The Golden Hour in Photography


Ok, I know I keep going on about it, but really if there's one aspect of a scene that can make or break the image more than any other, it's the lighting. You might have the most incredible landscape or stunning portrait model, but without the right quality of light and knowing how to make best use of it, you can still be left with a flat, dull, and uninspiring photo, so it's often very important to find the right time of day to shoot your outdoor scene. This brings me neatly on to the The Golden Hour in photography (or sometimes 'Magic Hour'), it's roughly the first hour of light after sunrise, and the last hour of light before sunset. The exact times and durations vary depending on the time of year, and where in the world you are. The further you are from the equator, the longer your golden hour. During the golden hour, the sun is low in the sky, producing a soft, warm light which for most subjects is more flattering than the harsh midday sun that we're sometimes unable to avoid. The light at these times is also less contrasty, which reducing the chances of losing parts of your subject in strong shadows or blown-out highlights. The warm glow adds a pleasing feel to the scene, and the long shadows help to pick out details, adding texture and depth to the image. And if that wasn't enough, there's an added bonus, there are generally fewer people around at dawn and dusk than there are at other times of the day, giving you a chance to capture your images in peace and quiet. To shoot the sun as [...]

The Golden Hour in Photography2017-05-29T16:22:15+01:00

Window light portraits, Part I – Shooting parallel to window


Natural light photography - Window Light portrait tips For many portraits, nothing beats the natural beauty of window light. The larger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the light, so directional window light can can create beautifully lit, soft portraits that bring out great looking skin tones and display a seemingly perfect balance between shadows and highlights. There are several ways to use window light for portraits, providing varying lighting pattern for different 'looks', in this tip I'm going to be covering shooting parallel to the window. This type of light provides directional light for a slightly more dramatic look. About the window Avoid sunshine streaming in through the window, as it will ruin the portrait. Choose a north facing window (or south if you live in the southern hemisphere!), or a cloudy day. If it's a large window, sometimes there can be too much light, that might be fine, but you'd have to experiment. You can also draw the curtains or close blinds to get a more dramatic portrait. Subject positioning The closer your subject is to the window, the stronger the contrast between light and shadow on their face, generally speaking about 4 feet (just over a metre) is fine. As your subject moves further into the room, the light will be flatter and less dramatic. The angle of the light should be from above, so if the window isn't very high, or you have a tall subject, sit them down. Your subject should either look slightly off-camera towards the window, or look at the camera but with their face turned slightly towards the window (this will provide [...]

Window light portraits, Part I – Shooting parallel to window2017-10-10T15:43:56+01:00

Learn how the Shutter Speed affects your flash photos – flash photography tips


Flash photography tips - has this ever happened to you? You take a portrait using your built-in or external flash, but the photo is too bright or too dark, like the slightly over-exposed couple and wedding register on the table in the above shot. What did you do to fix it?:- Use exposure compensation Change from aperture to shutter priority or vice versa Change the flash exposure compensation (FEC) Change the ISO Well, there is no one quick answer, it all depends on what part of the image was over or under-exposed and your creative intention when taking the photo. But it helps to know that when using flash, changing the shutter speed has absolutely no effect on the light from the flash. That's because the flash burst of light is almost instantaneous, much faster than any of your typical shutter speeds when using flash. Changing the shutter speed only affects the ambient light. Here's a quick lighting setup outside my house during a sunny day. I put a speedlight on a stand and took a series of shots of the wall (extremely interesting subject!!). I used the camera's Manual mode and I only adjusted the shutter speed between shots. You can see that the light on the wall from the flash is exactly the same in every shot, but the ambient light is getting lighter as I slow the shutter speed.   ...until eventually, the light from the flash on the wall is perfectly balanced with the ambient light. So how does this help? In the wedding photo at the top of the page, I used Manual mode and made a guess of the exposure, it was only a test shot, but [...]

Learn how the Shutter Speed affects your flash photos – flash photography tips2017-05-29T16:22:15+01:00

Natural light photography on stormy days


When it comes to improving the quality of your photos, learning about light isn’t that sexy is it? Many people would much prefer to learn about their shiny new camera or lenses, rather than being shown some easy photography lighting tips. But it’s fair to say that a good understanding and use of light will improve your photos far more than a whole bag full of cameras and accessories. As an added bonus, light is with us all of the time (nearly!), and you don’t have to carry it around with you!! Sometimes, all it needs to create a much better photo is just a little thought and awareness of the light. So here’s a great natural light photography tip for certain bad weather days. The London Eye I was raised in London, and often go and re-visit my home town, one amazing attraction there is the London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames, it moves around very slowly and offers fabulous views across the London and its skyline. When I paid a visit with my camera last year, the weather was awful, but despite that, I was still able to get a great shot of ‘The Eye’ with some beautiful light. As you can see from the photo above, the weather was stormy and cloudy and a few minutes before I took this shot, the light was very poor. I could see that although there was enough light to take a photo, it just wasn’t a good quality light, being very bland and grey, and I knew that if I just took a photo there and then (like many other people were doing!), that it would just [...]

Natural light photography on stormy days2017-05-29T16:22:16+01:00

Understand the maximum flash sync speed


What exactly is a maximum flash sync speed and how can it cause problems Maybe you're already aware that your camera's shutter speed is limited to (usually) around 1/250th of a second when using flash. But why is that, and what happens if you ignore it, (assuming your camera allows you to ignore it?) Have you ever noticed, when you pop up your flash or put an external one on top of the camera, the settings sometimes change without you actually doing anything. You may have a shutter speed of say 1000th of a second dialled in, but then you pop up the flash, and suddenly it changes to 1/250th of a second. All DSLR cameras and most mirrorless cameras have what’s called focal plane shutters. The reason for the change of shutter speed that I just mentioned, is that these cameras have an inherent maximum shutter speed limit when shooting with electronic flash, and that limit is called the maximum sync speed. It’s usually 250th of a second, sometimes a little slower than that, 180th or 200th of a second. If you have a flashgun attached, many cameras won’t even allow you to set the shutter speed faster than the max sync speed, although some may allow it in the manual exposure mode, my Nikons don’t allow it. So here's the problem, there are two main parts of the shutter mechanism (called 'curtains'), and with shutter speeds faster than 250th of a second, the first curtain starts its journey to cover the sensor even before the second curtain has time to complete its movement. Shutter full open Shutter closing when at 500th of a second This results in a large black bar [...]

Understand the maximum flash sync speed2021-01-27T13:15:36+00:00

Use an external flashgun to bounce flash


External flashguns are great aren't they? As well as being far more powerful than the built in pop-flash on DSLR's, they usually come with a head that swivels, like in the above photo. This allows you to bounce the light off a nearby wall or ceiling. But why is it important to bounce the flash? The smaller the light source, the harder the light. Or to be more accurate, the smaller the light source in relation to the subject, the harder the light. Consider the light when he sun is shinning, you get strong shadows on the ground, and then when there is cloud cover, the light source spreads out and becomes larger, and consequently the shadows become much softer. When you bounce the flash, instead of the small flashgun being the source, the wall becomes your light source, consequently the light is much softer. What's the problem with hard light For portraits, hard light is not very flattering as shadows on the face and on the background will have a very hard edge, plus hard light creates highlight on noses, cheeks and foreheads. Not what you want! Compare these two photos of my wife Jane Guess which one used bounce flash! How to bounce the flash. For individuals or small groups, the best way to bounce the flash is to turn the flash head around 30-45 degree (depending on distance your subject) so that the light bounce off a nearby wall. It doesn't have to be a wall, could be a pillar, a building, or even someone wearing a white shirt standing close by. Just make sure that whatever you're bouncing from is white or has a neutral bright colour. If there are no [...]

Use an external flashgun to bounce flash2017-05-29T16:22:16+01:00

Flash photography tips – my favourite basic settings


Flash Photography TipsAlthough I much prefer to use natural lighting, sometimes there's no getting away from using flash indoors at family or friends get-togethers, parties, evenings out etc... If you have an external flashgun, you'll get far better results if you swivel the flash head to bounce the light off a wall or ceiling, but that's a subject of another tip (see ) Most people will just put their camera in one of the auto modes and hope for the best. Generally speaking you'll get a good exposure whatever exposure mode you use as the auto mode of the flash will help to keep the flash output just right. But the settings used in any of the auto modes can be improved upon, so regardless of whether you bounce or not, what are the best camera settings for flash photography? In this, the first of my flash photography tips, I'm going to assume you want to take a photo indoors when little or no daylight coming into the room, that's fairly typical for parties and get-togethers. [do action="TL-linktocurriculum2"] [/do] Avoiding the 'taken in a cave' look Quite often, these type of flash photos have a reasonable well exposed subject, but the backgrounds are typically quite dark, and that's because the camera sets the flash exposure to only light up your foreground subject. Here's a shot of my wife Jane, taken in a local pub the settings used are typical auto mode settings:- Auto mode, 1/60th sec, f4, ISO 100, pop-up flash fired Even if we use aperture or shutter speed priority, you wouldn't really get a better exposure than this because f4 and 1/60th are pretty good settings for this type of shot. [...]

Flash photography tips – my favourite basic settings2017-05-29T16:22:16+01:00
Go to Top