by Gary Fong
Photographer: Andy Shafer
There’s never enough talk about light…cause photography is….hum…all about light. From a computer’s perspective…there’s 256 shades of daylight, 256 degrees of contrast, and 256 levels something else…which is the long way of saying there’s an infinite combinations of light that can touch the subjects. The trick is…to make a small subset of those combinations work for the viewer.
Most photographers like shooting under indirect sunlight (soft light). It can be found in the open shade, direct sunlight bouncing off a wall, or emanating from a window….just to mention a few common venues.
Soft light allows for a wide tonal range of color to enhance the subject’s features. Tonal range is not simply black or white, there’s a host of grays in there too…not to mention an entire color spectrum, (Figure 1). The transition from light to dark is gradual, allowing the details of the outfit and background to be enhanced for the viewer.
Under direct sunlight, the contrast range is shallow, producing a limited spectrum. Models don’t like direct sunlight, because it makes them squint…not to mention highlighting the blemishes in their butter cream skin.
Figure 2 Figure 3
A nice feature about shooting under daylight…if the light is not pleasing, wait a few minutes or hours. It’ll change modestly to drastically. If one has the time to watch, the the mood, shadows, or color temperature all change, (Figure 2 - left and Figure 3 - right).
If the model has unlimited time or the photographer has unlimited funds, observe and shoot the changes in lighting throughout the day. Take some note on which conditions might be most conducive to the project. If the atmospherics are similar, one could do the real shoot the following day. It doesn’t save a lot of time or money, but it will provide the best time and locations for the light.