Light, the most important component when creating a good photo, a photo that pops, grabs hold of the viewer and pulls you into the image. And what better light to use than the warm, lovely sunlight? Well, I live in Sweden and during the winter we don’t really get much sun so that’s not always something you can rely on. Besides, I can sometimes be, ever so slightly, lazy (mind you, doesn’t happen often, certainly not), which means I might not always feel like hauling all my gear outside for a shoot. Another factor that plays a part is time: I don’t always (i.e. almost never) have time to sit around and wait for the sun to gracefully make its way to the perfect position for the shot I want. So what do we do? Hit the jump and find out.

What were we talking about? Right, cookies – yummy, delicious, home made cookies. Hand packed by my wife with a cute ribbon to finish it off. They look great, don’t you think? Sitting there on the table with the late afternoon sun pouring in through the window, giving off a sense of rural home-madeness (is that a word? Why yes, I believe I just made it one, thank you). But something is rotten in the kingdom of Denmark Sweden. There’s no natural light in the photo above. In fact, if you took away the flash you would be left with an almost completely black frame.

When there is no sun to be found, create your own. You get lovely light and you have complete control over it, no more waiting for that pesky ball of gas to show up. When using flash to light your scene you’re free to create any kind of funky effects you want but often it can be good to be a bit more conservative and subtle. By emulating natural light you can make your image that much more believable. Most people will immediately accept that what they’re seeing is sunlight falling on the cookies (if they can stop drooling long enough). It just feels right and it was exactly what I was going for with this shot. I got a bit lucky that the plastic wrapping enhanced the light in such a nice way as well. Without flash it would have been a very drab and boring picture.

Technical details: very simple setup with two lights (both lp160). One to the left, bare and set to bounce off the wall and ceiling to create fill and a nice, even light. Second one to the right, bare with some cto gel to create our sun.

PortraitYou don’t have to completely replace the ambient light either. In the photo to the left (again of my pretty wife) I used the sunlight to give the rest of my light a reason to be there, to make the eye accept it more naturally. The sun is coming in through the curtains (without curtains we would have a blown out, dirty window with a boring building outside as background), giving the background a nice, warm tone. I underexposed the background a bit so as not to make it too prominent (focus should be on that pretty face). I then placed a bare lp160 with cto gel right behind the model. We now have a warm rim light that makes sense to the eye. It’s easy to come up with some flashy light setup, I’m definitely guilty of that too – I’m allowed to though. Since I’m just starting to learn this stuff its justified, no really, it is – but often subtle light can be equally, or even more, powerful. In hindsight, and with more time to play around, I would have tried to make the backlight come in from a higher position to give it more room to play in the hair and shoulders. For those who are wondering: key light was an lp160 high left in shoot through umbrella.

That’s it for today, now go out there and create your own sun. Next time I’ll probably show something flashier but I hope I won’t forget what subtlety can do for a photo as I learn more techniques. Now, I wonder if there are any cookies left…


Cookies Portrait Portrait