You can buy an expensive camera, you can memorize all the principles of composition, you can take three post-production courses, you can hire a professional model. But if there was bad light at the shooting, this will not help — anyway, the result will be mediocre at best. About what kind of light is bad and what to do with it, we understand this material.
In this text, we will rather talk about shooting people and reporting. Light when shooting landscapes, architecture and subjects is a topic for a separate discussion.
What kind of light in photography is considered bad
Green light fluorescent lamps
Boring diffused light
How to fix bad light
Move or rotate the model
Finish the light
Break the light
If nothing helps at all
Anyone who has been into photography for more than a day has probably heard a hundred times that noon is the worst time to photograph people, because the sun is high. Let’s take a closer look at why.
The fact is that the high sun gives light that falls strictly from above. It forms shadows that do not adorn human faces. These are the shadows from the eyebrows that lie above the eyes, the shadows from the eyelids that lie under the eyes, the shadows from the nose and lips.
In the picture below, a comparison of the top light and a more correct portrait one: placed a little in front and a little above the eyes of the model.
Top light can be found not only at noon on a sunny day. Very often you can get it by shooting indoors in a situation where the newlyweds, for example, were right under the lamp.
Overhead lighting is the most common and frequently occurring lighting error.
The lower light is a very specific thing. It is very unusual and greatly changes the features of the human face that are familiar to us. Such light is often used for artistic purposes. For example, in horror films, to show the inhuman nature of the character, insanity and other strong emotions.
For a classic portrait, low light is unacceptable. We rarely see faces illuminated in this way, so low light will always cause dissonance.
In life, such a light can be found when people are sitting at an illuminated bar counter or, for example, studying some showcase in a museum. In a good way, in these situations, such light needs to be corrected.
Green light fluorescent lamps
Such light is easy to find indoors, especially if old lamps are installed there. In addition to the fact that such lamps usually shine from above, they still have two problems.
First, the color of the light. They may be yellowish, often green. It is often difficult to find an adequate white balance to be good. You can use the function of spot white balance metering on a white object (for example, on a sheet of paper), but the automation does not always work correctly. Especially if there are windows in the room: the light of different colors mixes and gives a complete mess in terms of white balance.
Another problem is that the spectrum of such lamps is usually very narrow and limited to the green region of the spectrum. Sometimes this light is so green that the range of WB settings in the camera (sometimes even in the converter during development) may not be enough to compensate for this hue. This is especially true for jeeps and videos. There are more chances to pull out more from the equals during development.
Also, unlike sunlight, which has a continuous spectrum and includes all the shades that the eye sees, the spectrum of lamps is often discontinuous. Therefore, if under the sun we see on human skin a smooth transition from a more yellow forehead to redder cheeks, then under the lamps these areas will have sharp color boundaries.
If the stream of light looks like in the third figure, no matter what white balance you set, there will still be no normal color rendering. If the spectrum of the light source does not contain the desired wavelength, the camera simply does not see these shades.
Among other things, these lamps flicker, and parallel light and dark stripes may appear in the pictures — flicker. To get rid of flicker, you need to use only shutter speeds that are multiples of 50: 1/50, 1/100, and so on.
Why such a multiplicity? When the shutter speed is not suitable, we catch a moment where the light has already reached half a frame, and not yet another part. In 99% of cases, the lamps flicker at a frequency of 50 Hz, so by choosing shutter speeds that are multiples of 50, we get into the frequency and catch only those moments when they are on.
Backlighting is when the light source is behind the main subject. A mount can be useful if you are shooting a silhouette, for example. Also in the backlight, you can get beautiful pictures when shooting at sunset. In all other cases, the counter is more likely to harm.
For example, poor backlight can be encountered if speakers at an event speak against a brightly lit screen. Or when people pose with their backs to a window indoors.
Imagine a situation where the main character of the frame is standing next to, for example, a bright red wall on a sunny day. The light of the sun falls on the wall, is reflected from it and, tinted by its light, flies on people’s faces. The faces are red.
These things will happen regardless of the color of the wall. There will be blue — there will be blue faces. Similar reflections, by the way, can be obtained when shooting on a sunny day in greenery — trees and bushes tint the light of the sun green, and we get green faces.
Color reflections can be ignored — they are part of the nature of light reflection. But if the reflexes pull the blanket too much on themselves, they can be attributed to bad light and deal with them.
Boring diffused light
Such light can be found during the day on a cloudy day. Smooth light comes from all sides, so there is no pronounced black and white pattern on the faces, everything is approximately the same gray. This is not to say that such light is really bad. He’s just boring.
In fact, it is quite easy to shoot with diffused light: it is difficult to get underexposure or overexposure with it, it is difficult to make a mistake on the white balance. It, as a rule, does not change and does not depend on the direction — you can turn around and shoot in the other direction, getting approximately the same black and white pattern. On a sunny day, this will be more of a problem: when shooting in the light, some parameters are needed, when shooting against the light, others. But where there are more difficulties, there are more opportunities.
Boring diffused light, strictly speaking, does not need to be corrected. But it can be modified if you want to get a more interesting picture.
The options for bad light can be endless. But there are not too many recipes for correcting light, but they are quite universal. The easiest option:
Move or rotate the model
Don’t remake the light, just find the spot with the best light. Color reflections from a green wall? Let’s get away from her. Window behind? Let’s swap places so that the backlight from the window turns into a front light, or even better, a side light. Are the lamps hanging directly overhead? Let’s get out from under them, and even better — let’s go out into the street, where there is just a beautiful low sun.
It is not necessary to be heroic and make good light always and everywhere. You can find him and follow him. Smart heroes always go around.
This method is ideal for situations where you have some control over the shot. But it’s not suitable for hardcore reporting where you can’t direct anything.
And one more thing: to see bad light right on the set, and not bite your nails in horror in post-production, you need a certain level of observation. It, in turn, gives experience. A beginner needs to be very attentive and constantly return to the light in order to see and correct problems with it in time.
If you are shooting a wedding banquet, and the smart decorator decided to seat the newlyweds with their backs to a large window, then nothing can be done about it. Most likely, you will not be allowed to rearrange the podium or transplant the main characters of the holiday. And you have to shoot.
In this case, you can finish the light. By itself, the backlight doesn’t spoil anything for you, but you need to add one more source: frontal or top-side.
To do this, you can use a reflector or flash. You will also need a stand, a suitable softbox, and a set of radio triggers to work comfortably with your flash.
In the same way, overhead light or boring diffused light is being finalized. Overhead light most often needs a filling front light in a pair. Scattered — upper-lateral drawing. And happiness comes.
The overhead light of the sun outside is also easy to fix with a reflector. Flash is a little more difficult. You need, firstly, a powerful flash, and secondly, synchronizers compatible with the camera in order to be able to work in high-speed synchronization mode.
Break the light
In the case of light or low light that is not good in color, simply supplementing it will not work — parasitic shades or strange shadows will still spoil the picture. It is better to try to interrupt such light. To completely interrupt the light, you first need to set the camera settings so that without a flash it sees nothing in this room but a black square.
You will need:
- minimum ISO value (most often it is 200);
- covered aperture (you can start at f / 4 and turn in both directions);
- the minimum fast shutter speed at which flashes work (most often it is 1/100).
After that, we take the flashes and expose them to a decent scheme of light. For more information on how to shoot a reportage with one or more flashes, we wrote in this material.
This approach can also be used to improve overhead lighting. The only negative is that when working with not too powerful flashes, this method is only suitable for small rooms. But with Godox Witstro AD300Pro, you can flood a large hall with light.
If suddenly in the night you hear a cry “Enough! I’m translating in bw! ”, Most likely, this is a wedding man who, for the fourth hour in a row, is trying to make the bride’s face more human in color after shooting in some small registry office. Yeah, the one with the old fluorescent lights and green wallpaper on the walls.
There are cases and situations when it is difficult or impossible to fix the light on the shooting. And in post-processing, it also turns out some kind of nonsense. In these cases, the transfer of images to bw comes to the rescue.
Black and white can forgive and endure many technical mistakes. For example, if overexposure by a step is critical in color, it even looks appropriate in bw.