7 Tips for softer looking light
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7 Tips for softer looking light

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Making Photography Easierwww.DIGITALBeginners.com7tipsforsofterlookinglightBeginners Digital Photography - Tutorial 03BDP03A4 - 010106Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 - 7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT 1 of 10Making Photography Easierwww.DIGITALBeginners.com7 tips for softer looking lightnless you are looking for a specific creative effect, soft light is the kind of light that weUshould be looking for in our photographs. When photographing people soft light is kinderon skin and it makes it less blotchy, especially those with Northern European complexions.Soft light is also less likely to show hard reflections on spectacles and other reflectivesurfaces such as metal, gloss paint, skin etc. Strong colours look much more natural withsoft light, colours are less hard and are closer to what they look like in real life.The one thing that professional photographers have over the rest of us is knowledge of theeffects of different kinds of light. They also know how various types of lighting equipment cancause light to be hard (direct flash, bare bulbs) or soft (through a diffuser, reflected offvarious surfaces such as ceilings).The following tips will show you how to get these professional effects using simpletechniques, which assume little or no prior knowledge of how your camera works in differentlighting situations.

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Published 12 January 2012
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Language English
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7 tips looking light Beginners Digital Photography - Tutorial 03
Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT
BDP03A4 - 010106 1 of 10
www. DIGITAL Beginners .com
7 tips for softer looking light
Making Photography Easier
U nslheosusldyobuealoreoklionogkifnorgifnorouarsppheoctifoigcracrpehast.ivWeheefnfepcht,otsoogftralipghhitnigsptehoeplkeinsdofotflliigghhttitshaktinwdeer on skin and it makes it less blotchy, especially those with Nor thern European complexions. Soft light is also less likely to show hard reflections on spectacles and other reflective sur faces such as metal, gloss paint, skin etc. Str ong colours look much mor e natural with soft light, colours are less hard and are closer to what they look like in real life. The one thing that professional photographers have over the rest of us is knowledge of the effects of different kinds of light. They also know how various types of lighting equipment can cause light to be hard (direct flash, bare bulbs) or soft (through a diffuser, reflected off various sur faces such as ceilings). The following tips will show you how to get these pr ofessional effects using simple techniques, which assume little or no prior knowledge of how your camera works in dif ferent lighting situations. As always, we keep it simple and walk you slowly through the different techniques involved.
Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT 2 of 10
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tip 1 Use a window to soften the light
PHOTO 1A - Soft light from a window
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PHOTO 1B - Paper reflector softens shadows PHOTO 1C - Taped sheets of paper reflect a little light into the shadows
The larger a light source is, the softer the light from it will be. One of the reasons why flashlight is so hard is that it is coming from a small concentrated area. Instead tr y placing your subject close to a window in daytime, you will find that the light is softer and more ‘moody’; make sure the flash is turned off. Shadows can still be a little dark (Photo 1a), but if you tape a number of sheets of white paper together you can soften the shadows and make the shot mor e appealing. The sheets reflect a little light back therefore lightening the shadows a little (Photo 1b and 1c). Any reflective material such as bed sheers or aluminium foil will work as well.
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Taped sheets of paper reflect a little light into the shadows
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tip 2 Use candles as the main source of light
PHOTO 2A - Candlelight shot with Auto White PHOTO 2B - Same shot with White Balance Balance and no fill light set to “Indoor” (bulb)
PHOTO 2C - Same shot with reflected light to lighten the shadows
Candlelight gives a ver y special ef fect but unfor tunately the light from it is hard. Because this effect is usually achieved at night there is little or no available light to help soften the deep shadows (Photo 2a). Again, if you tape a number of sheets of white paper together you can soften the shadows and make the shot more appealing. The sheets reflect a little light back therefore lightening the shadows (and reducing the contrast) a little bit (Photo 2b). You may find the light from the candle is a little too yellow (Photo 2a), if so, turn your camera’s White Balance settings to “Incandescent” or “Indoor”, usually illustrated by a light bulb (Photo 2c).
Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT 4 of 10
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tip 3 Place your subject under a tree or canopy
PHOTO 3A - Subject blinded by str ong sunlight; shadows har d and dark
PHOTO 3B - A tree softens the light and allows the eyes to be wide open
PHOTO 3C - Subject under a tree with flash turned on
Bright sun is not all it is cracked up to be! Because dir ect sunlight is so str ong subjects can easily be blinded. Shadows tend to be hard and dark (Photo 3a). One simple technique is to bring your subject under a tree or other overhanging canopy (Photo 3b). Immediately the light is softer, shadows are lighter and the subject’s eyes are open. Fill-in flash can also be used (Photo 3c) where you deliberately turn the flash on. The camera has balanced the light between the soft natural backlit light and the hard light of the flash.
Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT 5 of 10
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tip 4 Put the sun behind the subject
PHOTO 4A - Subject is turned away from the PHOTO 4B - Exposure lightened by pointing sun, but the camera is fooled by the str ong camera down from the bright light sour ce light from the sun; shot is under exposed, and using Shutter Button to lock exposur e.
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PHOTO 4C - Shot re-composed and taken with new exposure setting. Subject is now correctly exposed.
You can get a ver y pleasant photo if you position your subject with the sun behind them. The effect of the light around the edges of the body is called a “rim light” or “backgr ound light”. If your subject is too dark (Photo 4b) then point the camera down a little, away fr om the bright light. Hold your finger halfway down on the shutter to keep the new exposure, then re-compose and take the shot (Photo 4c). The illustration on the left shows how to lock the exposure on a compact camera. SLR’s usually have a separate button for locking the exposur e.
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FLASH BUTTONS EXPLAINED AUTO FLASH Camera is left to decide when the flash comes on. Sometimes this is options represented by no Flash Symbol showing at all. FLASH ALWAYS ON The flash will always fire, even in the brightest sunlight. FLASH ALWAYS OFF Flash never fires, no matter how dark. RED-EYE REDUCTION Camera will fire one or more “pre-flashes” to tr y to reduce the effect of “Red-Eye” in low light. NIGHT PORTRAIT Used to photograph people in front of poorly lit backgrounds such as floodlit buildings. Flash will fire and the camera will ltr y to balance the low light of the background with the strong light of the flash.
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tip 5 Use flash to soften dark shadows (Fill-in Flash)
PHOTO 5A - Camera is fooled by the str ong PHOTO 5B - Subject is properly lit when the light from the sun; shot is too dark flash is turned on If you find it too difficult to use the shutter button to lock the exposure on your camera, another technique you can use to soften shadows in the daytime is to use fill-in flash. Again, if a bright light or the sun is behind your subject the strong light may fool the camera. This can result in a dark or underexposed shot (Photo 5a). Make sure the flash on your camera is turned on and re-take the shot. The camera will automatically work out the best exposure, par ticularly if the subject is close (Photo 5b). The flash button is usually on the back of your camera. In automatic mode it will only come on when it is too dark so make sure the flash symbol shows in your LCD Screen (see left).
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To use this effect you may need to increase the power of your flash. Also, the mor e reflective the card the better. This technique may not work on all cameras.
tip 6 Bounce the flash off the ceiling
PHOTO 6A - Direct flash results in hard shadows and “red eye”
PHOTO 6B - Bounced flash results in softer shadows and no “red eye”
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SLR cameras allow you to use a separate flash gun. These can swivel so they ‘bounce’ the light of f a white ceiling, making the light look like it is coming from above. This technique also makes the shadows softer. But what if you cannot use an exter nal flashgun (Photo 6a)? Tr y using white card or highly reflective material such as a mirror, place it directly under your flash but make sure not to block any sensors on the front of the camera. Your flash might be power ful enough to throw the extra distance up to the ceiling and back down to the subject (Photo 6b). Best results are achieved with normal height ceilings of 2.4 metres (8 feet), which are white.
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Make sure that the tissue paper surrounds the subject. Compact Camera users should make sure it does not block any of the sensors on the front. SLR’s users can bring the tissue paper right up to the lens.
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tip 7 Use tissue paper to soften light for Macro shots
PHOTO 7A - Subject lit by available light from a window. Shadows are PHOTO 7B - Subject surrounded by a “light tent” made of tissue dark, overall colour is ver y blue and the shiny fork is reflecting the paper, shadows are softer, colours are more natural and reflections contents of the room have been cut down. The Macro button allows you to take close-up photographs of small objects. The window technique as described in tip 1 can be used here, but this may result in shadows that are too dark. Another problem can be that rounded reflective objects show up the surrounding room like a strange mir ror (Photo 7a). The light is also ver y blue from the outside sky. The easy way to soften the light and shadows on your subject is to cr eate a ‘light tent’ of tissue paper around your camera. This softens the light as it travels through the thin tissue paper and lets light reflect back from the white inside, softening the shadows even fur ther and making the colours mor e natural. Reflections are also significantly cut down (Photo 7b). Tr y this technique with your flash on, for situations where the natural light is too low.
Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT 9 of 10
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7 tips for softer looking light
tip 1 Use a window to soften the light
Making Photography Easier
tip 2 Use candles as the main source of light
tip 3 Place your subject under a tree or canopy
tip 4 Put the sun behind the subject
tip 5 Use flash to soften dark shadows (Fill-in Flash)
tip 6 Bounce the flash off the ceiling
tip 7 Use tissue paper to soften light for Macro shots
Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT 10 of 10
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Digital Beginners, 50 Canal Walk, Park West, Dublin 12, Ireland Telephone: 00 353 1 620 5156 Fax: 00 353 1 620 5157 Feedback Email: notes@digitalbeginners.com
At Digital Beginners we teach for the real world t Digital Beginners we are dedicated to making photography easier. Our notes only cover A Digital Photography. We do not burden you with unnecessar y information about topics you do not need to know about. With this in mind, we have made a deliberate decision to exclude any discussion about the characteristics of film, developing film or film cameras. Knowledge in this area is not needed to be a good Digital Photographer. Also, too many teachers in this field forget how difficult the jargon is for the average user of digital cameras and software. We make learning easy for you. We do this by breaking ever ything down into bite size chunks and then repeating the key concepts so that you can take it all in, little piece by little piece. All of our notes are specially written in plain English and are illustrated with full colour photographs and illustrations to show you exactly what you need to learn. They have been fine-tuned in a classroom setting, so each of the tips in this set of notes work in the real world.
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All text, photographs and illustrations ©2006 David McKane
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Tel: 00353 1 620 5156 • Email: info@digitalbeginners.com • www.digitalbeginners.com • All text, photographs and illustrations © David McKane 2006 DBP03 -7 TIPS FOR SOFTER LOOKING LIGHT