In this episode of Capture The Chaos: Grow Your Newborn & Family Photography Business I’m answering questions about lighting tips for photographers. We cover some basic light behaviors so you can use light techniques for better images, how to use flash for in home sessions, strobe or flash vs continuous light, shooting in auto white balance or Kelvin (manual white balance), and tips to reduce noise and grain in your images.
Light is arguably the most important aspect of a photograph it can make or break the image. Photography literally means drawing with light. You cannot out edit bad lighting. It’s so important for us as photographers to understand how light works and how to use it. Use it in our images, learn the lighting rules. However, don’t be afraid to break those rules. If you think it will make your image stronger. The important thing is to use light with intention.
My number one lighting tip for photographers: You definitely need to experiment with different types of light and find what fits your style best. When I share my light preferences, it’s coming from the position of being a brighter and more bold style. You wouldn’t classify me as a moody photographer. So you probably won’t find a lot of shadows in my work. If you like to include shadows, you wouldn’t use the lighting the same way that I do.
With that being said, light has specific behaviors and they don’t change. We simply have to change how we utilize it. A few behaviors of light you’ll wanna keep in mind, light travels in a straight line until it’s deflected onto another path. Light fades. As the source is moved further away. Think of shooting close to a window versus stepping a few feet away from it. The light gets less strong. The larger the light source relative to the subject, the softer the shadow to highlight transition, think of a large window versus a smaller window, which one will have harder shadow.
Harder shadows the smaller window, try it and see what happens. And when I say shadow to light transition, I just mean how softly in the gradient that it changes from shadow to highlight, you know, whenever you’re in really harsh sun, how the there’ll be a shadow boo highlight it’s right there on the line. There’s not much transition there.
Some light source variations to keep in mind, like I was talking about a hard source would be straight on or direct you’d think of sun at midday. This type of light creates quick shadow transitions. A soft source would be bounced or diffused. Think of golden hour, open shade window light diffused light is when the path of the light is scattered. Sending it in different directions with this type of light, the shadows transition slowly, and you’ll have less hard lines. I asked some people to send in a few questions regarding light so I could answer them here on the podcast.
The first lighting tips for photographers: is how do you bounce flash during in-home sessions? I asked her what type of flash she was using, and it’s an on-camera speed light without a reflector. So there are three main types of added light sources, which we have continuous light speed light, which is a flash that connects to the top of your camera. So you can put it on your camera or you can put it on a stand with a trigger and a strobe, which is similar to a flash, but it provides quick burst of light. And it’s typically off camera. The important thing to know is that speedlights and continuous lights are not as bright or powerful as a strobe. So when I’m doing sessions in homes I prefer a strobe because I can manipulate it a lot easier than I can with continuous light or a speed light.
Remember the rule light fades as a source is moved further away. If you have a speed light, which isn’t super powerful to begin with and you bounce it off the wall behind you. Usually people are gonna bounce it on the wall behind them. It’s gonna deliver less light to the subject because it had to travel from the flash all the way back to the wall and then bounce off the wall. And then back to the subject, add to that if the walls are taller or farther away, it’s gonna have to try travel even further and be even weaker once it reaches the subject.
My recommendation would be to start using a strobe for in-home newborn sessions, but I know some people are really reluctant to do that. So my next best advice would be to get a reflector kit that you can attached to the speed light. So the light doesn’t have to travel as far. So there’s these little bendable reflectors that you can put around the speed light on your camera, and it flashes off the reflector. And then back towards the subject, that way it doesn’t have to travel all the way to the wall. And you don’t have to worry about where the walls are.
The second lighting tip for photographers: Flash or continuous light. And I think you might have already guessed the answer to that. But the same thing, as I mentioned with the speed light, continuous light, isn’t as powerful as a strobe. However, there are some benefits to using continuous light.
Would be that they’re good for enhancing natural light. It’s easy to work with because you see exactly what you’re gonna get in camera.
They’re not as bright and you’ll need a higher ISO and a show. A I can’t say it a slower shutter speed. Say that five times fast, slower shutter speed, slower shutter speed. The other con is that you cannot manipulate the brightness of a continuous light. It is what it is now.
You can literally shoot at any time of day and you have more control over the brightness of it. It tends to be much more powerful than a continuous light. So if I walk into a home that’s completely dark or it’s at night, if I really wanted to do that, I could still photograph the session and not be afraid of how much light there is granted. I really don’t prefer to walk into darker homes, even with my strobe, but it is what it is. It makes it a little easier to work with. There’s rarely any lighting situations that a strobe can’t handle and you can use a low ISO, which helps reduce the noise of an image.
They can be distracting and you can’t see exactly what light you’re gonna get until you get a test shot. It’s harder to learn. I will admit that. And then one, 200th of a second is the fastest shutter speed. You should use to sync with a strobe because the shutter cannot keep up. Nope. Back up. The strobe cannot keep up with a faster shutter speed and you’ll get black lines across the top or bottom of your image. For me, the pros of a strobe bar outweigh cons. My light preference for in-home newborn sessions would be number one, strobe, number two, continuous, and number three, speed light way at the bottom.
The third lighting tip for photographers: I’ve seen photographers, underexposed images, so they can save in quotes, colors, and play around with editing. I’ve tried it on purpose and by accident. And my images are grainy and noisy yet when I’ve seen other photographers do it, their images remain crisp. How so noise is formed by irregular pixels, misrepresenting the luminance and tonality of the photograph.
The camera center does not capture the information properly during the shot. And the camera processor has to make its own interpretation of the image. And that’s where you get those weird grainy color for color, for spots in the image. Usually in the shadows, you ha, when you take a photo in low light conditions and you don’t properly expose the image, your camera has to create that missing
information by itself. It’s a computer guys like, so it has to just do its best. We’re still smarter than a computer for now.
ISO settings is how sensitive your camera sensor is to the light shooting with a higher ISO makes your camera produce more noise because it has to work harder to establish an image. Noise can happen in any low light situation, but it’s less likely to happen when you’re using a lower ISO. So more like 100, 200, 400 to reduce the chance of noise, try shooting with a lower ISO.
The fourth lighting tip for photographers: I usually don’t like to go over 800. If I can avoid it and use a wider aperture or a slower shutter speed. If you can, those three things, the exposure triangle, those three things combined will help you get less noise, but a more balanced image. However, I don’t think it’s really necessary to underexpose an image so much just to save the colors.
If you’re trying to save the sky, you would just need to expose properly for the sky. The rest of your image will likely be underexposed and that’s mine. You can bring that up in post-processing remember, go ahead and use a low rest ISO, if you underexposed unnecessarily, you’re going to lose some detail in your shadows and you’re still gonna be dealing with grain. You also, you can also come hello. You can also some of the noise during editing, by adjusting the Luminant slider for noise.
The fifth lighting tip for photographers: auto white balance versus Kelvin. Okay. And technically, if you don’t wanna get your head bit off in photography forums, don’t call it shooting in Kelvin it’s shooting in manual white balance. Most people call it Kelvin, but you’ll still get those. Um, know-it-alls who say it’s, it’s not shooting in Kelvin. Kelvin’s the measure of light, whatever. Okay. I call it Kelvin’s. You can call it Kelvin, just be prepared that someone’s snotty might say something to you. So in short, Kelvin represents the color temperature of light. In lightroom, or Adobe came a raw whatever you’re editing in when you edit your white balance, if you push the slider more towards the blues, the numbers start to go down. If you push it more towards the orange, the numbers go up.
The major benefit to shooting in Kelvin is that you can set it based on the lighting situation and leave it until your lighting situation changes. When you edit, you may have to tweak it slightly, but then you can just adjust all of the images to one photo and save a lot of time. If you use auto white balance, the camera is making the decision for every single image, which means you’ll have to change it for every single image. Holy cow, that takes a lot of time. My vote is for Kelvin all day, every day or manual white balance. If you wanna get technical.
For ref for a quick reference on what to put your white balance setting at when you shoot my manual, my loose manual, when I shoot it’s, when I’m shooting in Tungston light, which is that like really warm bulbs. Um, typically I don’t want those bulbs on at all. So I don’t very, I don’t shoot in Tungston very often, but I’ll set my camera settings about 3000 for the Kelvin.
And then if I’m in home with lights off, I’m using window light or my strobe, I’m gonna be at at about 5,000 for my settings. And then if I’m in open shade, outside kind of situation, I’m probably gonna be between 6,000 or 7,000. Um, and usually I’ll just say at 6,000 or 7,000 throughout the rest of my session, I don’t go through and I don’t change it, uh, based on how the light changes.
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