Light in Photography - How does lighting affect your photo prints?
Light in photography is the most important but difficult element of your casual photos. Mostly this has been brought about by the advent of camera phones and pads with cameras. Gone is the need to purchase a camera, keep it safely away in a case, check that the batteries are charged, make sure you have space on the memory card etc. etc. The new age of cameras built into mobile devices mean that wonderful pictures can be taken with the phone or pad which you probably have out anyway. They can be stored on your mobile device, uploaded to the cloud or sent direct to Instagram and Facebook. Photography made easy. However, there are still a few easy ways to ensure that your photos are at their best, regardless of whether you plan to print photos or just keep images as treasured digital memories.
How does light in photography affect my prints?
Light in photography for portraits is by far the most frequent issue with all photos and becomes especially relevant when you want to get your images printed. It may be that you see a beautiful archway or alcove which is surrounded by sunlight. To the human eye as you take in the entire setting, you perceive a beautiful image, brightly lit. Obviously, the perfect photograph. You direct your subjects to stand in the archway, alcove, cave or beneath a tree and take a snap. The problem is that within the area that your subjects are placed there is shade, not light. This means that your friends or family and their faces are in darkness.
When viewed on screen, your eyes utilise the light available on the digital display to just about make-out your subjects. However, when converted into the print environment for a poster the faces are barely discernible. It is much wiser when taking a photo to ensure that your friends or relatives stand within the sunlit area, slightly in front of any shadows. Just take a quick look to make sure their faces are clearly lit. You can still take your perfectly posed image with the archway or tree behind your subjects rather than have them posing in the shadows.
A captivating faceSometimes as a photographer you become so fixated on the character of a face, you neglect to notice that the subject is not standing in the light. This image shows a bright sunny day against a white backdrop. Parts of the man are well lit but unfortunately his face is completely shadowed. Its normally not too much of an imposition to ask your subject to step over into the light so that the character details of his face can be seen.
TwilightA young girl, kindly posing for the camera. However, the photographer has failed to notice that in the twilight, all the light is coming from the side of the setting sun. Therefore when the photo is taken, the details of the young girl's face are hardly visible. Simply asking the subject to turn towards the sun would solve the problem. A portrait photographer is always best standing with back to the sun.
Wildlife photographyA squirrel posing in the shadows - well there's not a lot to be done about this capture. One of the inherent challenges of wildlife photography - asking a squirrel to move into the light will not succeed ! However, at Poster Print Co, we will always endeavour to bring out the best in your photography, even if that means adjusting an area of the image to make it lighter. Some magical moments just need to be captured and printed.
Group shotsUnfortunately, all of the boys in this shot are standing in the shade of the tree which makes it difficult to see their faces. With group travel shots such as tropical weddings the same problem can occur. It seems a lovely idea to have all the guests standing in the shade of a tree for the photo. However, it is best to take pictures with everyone standing out of the shade and the sun coming from behind the photographer, thus avoiding shadows.
Backlighting in photography means just what it says, the light is coming from behind your subjects and heading straight into the camera lens. Effectively this causes your family or friends to be silhouettes.Often when looking and a view with the human eye, you look towards the sun and it appears as though everything is beautifully lit. This is especially true when asking people to stand in front of a landscape for a panoramic print, but can also occur when people are sitting on a bench or standing in a garden. To the human eye, there is a perception of light coming from all directions, making a perfect setting. As a photographer, you ask your subjects to stand in the sunlight.
To your eye, everything is bathed in sunlight. However, often with the sun either behind or off to the side, their faces are in shadow. When taking your holiday snap you hardly notice that their features are obscured, it only becomes apparent when you view your images later. The best place for the sun to be located for any image is behind the photographers back, or slightly to the side and behind. This way, the light will be shining onto the faces of your subjects. Sometimes this causes people to squint a little but it they turn their faces slight to the side or gaze directly into the camera rather than the sun the end result will be well worth it. When you come to view your photos onscreen or have them printed, you will have a memorable image capturing the faces of the friends and family who shared the experience with you.
SunsetTwo children playing in the setting sun. Your eye sees faces however, the camera sees only the sunlight behind. The automated settings on the camera will adjust to the brightest area in the centre of the frame, leaving the children in darkness. Sometimes a silhouette feature is desired, at other times you wish to see faces. Often simply taking the photo from an alternative angle, or ensuring that you focus on the subjects can solve the problem.
Focal point unclearAnother example of backlighting. As the photographer takes the picture, all they see is their companion leaning over the rails, face perfectly visible. However, the camera automatically adjust to the majority of the captured area, the sky and sea. This leaves the subject entirely black. The same solution applies, take the photo from an alternative angle or ensure you focus the camera on the subject so the camera adjusts the photo lightness accordingly.
Backlight artistic effectsBacklighting in photography can be used intentionally to create a mystical effect with few visible details and softly faded colours. This could be considered a beautifully artistic shot if a gently misty image is desired, however this type of picture takes careful preparation to achieve the preferred result.
SilhouettesA lovely evening shot in a field, however backlighting has caused the camera to leave the subject in silhouette. Sometimes using backlighting in photography with a quirky pose in the sunset yields an amazing result, however this particular picture just leaves the viewer wondering who the subject is.
Faces in the shade of caps and hats - mums love them, kids can love or dislike them, cameras definitely find them a challenge. The purpose of caps and hats is to provide shade, protecting the face from sunlight and potential damage by the sun’s rays. Unfortunately, this is precisely the reason why they are not photography friendly. Its perfectly natural for mum to want the children to wear a cap whilst away on a lovely sunny holiday, especially as in Britain our skin is unused to large quantities of sunshine. However the same device that provides shade and protection, also provides shadow. This means that the eyes and upper portion of faces become lost in darkness and lose definition, sometimes becoming not much more than dark blobs. Its lovely to take a photo of your daughter or son sitting by a rock on a beautiful sunny hillside, wearing their favourite cap ...
However, when you view or print the photo, your child’s face is not much more than a dark blob, hardly visible beneath the cap. So remember to ask your subjects to remove their hats or face towards the sun for a few minutes whilst you take their photos. Seeing well lit eyes and faces makes your photos far more interesting. Lighting is often the main issue with many holiday snaps that include people, just take a moment to ensure that the camera is seeing the same image you are. We hope this article helps you with your holiday photography… and remember that at Poster Print Co, we will always try to ensure that your photos are printed at their very best, regardless of whether the light is perfect or not! For more hints on your holiday photography, why not see our article with hints on photo resolution and quality for print.
Posing with a favourite capA seemingly perfect, happy holiday pose. However, the face of the child is completely obscured by the shadow cast from the cap. Photos are best taken without caps if the sun is not coming from the correct direction to light the face beneath the cap. It's no fun having a photo of your children if you cannot see their face, despite how cute they may appear. Another option is to tilt the cap back slightly so that less shadow is cast.
Take the time to consider the effects of light in photographyA lovely shot with a beautiful face perfectly framed in a straw hat. However, the face is left indistinguishable as the sun is coming from behind. The golden rule for any picture that you may wish to print or view is always ensure the sun is behind the photographer, even if it means asking your subject to turn around and face the sun. That way, all of your holiday photography will capture the people who shared your adventures with you.
Noise is the bane of all photos taken in limited lighting conditions.Often, when you view a photo of a night-time sky full of stars, all you see is a wave of tiny dots containing red, green and blue. This is known as ‘noise’ and is inherent in all digital photography where the lighting is limited. Basically, the colours of the image break apart into tiny dots whilst the camera struggles to find enough light to render the image. Essentially there is nothing that can be done to prevent this from happening to some degree.
Professional photographers use various techniques to reduce the level of noise although this is a complicated methodology and requires knowledge and experience.
Beautiful sunsets, will always be stunning as printed posters.Do not be deterred from printing those amazing evening images of sunsets or sunrise. We use noise reduction software where possible when printing dark images. This slightly reduces the effect, however, most dark prints when viewed are not destroyed by the appearance of some noise. The overall view of a stunning sunset over sea or landscape is still beautiful to behold.
For those of you with digital SLR cameras, all of the above three points get far more complicated. The quality of your digital chip, coupled with resolution, lens quality, and camera software add an even greater degree of variation to the results of your photography.