ahead than we now do, especially if they were shooting slide film. Nevertheless digital does have its advantages, as I will explain in later articles.

If we tried creating the final image in our mind before taking the picture, or what is called pre-visualization of the image, we can drastically improve our pictures. Pre-visualization helps us to form the intended image in our mind, discover lighting limitations that may hamper the creation of that final image, or perhaps even see opportunities for improving the image by shooting from a slightly different angle, or using additional lighting sources.

In landscape photography, the same scene can appear very differently on a different day. Cloud conditions, time of the day and direction of the sun are just a few of the factors that create these differences. If a scene doesn’t look too impressive on a particular day, try coming back another day at a different time. Understanding lighting ratios will also tell you why what you captured on your camera sometimes doesn’t match what you saw with your eyes.

Scene A (when the sun is somewhat behind the camera, on an overcast day)
The amount of light falling on the foreground (the plants and the banks of the lake) is slightly higher than the amount of light falling on the background (the sky and mountains). Estimated lighting ratio is about 6:5 (foreground:background). Lighting is a crucial component in any type of photography. Without proper control of lighting, it’s difficult to create truly stunning images. Taken from my Laos gallery.

laos xieng8 lakevillage Learning to See The Light

When photographing people in a candid manner, we may not have time to plan in elaborate detail. But what we can do is to evaluate the lighting conditions in that particular location, decide whether to use available light from the window or room lights, or to supplement it with artificial lighting from flash units, or even use multiple flash units for creative results.

Scene B (using available light from the room).

06 Learning to See The Light

Scene C (shot using a flash unit positioned off-camera)

012 Learning to See The Light

Learn to find the best light, it can make a world of difference in your photography.


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portrait lighting with speedlights