How To Find The "Right" Light Direction

Photography - 101 Composition, Artistry, And Creating Great Images
11 minutes
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I want to talk about the first of the four C's. And that is cast and cast is basically defined, by the way, light and shadows are hitting a surface. And what we're essentially talking about is simply light direction cast is just, well, a nice little acronym that fits into our four C's. And it actually is what it is. Alright, so to demonstrate cast, we have our couple out here. And we're going to basically be moving around the scene to show you guys exactly how cast works.

Now with our light direction right now it's around 2pm. And it's sort of around when is this still wintertime? I don't know. It's February, right? That's still wintertime. Okay, we're not quite to spring.

So in different times of the year, it's going to be different and also in different locales. So locales that is a right word, right, locale it sounds like I'm saying low calories. locales. All right, in a different location. So in California, it's kind of cool because in the wintertime, well, we always have like direction, the wintertime, meaning that the sun never goes above our heads during the winter, it comes like an arcs in that little fashion. All right, just like that, just like my hand motion.

Okay. So as long as As the sun is giving us a direction of light, it's very easy to work with. The problem is when the sun is directly overhead when it's directly over our heads, it shines straight down. And we get basically these dark shadows cast over our eyes. And it looks really terrible, the worse the light direction is the more modification that we generally need. And here we have our two modifiers.

What we have right now is direct light. So if we take a look at them, we can basically see that if you look straight towards the sun, you can see that the light is what we would refer to as flat lighting. Okay, so it's coming top down, and it's flat so that we don't have basically any shadows on each side of their face. But the problem is that the light is still harsh. Generally, when we're shooting with direct lighting, we want to wait for those golden hours during the day. So during sunrise or during sunset, when the sun is at its lowest on its horizon, because that's when that light is basically reflecting off the entire atmosphere and it looks incredible, like a giant softbox that's reflecting onto your couple or your subject or whoever you have.

But when we're not working there in these types of days, we need to modify our light and so what we're going to do here is I'm going to Modify. So if we were shooting with this kind of direct light, what I would do is I would use a scrim. This scrim in our standard five and one this is the inside of it is going to basically share the light, it's going to let light through, but it's going to diffuse it and soften it, I want to show you guys exactly what that looks like. So I'm going to come over here just on the other side of the camera, and I'm going to hold this up, just so it's covering them. Now I want the camera to get in close and to shoot just a couple and take a look at that soft lighting over their skin.

So it's nice, it's bright, it's still that same flat light. It's not directional, it's coming straight on to them, but we've softened it by using this nice diffuser. Okay, so let's go ahead and do a little turning action. Now. Generally, to check out the direction of light or to check out the cast, we just use our hand trick and our hand trick is just simply to turn and to study the direction of light wherever we are, and we can see it as it falls under our hand. Right now we have a model and a couple.

And so we're going to use our models to do that for us. But if we didn't, that's what we do. It kind of makes you look like a crazy person to which is totally awesome. But remember to that light around It is there even when you're working in the shade, it's there regardless of where you're working, you just need to find it and that's why we're going to use the hand trick. Okay, so instead of our hands we're gonna use our couple now what I want you guys to do is just start to rotate a little bit. Okay, so rotate towards me.

Let's go to right about there and camera come over a little bit more, so you're shooting straight on to the couple. Now from this direction, we are sidelight. Okay, so you can see the highlights on each side of their face. And again, this is not a very flattering look when that sidelight is basically as harsh as it is right now. This side lit look is great for creating dimension in a face for creating a little more drama in a face, but we don't want that light to be as hard. So again, what we do is we bring up that scrim and we diffuse it.

So again, from this side, you can see that the light direction is coming from the side and we get this beautiful kind of wrapping light falling off with the scrim from this direction. Okay, let's go ahead and move again. And now we're going to move until you're backlit. Now this is one of my favorite positions to pose and why because the sun we're using it as a secondary light. We're using it as a hair light in this kind of a scene. So we don't need to have as many lights because well, the sun is acting as our hair light.

Now we just need either a modifier or a main light to fill into their faces. But the problem with when you're shooting against the light like this, like if we were shooting we'd be shooting this way. And this is against the light is that? Well, we have a lot of shadow areas of the face. And you can use objects around you like for example, we have dirt and grass and stuff that in front of us, that's going to reflect light. Dirt is always better.

Asphalt is always better cement is always better, because those are going to reflect more neutral tones or dirt reflects kind of a more brown tone which match the skin, but surfaces that are say red or green, they're going to reflect that color and it's not going to look nearly as good. So look for these types of natural reflective surfaces that you can use as these fill lights. So in this kind of a situation, well I have a couple different options I could use I'm going to grab my silver side real fast. I could use this silver reflector and we can basically reflect light back up just from underneath. And remember that I'm not catching basically the direct sun, I'm catching light from the shadows from the shadows from the shadows. That should be a new term, we're catching light from the shadow.

All right, we're catching light from the shadows and we're directing it back up. So take a look at how it fills the face. If this were catching direct light, we would get that up light look. And that uplift look is not very flattering, it would look something like this. Okay, see that uplift look looks absolutely terrible. It also makes them squint, which is not good.

So this is just a nice fill that kind of evens out those shadows when you're shooting against the light. If we wanted to, we could also use this light as a main light. So basically, the sun is going to cast a light and we're going to catch it directly. And we're going to put it right onto their faces and it's going to become our main. So basically, this would look something like this, where this becomes the main light that we're using the scene. But again, this is a technique that works awesomely well as a main light, but it's a constant light, meaning that as long as this reflector is pointing at them, it's going to be extremely bright.

It's going to be hard to look through. It makes you guys squint right when you guys see it, and especially if your models or if your couple are more fair skin, it's going to be even brighter for them and if They have lighter tone eyes, it's gonna be very difficult to hold their eyes open. So if you are using the silver as a main light, give your subjects good breaks in between shots don't keep it on the whole time. Otherwise they're gonna walk away with well probably damaged eyes and very dark skin. Afterwards, we want to want to give you guys like a tan during the shoot, right? Like that we're like two birds one stone.

All right, so that's another option, we can use the silver side as that main light. The other way we can go about it too, is we like to stick the white in front of the silver at times. So with the white in front of silver, it gives us a softer light, it still gives us a light, but it's not quite as harsh. Okay, the easiest way by the way to find your light guys when you're using reflectors is to first point it at the sun and then direct it to the model. So all I would do is bring it right up to the sun and bring it to the models again always come high to low. Light should be from high to low.

That's the way we naturally perceive it. So as soon as I start up lighting things like we did just a second ago. Well as soon as I started doing this automatically it does not look right because well psychologically we are used to like coming from The top down and also it just doesn't look flattering either. So when someone sees the image, they're going to feel like something is off. Okay? We don't want that.

So that is backlit. Great. So we have the sun. And this is by the way, if you guys are trying to shoot naturally This is one of the best ways to do it. If you notice behind us, we have a darker scene, the scene behind us with the darkness of with kind of the darkest of leaves. And with everything being backlit, well it creates a beautiful surface to basically make the couple stand off because you can see that we have this hair light on them.

And since the background is darker than the hairline, well they pop off that background and I'm going to show you that in just a second. Okay, so let's keep turning guys, so we're going to turn towards this sign. Perfect. Once again, from this side, we can bring the camera over and we are again side lit. Okay, so from this side, we would use our scrim again, because we don't want that hard side lit look and let me just go ahead and set down our silver. And again, so we bring that scrim up to kind of block that light.

Okay, and then we go again, rotate one more time we go right back to direct light. Okay, so these are the basic light directions that we have. And this is when the sun is out when we're using the sun basically in our shot, but what about when you're shooting in the shade? Well, I want you guys to actually follow us, we're going to go over here and work in the shade because I'm going to show you that in the shade, we have a light direction as well whenever you're working the shade or in indoor spaces, we always have a light direction and that's really where your hand is going to come in key. Let's go ahead and move on over here. Okay, so we're here in the shade out.

Now what I want you guys to pay attention to is right now, if you guys stand just over a little bit right here and then look directly into the camera. This is backlit now we still have the sun coming from the backside so basically the entire scene is backlit but we're getting a fill. Look at their faces right now it actually looks almost like we're using the silver side to reflect light back up. This is exactly we're talking about because this ground are all around us is a nice, light brown soil is reflecting light back up. In addition, we're also catching light from outside. So if we actually move them so let's go ahead and move guys.

I'm gonna rotate you guys a little bit let's go rotate to this sign. Perfect. Now look, if this were my hand, then look at their faces right now, where's the direction of light coming from, we have light kind of hitting the sides we have it, it looks like what we've done is we've backlit them with the main light area. So when we had them facing that way, light from the sky was actually coming in, it was feeling light from the ground was coming in, it was filling it was creating that director of like, now they're against it in this direction. All of our shadows are basically in the center of our face. And we have highlights on the edges.

This is a very unflattering look. And this look would require a lot of modifications, but even if I brought my silver up, it would help us out, but it's not going to completely do the job for us because we get that upset look. We want to use the silver from the bottom only for a minor minor modification if we're doing it like this, it's not going to look good at all. Again, guys, I want you guys to rotate. Okay, so that was basically backlit, we could see that. Okay, so what we normally do is use our hand now we can see, and this is kind of really cool because we can see again, that same direction of light, the sun is actually over there.

The sun is right behind you guys. Okay, so you're Well, you can see where I'm pointing I'm pointing directly against the camera. So why is it that well, their faces are not directly lit because that's not the main light right now in the shade. Again, the main light is that light coming from the sky out there, we can see that as their faces are directionally lit, so we're lighting from the right side. Again, we rotate them and now they're facing the sky. I'm going to have this camera come around and look at this, we found our direction of light.

If this was your hand, basically it fills in it fills in all the shadows. And you can see that right on their faces. Look at every shadow being filled. We have this beautiful soft light and we're gathering it just from the sky that's out here. So in general, when you're shooting in the shade, remember that there's a direction of light just as much as when you're shooting out in direct sunlight. Or if you're shooting indoors, if you're shooting anywhere.

Typically the light is going to come from the brightest area where basically the light is filling in. So for example, if the light is in front of us, which it is that's where the light is going to be coming from and you can see on me right now I should be very well lit and look nice and flattering. Do I look nice and flattering? Yes. We'll stand over here for the rest of the time.

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