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Principles of Light

Lesson 2 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Principles of Light

Lesson 2 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

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Lesson Info

2. Principles of Light


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Principles of Light


Speedlights vs Strobes


Compressing the Scene


Location Lenses and Lenshoods


Metering Modes and Back Button Focus


Natural Light Reflectors


Lesson Info

Principles of Light

okay guys it's great to have you here and hey everybody on the internet um I am going to be talking for the next three days about one of my favorite things in photography light like light an image with beautiful light is just beautiful right and then if you've seen what I've taught this year I've taught posing and I've taught skin and I've taught lighting and so there's so many different elements that go in but fear lighting is bad the shot just falls flat everybody has a different style and photography and so some people might be natural light photographers like that's their style aesthetically and I wanted to start this off by saying that day one is going to be natural light day two is going to be studio strobes on location and day three is going to be speed lights but I want to start by saying there's no right or wrong answer at all in fact I will just tell you right here now I would say at least seventy five percent of the time I'm on location issue all natural light I bring a refl...

ector a diffuser but most of the time I just love working with what's around me I don't feel like I have to take a ton of gear and totally change it what we have is already beautiful if you just look carefully enough but of course sometimes you want to get a little more creative or there's a specific affect you're looking for or maybe you're going for a commercial look or maybe the light just isn't good and so you need to have other tools available to you or maybe that's just the look you like so I'm going to put it out there right now that there's no right or wrong answer it's whatever you're comfortable with but I will go through the benefits why you would prefer to maybe just do naturally why strobes might be better on location compared to speed lights or natural light or why you would choose speed light so all of that is some of the things we're going to be covering but fundamentally what you learn in these three days is if you're on location and you need to do and me anything relating you should be able to get that s o I'm going to talk about all of these things and much more so just again this is what the schedule looks like for our three days so I'm going to start off with some essential introduction and you guys all know ask me as many questions as you want and happy to answer them this first segment will be mostly focusing on some concepts getting cameras set up correctly meet a ring like that kind of stuff and then the rest of the day we jump into demo before after pictures the gear that I use hands on all of that so let's talk about the perfect perfect lighting and of course which one of these is perfect lighting oh they're false lovely okay um so this is going back to the style uh I look at so many different people that maybe just all shoot soft in a cereal and I look at other photographers that use high contrast under exposed the background multiple strobes and that's fine there isn't quote unquote perfect lighting so I want to get that out of the way but then at the same time while I say that there's also not a right way to light these images they're they're kind of similar in the way they're let right because you've got hair light with soft light on the front hair light with soft light in the front this one done with a white reflector and natural light and that one's done with two strobes one to create the hair light and one to create the light on her face because that light didn't exist I think they look pretty similar and their field and there's no right or wrong answer but what's better is if you know all the answers and then you could do all of it so I wantto give you a peek at that so we're going to talk about your goals for lighting and your goals of your images but the reason that there's not really one right solution is because sometimes on a shoot like I did this men shoot recently on location it was meant to be dark and gritty and mysterious I did not put it in my presentation because it is absolutely incorrect lighting every way shape and form it is like top heavy shadows in his eyes underexposed but it is awesome for that shoot so with my goals you know my stylistic goals are different than that's ok so what I'll be talking about for the lighting that I'll be showing you is a little bit more how is a traditional because that sounds boring but what we expect to be good portrait lighting I'm not going to put up their the ones like I have ones that air incorrectly lit because adds drama but this is if you're shooting portrait's if you want a well illuminated face you want to know how to light for drama you want to know how to light for soft and airy so that is kind of what we're going to cover um and then we're also going toe understand the challenges of different scenes like shooting late in the day shooting at high noon and those air to that I really wanted to focus on because it's easy to shoot kind of golden hour pop in to reflect how about high noon in the middle of a field and you have like one tool you have a reflector or a speed lay or something like that so we'll talk about what kind of options you have available to you all right so this is what we are going to talk about modifying ambient light speed lights and strobe on location so these are three images that you will see made start to finish an example top left his speed lights the right is studio strobes and location bottom left is natural light so this you'll see step by step the entire process okay so let's jump into our essentials like the things that you have to understand tomorrow because we talk about studio strobes I'm going to talk more about how to use a light meter and when you would and when it's unnecessary um if you ask my interns they will tell you that I don't often use it there are times when I do and times when I don't so I'll talk about that tomorrow tomorrow also talk about the inverse square law totally made easy no numbers no equations no like like why do you really care but today we're going to sink a little bit more to the principle is you need to know to natural light I am going to be using words like intensity light direction of like quality of light so I thought we would talk about it real quick so we all have the same sort of vocabulary were kind of talking about the same things all right so let's talk about that intensity of light when I say that it could mean a couple things could be how bright or how dim that lightness but also could mean ratios like if there's a light on the subject's face and a light on their hair what's the intensity between them um light when you're describing it usually it has three or four ways you describe it it's the intensity strong okay then the quality and then also in this is one that I don't have up there some time to talk about color we're not going to talk about that on direction so any time you're describing a light of a scene you would say how strong is it where is it coming for him and what kind of quality does have to it so these are all the things all day I'll be like as you can see this light is soft light and it's pretty flat like what does that mean alright so we talked about the first one intensity another way you might say intensity would be quantity like how much light is there in the scene or in debt from that particular light source the next one would be direction of light where is that light coming from is it flat isn't directional we'll look at what that means and then the last one is the quality is it soft is it harsh all of that so so we're all on the same page age all right so here's an example of intensity of light okay two different ways I might say it I might say for example the intensity or quantity of light in this case the backlight is more intense than the front light it is stronger and here this picture is under exposed because there was a low intensity there wasn't much light so if I say intensity that's what it means talk with the next one directional if I say that a picture is flat lit generally you don't see many shadows typically that's what flat lip means and I used to think flat lit was a bad thing like oh it sounds like your pictures flat but especially for letting women flat light convene awesome if you watch my skin wanna one class one of the things I talked about is when the light comes from above or far from the side what it does is it creates shadows like we have here directional light creates drama that's all good but let's say someone has a lot of wrinkles as soon as you raise up your light or bring it off to the side you start to create more shadows and shadows draw attention to wrinkles or blemishes or bad texture of the skin so all these things these air qualities of light but it doesn't mean it's good or bad like here this direction alight flat isn't bad directional isn't bad it depends on kind of what you're going for so when I say this is a flat let picture generally not many shadows won't be casting a lot of shadows either under the nose or beside the nose if I say it's directional you'll definitely see some shadows in that shot s so then the last one is quality so the quality of light here is it harsh or is it soft and you can usually tell by how crisp the shadows are so here in this harsh your hard light really crisp defined shadows over here soft they kind of kind of fade away those were really the three things that you talk about when describing light which is the three things that I'll talk about over and over and over again and over and over again all right so keep those couple things in mind are so here's our first lesson about light that's not just for location but in general I want you to say this in your head over and over again all right okay so you want to say this the larger the size of the light relative to the subject the softer the light appears okay so basically to wrap your head around it if you think about it the sun is huge right like the sun itself is massive but it's really really really really far away so relative to me it's tiny and we know that direct sunlight is extremely extremely harsh but at the same time let's say that I took a little soft box and I put it right here it's actually bigger than my head and that light becomes much softer it it wraps around my face but if I take that same soft box fifteen or twenty feet away how it's little compared to the size of my face so it'll be harsh so we're going to talk about how this affects speed lights and strobes and reflectors and all of that so it's not literally the size of the reflector or the size of the soft box you have it's relative to the distance of the person how big does it kind of seem in relationship to them so I will show you and it's just a really basic example here so we're taking a look this is rachael's she helps me out sometimes I've got this small little lockbox this's actually a rapid box uh made by westcott it's with this speed like here and we're going to talk about all those things the quantity of life the direction of light all right so if you're looking the shadows in between it's not super soft and diffuse but it's not really really crisp and it's off to the side a bit so we can see that shadow so all I'm going to do is basically double the distance of that light and so what you'll see is that my switch back and forth a couple times see all that shadow gets more defined and the highlights pop a little bit more when you pull the light back shadows become more crisp and those highlights become more defined not because they're brighter but because the latest harsher so you're thinking about that over and over again when I want softer light if I've got this late I'm going to try to bring it closer the bigger it is relative to my subject it's gonna look softer find ate it tio back up maybe we'll talk about this later but maybe my light I can't turn it down anymore I have to back it up you've got to know that when you back you're laid up you're making it harsh like they're all these trade offs you have to know this because in the future if I go ahead and like nope I can't quite have this reflector here because I'm trying to shoot all of you it's going to be in my frame know that as I back up with that light source that light keeps getting harsher and harsher the further away it is from your subject the harsher the late appears the closer I can get it the bigger I can get it the softer it appears so this is something you'll have to know no matter speed lights strobes natural light it all comes into play all right so one more time to see you can see and about double the distance and everything becomes a lot more crisp a lot harsher right so last night this is my safe again because we're going to take it over and over again the larger the size of the light source relative to the subjects this after that it appears the relative parts the part people forget so we'll see that in action okay this is something that I will start with and also repeat every day so if you can try to remember this whenever you are out on location you have to remember what your goals are for late ing because I think this is where I see people's rights they fail because that's like a terrible word but fall short would lighting on location is there like okay cool I'm all fancy now I'm going to pop my late on my subjects and actually see that a lot people by their speed lights and they just think if they light their subject they flip their subject but there's so much more like what you trying to do with this light all right so here our goals are very first goal to improve the quality of light on the face so we talked about quality is it soft or is a harsh so maybe in a particular lighting situation like high noon right the lightest harsh so my goal would be to soften the light I'm trying to improve the quality of light on the face and I'm going to this will come up every single day our goals the second one is to improve perhaps the direction of light on the subject so let's say it's an overcast day and the person standing outside and they've just got these dark shadows in their eyes they just have this dead shadows and it's not very uh number engaging so what you do is you change the direction of the light by maybe popping a reflector in we're adding a strobe you're changing the direction to be more flattering to the subject in that case so that's another goal the first one like I said changing the quality second is changing the direction the third is changing the intensity of it so this will come into play a lot like for example on a really really bright day where you've got a blonde model and her hair's backlit and it's gone guys had that were like your subject their hair just disappears you've got to do something about that intensity otherwise that they just have you know harry I've had one actually I don't know what I was doing and I photograph them and they look ball it was it was a girl and it just because the hair just was on fire they just kind of disappeared so my next school in that case for example would be to control the intensity how bright is that like on her hair can I control that kind of balancing how about her face right now our faces really dark because I went ahead and I tried to under expose that hair light now there's no light on her face like you've got to do something to control that balance of light that is a huge part of what we'll do and I'll talk about that next and then the last one is your goal could be for stylistic effect maybe you just want it to be really dark dramatic underexposed you know that's not based on a rule you're not trying to improve anything you're just doing your thing you're doing your style so whenever I look at some some of the pictures that will go through I look at it and say ok let's take a look right away at the quality of light do I like it isn't flattering or wood changing the light help it all right the next thing how about direction of light ok is the direction the light flattering no one would have to add a speed like we're at a reflector all right and then down the line came exposure there that the intensity of light we're gonna have to make a change the light to be able to make a flattering or a successful photograph and then lastly is this what I want so I'll say this like a million billion times you'll hear over and over again all right so as I said this is just the things I said so why you would change the light all of those things all right I thought it was important to talk about some bad light because I don't I don't know about you wouldn't have anyone else I didn't actually quite see bad light for a while I don't know if every f everyone had a similar experience but from me I just saw their face and I would take a picture then later on not like it so here's some things that you would want to look for and I'll tell you what each of these pictures is bad and then by the end of this class would know how to fix them using naturally speed later strobes alright so for example and bad is a relative term like you know he doesn't have to be terrible like this picture right here of this young lady so fundamentally my eye goes to the brightest parts of the picture and so in this instance it's going to be her forehead her cheeks in her nose an urchin and there's just not much light in her eyes so the problem is that this is a portrait it's just a dud just kind of flat so that's why it's bad lighting so in this instance it's the direction of light because it's from above that cast those shadows in her eyes so I need to change the direction somehow the quality's ok right soft light it's fine that's not rough on her skin the quality is fine and they're probably need to change the intensity because I need a little bit more popper maybe is a little bit more light in her eyes so okay that's why that one is a little weak all right let's look at this one this one actually has everything wrong with it right okay so you got first of all you've got the quality of light it is really harsh and not flattering on her face whatsoever you've got the direction of light it's straight up it's like right overhead not going to be nice for her face whatsoever and in the intensity the difference between those highlights and shadows is just not even possible to capture on camera it's not flattering it's very distracting so I've got to change all those who could have with this one the main problem this one would probably be for me it's a little bright the intensity got to control that but the other problem is the direction that is a mess all right down here um the quality on her face here is okay but it's the intensity of the light under no so I just go through this checklist this similar problems here here similar problems so I go through this checklist and it helps me figure out what oh I need to do you know when what tools do I have to do it so I'll just give you a sample of how I've improved a photograph so the first one like I said it wasn't terrible but it wasn't ideal because those dark shadows in her eyes so I go sit my list and I said well the quality's quality lights okay but the direction I need to fill in some shadows in her eyes intensity it want to pump it up a little bit and his first one always did on this it's an overcast day is we put a reflector underneath her chin to help improve the light in her eyes give it a little more pop but in this one this is with a speed light and that gives more contrast and it changes the direction it changes the quality it changes everything so it kind of depends on what you like better she's not really right a wrong answer yeah you're saying as faras I find in the direction of light that's easy to figure out but when you talk about the quality of light I mean it's it just is it brighter is a dark or is it I mean what kind of defines the quality of life okay so here's here's a couple of things so what defines basically the quality of like esso let's do quality and think we'll start with quality first softer harsh fundamentally what I'll say is how's it look on the skin like if it is starting to show really rough texture or wrinkles maybe I need to soften it up or for example may be in this picture quality wass I just think it's really flat and boring maybe I need a pop it add more contrast so it's it's more that one's kind of does it look bad on their face or for the overall impact of the photo is it working a ce faras brightness and darkness that like actual intensity we're getting to that next because that has to do with your camera like what can your camera actually capture er um intensity here in this uh last one you know obviously the direction is no good but this is just too bright from my camera to be able to get detail in the shadows and details in the highlights so you have a little more leeway when you work with different cameras too so we'll talk about that a little expensive cameras of course way will know that right all right a couple of things for terminology some pits this one ok I don't want to be boring but I just I have I have to say the words that you know what I'm talking about feel free to ask me however many times you need first one is ambient light ambient light is pre existing light in a scene that's like a toyota to think about so technically in this room these lights up here to me if I am photographing a portrait of you that's technically ambient light because I'm not controlling them that's the light that already exists when I go outside it's the sun when I go to a club we know whatever it's whatever lights already there s o it doesn't mean it has to be natural like that's the thing that I wanted to clear up so for example I'm going to be shooting with some strobes over their day two in three and the ambient light that we will have will be lamps because we're not outside so just know ambient light means late that's already there you don't have control over you've gotta work with it it's the one with light variables in the scene uh the next one artificial light the light that you add you know I'm introducing artificial light into the scenes maestro maestro my whatever it may be speed lights you'll hear me say two different things I'm going to say speed lights and strobes speed's lights are portable little flashes and when I say strobes a speed like is a stroke but when I say strobe I mean a studio strobe out on location okay might be a mano block a pack and head system that's tomorrow but just know I'm going to say speed lights for speed lights the little flashes and I want to say strobes for the big things just for clarity sake all right all right one more one more technical one this is not a like photography wanna one class but one thing I wanted to make sure I had clear is when you go up a stop polite if I say you know close down aside gloves up it's a ton it's double the light to go up like that that is huge so when you justify say like I know I used to think this like okay I'm going to go ahead and close down to stop fight close down a stuff I'm cutting the light in half and it's not a little amount so just keep that in mind when I'm talking about these numbers it's not like step up by the same amount of light it's not like okay from five six to eight o is plus one selma flight it's double so as you go up this is exponential this's double this this's double this this is and so there is a massive difference between two point eight and thirty two it's not progressive it's actually exponential so just know when I say that stop is a tough a lot of light it's not a little thing um I don't we don't need to get super technical but we will come back to it that's why I'm just like it the concept so when I talk about inverse square law I think you like me because it's not it's like why do we actually care what does it mean sets tomorrow all right so all natural light sometimes I definitely want you guys to know this sometimes the light that exists in the scene don't change it like you're not doing a bad job if you don't have your reflector out there and I used to think that maybe my clients would think I'm not being a professional because I don't have my speed light out there I don't have my reflector but sometimes the light is perfect head as it is don't touch it so in fact like some of my favorite images have zero reflectors diffusers nothing there's nothing in this shot so is one of my favorite photographs that I've taken and uh that is exactly what the light looked like and the reason she's doing this is because when she did this she had shadows in her eyes because it's an overcast day the light is overhead so I just had to do this and now there's light in her eyes so I don't have to do anything and I didn't feel the need to bring extra gear or this one no reflectors no diffusers no strobes that is the late that existed because it was an overcast day and basically an overcast day like a giant soft box over your head and that's really what it is soft boxes are nice right we likes half box like but in the studio you wouldn't put a soft box over your head because it would put shadows in your eyes and it would be an ugly direction alike unless your models laying on their back and you're shooting down and then now it's just this big flat bank of light that's glowing everywhere which is what's happening here so if you are beginning in photography or you are just starting to shoot your first maybe real clients you don't have to have a lot of gear and that doesn't make you a better photographer but I probably I mean that remember that seventy five percent of the time I said a shoe on location probably almost all the time I should with no reflectors or no diffusers I just pay attention to what the lights doing I pose the model to look to the light I move them in and under hang so that its better light so it's actually just more about paying attention than bringing gear to compensate so here are if you are a natural light shooter um I'll put it this way being natural eight shooter because you want to be not because they have to be right because I want to be an ant relation I love shooting natural eight on location I know how to use everything else it's what I choose to so it's not a bad thing as long as it's a choice that you made that decision all right so here the benefits of shooting with natural light on lee if you learn to see the light you don't need to carry a lot of gear you work with what's in this scene and what's really nice is it doesn't have that like that person doesn't match feel like sometimes you've got to start to make the light look like it makes sense or like it fits the mood if you're working with that relate it's going to make sense it's going to fit the feel of your scene so that's a benefit keeping their since in the mood and it really just you don't have to spend much money like that's a huge benefit you don't have to spend a lot of money on gear and going up on location with all of these assistance and all that you can keep it like really really simple downsides if there's not enough late there's not too much you can do about it like on a really drab overcast day like I did a shoot where it was about to rain and the pictures just look flat but they really do it was just really really dull it didn't fit the look that I wanted so it's certainly a downside if there's not enough intensity enough amount of light there's not much you can do about it it's also more difficult to balance exposures that girl with the blonde hair backlit by the sun hair basically disappears because it's over exposed it is significantly harder to try to balance the light on her face and that light from the sun on her hair using natural light with speed lights and strokes that could turn up my power I can bring it closer I have a lot more tools available to me not as true with reflectors and diffusers I have some and we'll totally talk about that but not quite as much flexibility sense a little bit of a downside on dh then also with natural light you know you're somewhat restricted on a couple things like let's say that I want to shoot this whole group and I'm doing a wide angle shot but I really need to reflect in if there's not much light my reflector might have to be right here and then I'm in my shot whereas with a stroll by just back it up and turn the power up if I need teo so like those air the downsides that being said if you know how to get around him like this I shoot natural light all the time by choice all right artificial light okay so here are the reasons you would go ahead and bring your lights on location some sort of speed later strobes I am going to talk right now real briefly about why you would choose strobes over speed lights so I've always wondered that that's this section right now okay all right so first of all why to add artificial light basically there's not enough light on your subject a k a shooting at night or a sunset like at night or a sunset you can shoot at sunset with like let's say that you want some light on your subjects face but if you have a big beautiful colored sky and you want all that saturation in the sky you're not gonna be able to get enough from your reflector to be able to balance those exposures it's not gonna happen s so that's why you would go ahead and add artificial lights um desire to change the quality of light on the face you can go ahead and bring a soft box wherever you want and you've got big beautiful glowing light any time of day any location so it's what artificial light's better um for that particular goal improving the directional light on the face yeah I mean sometimes you can't like if I want to change the direction of light on an overcast day on your face right super overcast day really drab I grab my reflector I'm sure you've all had this you move it around nothing like you're moving around and there's there's no difference well you don't have to worry about that with the speed letter stroke like you've always got that light available to you so that's another reason to bring artificial light outside and then of course drama which is what I like and that's why if if I bring like this one is a strobe on the left there if I go ahead and bring my speed lights or strobes on location stylistically from me it's usually not because I'm just trying to have better quality of light and all that I'm going for drama because I can't get that same drama with the natural light that was in that scene it was actually insanely dark um I was shooting out like it was like thirty two hundred s o like a thirtieth of a second it was like almost pitch black in that room so the light on her face was almost non existent totally dark so I had to all right so of course knowing when to bring things out on location is going to help you make some decisions

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class was amazing. Lindsay Adler is a great presenter...I learned so much.....I love that she spoke about natural light..strobes and speedlites. Wonderful information. I purchased this and I am glad I did. Great job Lindsay. Jean


Lindsey Adler is one of the best and most engaging photography instructors in the USA. I highly recommend this lighting course. It felt more like a 101 and a 102 course than just a basic course. She teaches in a way that makes learning alot of fun and the amount of time & effort that she puts into her video and class presentations are second to none. Her classes are well worth their weight in gold and you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge!


Lindsay is amazing , I love the way she explains everything!! This course is filled with GREAT information and helps you better understand natural lighting,strobe and flash. Thank You Lindsay, please keep your classes coming!

Student Work