Learning to SEE the Light – Lessons Learned in my Practical Lighting class

So my practical lighting class has finally come to an end, and as much as I have winged about this class and all the complexities that lighting presents I learned A LOT! I am sad that I am no longer going to walk up to classroom A256 and listen to the brilliant Christopher Morris give lectures and challenge the way I think about photography, that I’m not going to see my classmates each Tuesday & Thursday evening and share our lighting horror stories…but I’ll take what I’ve learned with me and hopefully apply it to all my photographs here after. The most important and exciting thing that happened during this class was that I’ve learned to see the light in a completely new way – and once you learn to see the light you can’t turn it off. It’s kind of annoying that way, and you’ll probably drive all your non-photographer friends mad with your newly found knowledge, but it’s worth it!

Here are a few of my favorite shots of the lovely Alexia from our ambient lighting assignment:

Ambient.PracticalLighting.2013-5145Ambient.PracticalLighting.2013-5158Ambient.PracticalLighting.2013-5102

The most important aspect in photography that transforms your picture from average to something special is the LIGHT. Once you learn how to see the light – you can control the light and use it to your advantage, to share your vision & tell your story. I’m still at the beginning stages of learning to see the light – you have to really practice and re-train your brain to look for the characteristics of light. There are 5 important ones in photography: Quality, Direction, Intensity, Temperature and Contrast/Ratios.

  1. Quality refers to the spectrum between HARD and SOFT light – soft light is more fluid and can be more flattering showing less wrinkles/blemishes, whereas hard light is like a hammer creating more contrast, drama and texture.
  2. The Direction of the light is most clearly visible in your shadows or specular highlights and can be roughly divided into 3 categories – Front Light, Side Light, and Back Light – all give you different styles, looks, and moods in your overall image.
  3. The Intensity of the light isย  the primary aspect that establishes your working exposure – it sets the tone of your image – you have to read the scene and your histogram to find the “proper” exposure for the image you want to capture, what is most important in the scene?
  4. Temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin and is controlled in your White Balance settings, it helps your camera understand what type of light source you’re using – daylight, flash/strobe light, fluorescent, tungsten…etc.
  5. And finally we have Contrast Control or Lighting Ratios – to control the amount of contrast in your picture you have to determine the difference in the quantity of light between your highlights and shadows. It’s one of the most confusing aspects of understanding lighting until you actually start using it.

OK, I’ll stop boring you with my class notes!! But seriously, if you’re interested in photography take a lighting class – it will seriously change the way you shoot, it will change the way you see light and it will just be awesome!

So I thought I’d share my last two assignments with you so you can see what I learned, and not just read about it :). The first one was a Mixed-Source Lighting or Key-Shifting assignment – this is a super cool skill to have in your repertoire! Google Key-shifting right now if you don’t know what it is and want to! You either have to have a strobe-light or a speed-light to do it, but once you learn how you’ll want to do it all the time :). Basically what key-shifting does is it changes the exposure on your background to give you a more dramatic looking image, WITHOUT losing any light or changing the exposure on your subject (thanks to the strobe/speed-light). So here is my example of Key-shifting my exposure down first 1/3 Stop, then 1-Stop, 2-Stops, and 3-Stops. David was pretty fun to work with and came up with some interesting poses!

Starting Exposure: ISO 100, F5.6 @ 1/125

Starting Exposure: ISO 100, F5.6 @ 1/125

Key shifting down 1/3 Stop: ISO 100, F6.3 @ 1/125

Key shifting down 1/3 Stop: ISO 100, F6.3 @ 1/125

Key Shifting down 1 full stop: ISO 100, F 8 @ 1/125

Key Shifting down 1 full stop: ISO 100, F 8 @ 1/125

Key Shifting down 2 Full Stops: ISO 100, F 11 @ 1/125

Key Shifting down 2 Full Stops: ISO 100, F 11 @ 1/125

Key Shifting down 3 Full Stops: ISO 100, F 16 @ 1/125

Key Shifting down 3 Full Stops: ISO 100, F 16 @ 1/125

The last assignment we did was to re-create the lighting from a picture we were given the night of the class – we would be working with a model in similar clothing to the image, and it would be up to us to set up all the lighting and to make it look as close to the original image as possible. This was the hardest assignment I have ever had – it didn’t help that my group was given the most difficult image to do with the most elaborate lighting set up! It pretty much took the entire 3 hours to get it set up right, to determine all of the lighting ratios and a LOT of help from both our awesome TA and Instructor, AND I was so thankful for the most patient model known to man. While it was both equally difficult and frustrating, I learned A LOT! So here is the original image we were to recreate, my version as close as our group could get to it, and a background shot of how elaborate the lighting setup was! Hope you enjoy :).

We only had time for the top one of Lindsay Lohan!

We only had time for the top one of Lindsay Lohan!

The gorgeous Alexia!

The gorgeous Alexia!

Behind the scenes! 5 lights = lots of flagging!

Behind the scenes! 5 lights = lots of flagging!

So that is it for Practical Lighting, stay tuned for posts on other Photography classes I’m taking! This term I’m taking Photoshop Level 1 and Basic People Photography so I can get better at both editing AND working with & shooting models/people. I start this week and I’m so excited!! Thanks for reading and coming along on my journey of learning more about what I love – Photography!

Cheers,

~Naph

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5 thoughts on “Learning to SEE the Light – Lessons Learned in my Practical Lighting class

  1. Pingback: Weekend Catch-up #6 | PictureThis MyWay

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