- Broader light source gives softer illumination
A broader source of light decreases shadows, contrast and suppresses the texture. The narrower the source, harder the light will be. Light from a broad source hits the subject from more directions, which tends to fill in shadows and give even illumination to the scene.
This can be used in your photography without any studio equipment. Placing your subject near a large window that is not in the direct line of sunlight is sufficient.
2. Closer the source, softer the light
Light becomes harder as you move the source farther away. This is because- you move the source closer, it gets bigger-broader- with respect to the subject. Move it farther away and it becomes smaller and narrower. For instance, the sun is 109 times the diameter of Earth, but at 93 million miles away it takes up a small portion of the sky. Hence the light is harder when it falls on a subject. Move lamps closer to the subject to provide a more flattering light, while photographing indoors.
3. Diffusion scatters light making it broader and softer
Shadows are less distinct if it is cloudy. Shadows disappear when it is foggy. Clouds, fog, overcast skies diffuse the sunlight and scatter it in many directions. Cloudy, overcast or foggy days are nature’s softbox. A diffuser like translucent plastic or white fabric can be used to diffuse the light source. Placing a diffuser in front of an artificial light source, like a strobe or using a light tent on bright sunny days, can soften the light falling on your subject.
4. Bouncing light is diffused light
Aiming a narrow light at a broad matte surface, like a wall, will not only reflect light but also diffuse it by scattering it over a wider area. Using a shiny reflector instead of a matte one will ensure that the light remains fairly narrow after it bounces off, like a mirror.
A piece of crumpled aluminum foil, that has been wrapped around a piece of cardboard acts as a good reflector, it is not as soft as a matte surface and is great for adding sparkles.
5. Farther the light, dimmer the subject
Light falls off as the square of the distance. This basically means that if light is moved twice as far from the subject only one-quarter of the light actually falls on the subject. Light gets dimmer as you move it farther away. This should be kept in mind while moving lights or the subject around.
Light reflected off a shiny surface adds to the distance it travels to fall on your subject. Using a speedlite as a fill flash for outdoor photography on harshly lit days, is an effective trick to lighten shadows on the subject without affecting the background exposure.
6. Light falloff affects the relationship between the light on the subject and the background
If the light is placed near the subject, the falloff from the subject on the background will be more intense. If the light is moved away the background becomes brighter. Similarly for side lighting, a light placed close to the subject will result in a more pronounced falloff of light across the frame than if the light is farther away.
If the subject is lit with windowlight, the subject should be placed closer to the window to allow the rest of the background to falloff in darkness. If the background needs to be lit, then move the subject away from the window to allow the light to fall on the background.
7. Texture can be de-emphasized by frontlighting and emphasized by side, above or below
Lighting can be used to emphasize or de-emphasize the texture of a subject. For instance, de-emphasis is required in order to reduce the amount of wrinkles on the face of the subject and emphasis is required to show the texture of rocks, sand etc.
The angle of the light is proportional to the amount of texture revealed. Greater the angle greater the exposure of texture. Positioning the lightsource on the side emphasizes texture when pictures of dogs with fluffy fur is to be taken.
8. Shadows create Volume
Three-dimensionality of a picture can be described as seeing it as an object in space and not projected on a flat surface, something that has volume. Lighting the subject from the side, above, below creates a sense of volume by casting deeper and longer shadows. This is the reason as to why still-life, product and landscape photographers use lights at an angle.
9. Backlight is a form of highly diffused lighting
Subjects are hardly ever completely backlit. This means that there is always some light falling on the subject from the front, it can never be a pure silhouette. A subject that is backlit from standing in front of a bright window will have light that is reflected off the wall in front, falling on it.
A subject standing outside with its back to the sun will have light falling on the front from the open sky. Exposure needs to be increased in order to record the light falling on the front properly, it de-emphasizes the texture and dimensionality.
Compositions that include the source of light give a spark to the backlit subject or silhouette. This can drive the meter in the camera crazy, therefore exposures should be bracketed.
10. Light always has colour
Known as colour temperature, it is something that our eyes and brain adjusts to, so we are hardly able to notice it. Digital sensors and film on the other hand have the ability to record it. The colour of light at dawn and that of late afternoon is warm, while that at midday can be rather bluish. The light that tungsten bulbs cast is very yellow. Any surface that the light bounces off of adds colour to it.
White balance control can be used in digital cameras to neutralize or emphasize this effect, it adds a warmer tone to a landscape or portrait. Whereas with slide film, one would have to choose the right film for the light they would be shooting in or compensate by using filters.
Setting the camera’s colour balance to Cloudy can be helpful while photographing landscapes on a clear day. This acts as a warming filter for a golden glow, more so in the shadows.