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Understanding Light

Lesson 2 of 34

Language and Properties of Light

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

2. Language and Properties of Light

Lesson Info

Language and Properties of Light

This light is very, very small. See how small that is? Very, very small light source. And because it's very small, what we talked about before, it can't really wrap around the subject. Because it can't wrap around the subject, what's happening is we get these hard lines. So that's why, that's how hard light is created. It's a very small light that can't surround its subject, and kill the shadows. So what we're gonna do here, is John, I'm gonna need your help. We're gonna change the size of light, and we're gonna change how this light is working. So this light that we've been working with right now, you would equate that to the sun, there you go. Yeah, we're gonna be dark for like 20 seconds, not even 20 seconds. Ooh, it's so scary! (making buzzing sound effects) Yeah. Alright, there we go. Okay, now what we're gonna do here is we're gonna take this light, and we're gonna need to show this really close on camera as well. So now, this light, what we have on here, this is called a soft bo...

x. Don't worry too much about what a soft box is yet. We're going to spend quite a bit of time talking about light modifiers. This would be the equivalent of a cloudy day. So what's happening with the light that we showed you originally, we have very directional light. In other words, that light is coming out of the lamp, it's going straight forward, it's hitting the subject. Because it's going straight forward, when it hits the subject, there's no light that can spill in unless it bounces off something, so we get those really, really hard shadows. With this light, what's happening is, notice the difference in size, and John, can you move this right next to this light? Notice the difference in size between this light and this guy, here. So this guy here is what, maybe five inches wide, four inches wide? Very, very small. Yeah, very, very small light source. This guy right here is about a foot and a half, two feet. And so this is much larger than that. This light is just this really small thing. So what this means, and also because this has this material in front, the light isn't just coming straight out, it's coming out and scattering everywhere. So when it scatters, it's called diffused light, it's being diffused. So what happens is, when we put this toward our subject, this light is sort of hugging our subject. So we have light coming on each side of this subject. So we've got light coming over here, we have light coming over here, and because this is sort of large, that light is wrapping around. And what we can do is we can make this light even larger in relationship to our subject, by just moving it. So what I wanna show you, if we can get this right here, this shadow, watch what happens to the shadow when we move this light back and forth. We have it really close, notice the light is wrapping around and is killing all these shadows. So John, move that back. Keep going back a little bit, keep going, that's good, right there. Notice now, when we move that back, this shadow is much more pronounced. And then John, let's move that back about three or four more feet, keep going. Yeah, there we go. Now, look at this. This looks very similar now to the light we started with. It's crazy. So what's happening is, this light, the closer it becomes, the larger it becomes in relationship to the subject, and the more that light can wrap around. And the farther away it goes, the less that light can wrap around, and the harder the light gets. And so, that's why we have so many, I'm sure you've been on Adorama or whatever your favorite camera store is, and you've seen small soft boxes and huge soft boxes, and little umbrellas and huge umbrellas and silver umbrellas and white umbrellas and transparent, like why do they have all this stuff? Well, the reason is, we're gonna try to do two things when we're modifying light: We want to try to change the effective size, and so if you're shooting something really small and you can move the light really close, you don't need a really big soft box, but what if you're shooting something that's a full size person? Well, that's probably too small of a soft box, because you can't get it that close, and so you need to have something that's maybe a four by six foot soft box, because you're having to move it farther back. When you move it farther back, you need to keep increasing the size of that thing, so that the light remains soft, does that make sense? Yeah, so the farther away you get, the bigger the light source needs to be to remain soft. And the other thing is, if we took this guy here, and we moved it really, really, really close, this is probably a little too big, but we could get soft light from that, if we got something really close. If we had, and we can turn the lights on now, for this guy. If we had, let's say, an ant. Something really small. And we were shooting an ant, or something like my finger. Notice that the size in relationship to my finger, this would wrap around my finger the same way that soft box wrapped around this. And so, you can have a light that's small and get soft light from it, and you can have a light that's large and you get hard light from it. So it's not just the size of the light, but it's the relationship between the light and the distance from the subject. Two very, very big things, because it's effective size. There's one more thing we need to show you, let me grab this here, I'm so glad I didn't break that. This, okay. So, John I'll give you that, I broke that a little bit this morning, sorry. So this, we need to understand something called specular highlights. What are specular highlights? Specular highlights are the opposite of shadows. Specular highlights are the reflections of the sources of our light. And so on this, this is a very shiny object. We call shiny objects specular objects, and the reason we call them specular is because you can see the reflections much more easily than you can if you had something like this stool. This stool is not specular, because you can't really see the sources of light in this. So see the difference between this and this? Very shiny, not very shiny. This is specular, this is not specular. And so, when we're shooting specifically products and portraits, those specular highlights are very important to us. So for things that are very light, like white people, we show form by shadows, okay, and products. Things like that, we show that form, we show the shape and the dimension by the shadows. The things that are very dark, dark-complected people, or dark objects, we show form by the specular highlights, because you can't really see shadows on dark things, and so we show the shape and stuff by the specular highlights. So just the same way that we want to control shadows, we also wanna control specular highlights, because they're the opposite ends of the spectrum. And so, a lot of times, we just forget all about specular highlights, but they're really important. So in this, what we'll show you, when I bring this guy a little bit closer, and the nice thing about specular highlights is they change based on location. So what you guys are seeing is different from what I'm seeing, and it's different from what this camera is seeing, and what that camera is seeing. So we're all getting a different look at this, and so I'll sort of stand over here where this is. But we can see a little reflections in this from our sources of light, and as we change that source of light, I'll move it around to the front here, we can see the shape of that thing. So now, can you see the shape of this from your camera position? So right here, you can see this big shape of light, and if you can't, you might need to move a little bit. But those specular highlights are important because they define the shape of the object, and they also define the kind of light that we're seeing, and so, go to Target or Walmart, or any mall that has giant pictures of people, and John, you can turn that off a little bit. I'm melting from this hot light. If you go to any place, any mall that has big, those giant posters of fashion and stuff like that, or any magazine, what I recommend that you do is go and start looking as closely as possible to the eyes of the people in those photos. And what you'll see are specular highlights, and you're gonna see that they're either square, or they're round, or they're round-ish, and a lot of those large blown-up portraits, you can actually see the reflection of the entire studio and lighting setup. Which is really fun, and so, in malls, a lot of times, I'm like at Victoria's Secret looking at the eyes of the model, trying to figure out. People are like, "What a creeper!" I'm like, "No, no! I'm looking at specular highlights!" They're like, "Yeah, I'm sure you are." So, that's, if you look, and especially in magazines, but the larger format, you can actually see, a lot of times, the photographer in the eyes. You can see the whole photographer, and the studio lighting and all that kinda stuff. But look for two things: Usually, in portrait photography, the specular highlights, catch lights, also called, are either square or round. And a lot of people, I would say, are opposed to square specular highlights in the eyes, catch lights. And the reason for that is, in nature, everything that we see is round. The sun is round, et cetera, et cetera. I think that's crazy, because even in nature, you have different shapes of light sources, because when the cloud comes out, you might get a reflection from glass, whatever. Start looking at reflections in people's eyes, and you're gonna see two things: You're gonna see the shape, and you're gonna see the size. So really, really small catch lights in eyes would indicate that you have a really small light source, that would indicate that you have harder light. When you have a larger light source, you're gonna see larger catch lights, and the closer that light is to the subject, the bigger those catch lights are gonna be. So when you start to see those things, those are giveaways, when you start looking through photos that inspire you, to figure out how they lit them. So if you see a big square catch light in somebody's eyes, you know they used a soft box that was really close. If you see a little teeny speck in their eyes, you know they used some hard light, and it wasn't very close at all. And then you're gonna look underneath the chin, and start seeing the shadows, is that shadow well-defined, is it transitional, is it really soft, is there no shadow at all? And you'll start to see, oh, yeah, of course, they used a big soft box, whatever. Nightly news, by the way, I look at all the different nightly news, because MSNBC and CBS and all those guys, they use really, really soft light, but most local news use really hard light, because they want it to be all punchy. And so, surf the news channels and you'll see, local news has really hard shadows and it's all, like, people are standing out from their crazy backgrounds, are going crazy, and wherever the local newscaster is, I was about to say David Brinkley, man, am I old. So, you guys don't even know who that is. But yeah, really, really soft shadows. Especially female newscasters tend to like softer light. Because hard light makes form show. So we're gonna talk a little bit more about that as well. Okay, so, so far, we've talked very basically about specular highlights. We've talked a little bit about the effective size of light, moving that closer or farther away. We've talked about the direction of light and how that will affect if light is flat, or if it has, and I forgot to tell you this, contrast, where we see more light or less light, we're gonna talk a little bit more about directional light here in a second, and so I'm just checking in, to see what questions you have so far, and to see if we have questions coming in from the interwebs about this stuff yet. So we have questions? Yes, okay. Yes, so this is from Beauty At The Lake, "Really important question for me: "Would the hot glare on someone's forehead "be considered a specular highlight?" Yes, it is absolutely a specular highlight. Any reflection, I'm very specular. Any reflection on a face or on, yeah, it doesn't matter what it is. If it's reflecting, it's a specular highlight. That's what it is. Any reflection is a specular highlight, so we all have specular foreheads right now, it's really awesome, it's cool, yeah. Alright, Mark, Brenda Kay had asked, well, I was expecting this question to come in, but "How do you handle specular highlights "over the eyes of people wearing glasses?" We actually have a segment on that, so I'm gonna save that, where are those ugly glasses? Yeah, I asked for the most ugly glasses possible, and we're gonna show you how to change that. It's all about something called the angle of incidence, and we're gonna get to that. I know it's science, science! So we're gonna learn that. It's coming. We're good. You're good? [Female Moderator] I think we're good. Are you guys good? Okay, spectacular. Alright, so I'm gonna show a video very fast about direction of light, and then we're going to introduce Alexis, our model, and we're gonna walk through direction of light and understand how that affects contrast. So I think there's gonna be a video that plays hopefully in the back room, they're gonna make this. When we talk about the position of our light, it's always in relationship to the position of our camera. In this diagram, the camera is directly in front of our model. If we add a light behind the camera, it's called front light, because the light is hitting the front of our model, just like our camera. Both the camera and the light are in front of the model. We can change the direction of our light by moving it in relationship to our camera. This is called side light, because the light has moved to the side of our model in relationship to our camera. In this scenario, the light is now 90 degrees away from our camera. When we move our light behind our model, we create what is known as back light, because the light is behind our model in relationship to our camera. We can also change the direction of our light by moving the position of our camera. In this setup, we can move our camera closer to our light, and the light that was back light becomes side light, because the position of our light in relationship to our camera has changed from 180 degrees to 90 degrees. If we continue moving our camera closer to the light, the side light becomes front light, because the position of the light in relationship to the camera changes from 90 degrees to zero. Contrast is an important term to understand. Contrast is the difference between the darkest and lightest areas in a photograph. The greater the difference, the higher the contrast. We can change the contrast in our images by changing the direction of light. Let's take a look at the position of our lights again. In this setup, we have front light. Front light creates very low contrast photos, because the light is the same on both sides of our model's face. There is no significant change from the brightest and darkest areas. Side light creates higher contrast photos, because one side of our model is illuminated, and the other side falls into darkness. There is a significant difference in the brightest and darkest areas of our subject. Back light creates maximum contrast. The subject becomes a silhouette, and the difference between the brightest and darkest areas are at their greatest. In addition to changing contrast, by moving our lights horizontally around our subject, we can move lights vertically as well. Here are examples of lights placed low, medium and high, in relationship to our camera. Alright, cool, boom, we have Alexis right here. Welcome to the show. Thank you! This is Alexis Kathryn, I introduced her a little bit earlier. Rewind the video, you can see her Facebook page, and also check out, you created this awesome thing, and so we're traveling for a couple of years, based on this crazy idea she had, which is really cool! So what we're going to do now is we're gonna have you sit there, was that introduction good? It was good. Yeah, good, perfect, okay. You never knew. Whew. Alright. We wanna walk through the direction of light and apply that in real life. And then John, don't let me forget to shine the light on the wall, I forgot that, I forgot one of my demos. What am I thinking? Okay. So what I'm gonna do here is, I'm actually gonna take some photos, and we'll show you how this looks. We might need to kill this light here, and I'm sorry to do this to you. Are you ready? Bam! Okay, yeah, there we have it. And so, for the video camera, if you can bring that right here, on axis with this light. So we're gonna mimic what the camera is seeing, by actually having this be our camera. So this is on axis with our light, and notice that this light, when we shine it right in your face, awesome, you like that? It's so bright and hot. Notice this shadow underneath her chin is almost hidden because of the position of this light, it's sort of low to the camera. And then also notice that we have equal light from left to right. This is what we call low contrast lighting. The reason it's low contrast is because contrast is created when we have a greater difference between the darkest area and the brightest area in a photo. And so, for black and white photos, you want high contrast, you want big differences. For color, you want a little bit lower contrast. And we control that by positioning our light. So the position of our light controls contrast. Now watch what happens when I lower this. You can see that chin shadow changes, and also notice the shadow behind her, look at that shadow on the wall back there. Now it's going up and down in a creepy way. So a lot of times you'll be shooting, and you'll have this horrible shadow back here, and you're gonna want to know, how do you get rid of that shadow? Well, the way that you get rid of that shadow is you can take your light, and you can elevate it. And then what happens is now you've, from the camera's position, you've gotten rid of the shadow behind, but now, look what we've also done. Now, we've extended this shadow right here, it's lower. So what we'd wanna do there is we would wanna kill that shadow by bouncing some light underneath your subject's chin, and so you get rid of the shadow behind, and then you also soften the shadow above. This is the news setup that you'll see all the time, this big shadow with these lights. Okay, so that is the direction of light, don't forget, we have light that is low and light that is high, and so, as opposed to when we lower this, we start getting that unnatural look, and I can't make this go any lower because, well, I guess I can. If we take this down, this is a good way to blow out a light by the way. Now, we have this torch light, weird, shadowy look. We don't want this. The only way we want this is if we have something like we're trying to emulate a person at a campfire, or being lit by a candle or something where that would normally occur. But traditionally, you want your light to be just a little bit above your subject's eyes if you're lighting a person, so that we don't get unnatural looking light. Okay, so the next thing we're gonna do is we're gonna take this light, and we're gonna move it over here to the side. We're gonna put it directly to the side of Lex. And for this, we'll do our best. Yeah. For this, what we're seeing is, from the camera position, notice we have this line right down the center. What we're getting is, by moving that light over, we have this side of her face is getting all this light, and this side of the face, if we were in a completely black studio, this would be completely dark, but because we have big white panels and we have this reflective floor, we're actually getting light that is coming in here. So if you wanted to fix that, there are things called subtraction panels, and that's a fancy term for just a big black panel that absorbs light. And so we have some of those that we're gonna be using a little bit along the way, but we would put that up here to make sure that no light is bouncing in, so you can subtract light as well as add light, it's really cool. Alright, so this is how you create contrast. Now the thing with portrait photography is you don't really want flat light, but you don't want light that looks like this, it's just really, really contrasted. And so, what we can do is we can split the difference, and bring this light over here just a little bit. We'd need to soften it up, but that's where normally, if you take a studio lighting class, they'll tell you put the light at a 45 degree angle, that's why. So this is really flat, and this is too contrasted, so if you sorta split the difference, you get the good porridge, and it's sort of a middle ground. And so, we're gonna be working a lot more with that when we start adding modifiers and actually shooting in a studio. And the last light, so we can see it, is this. I know. Now, watch what happens. If I have this light too high, I want you to leave this camera on, blam-o! We have nasty lens flare. We do that, then we have a silhouette. And students, if you look at this camera, watch what's happening. They're like, how does he know what's happening, because he can't see it. See how the light's falling on the lens? Alright, there, if we could see it, this would be like a really nasty exposure, with lens flare everywhere, and that, ah, all of a sudden, it's a relief. And so what we're doing is, when you have light that looks like this, and I don't know if we can have a camera, filming a camera. Do we have that flag, John? It's underneath there. Oh, here it is, underneath the vase. Underneath the vase. What this does, if we look at this lens right here, if I take this flag and I lower it a little bit, and I can't see if I'm blocking the shot, am I blocking the shot? Yeah, so I might need to come back here. If I lower it a little bit, even more back, I'm actually changing how that light falls on that lens, because I can't see through the lens, I don't know if this is up or down or whatever. But that is how you can do the equivalent of putting your hand in front of your face to block your eyes. It's the same thing. So, see my eyes? I can't see! Ah. Now I can see just fine. That's what these little guys are used for, and it's also what lens hoods are used for, these little guys, they go on the front of the lens. Because when light shines into the lens, what's happening is that light starts to bounce all over the place, and it lowers the contrast of your image, and so that's why you should use your lens hood at all times, even in the studio, because what that is doing, it's making sure that any stray light stays out of your lens, and so you don't get problems with lens flare and contrast. And also, the cool thing about a lens hood, just so you can see, is it's sort of insurance. I'm gonna have you hop off the stool just for a second. If you're working in the studio, now you can, I know, can you believe I'm doing that with a 1200 dollar lens? Yeah, so, but if you didn't have the lens hood? No way, you don't wanna do that. So it will help you save your lens. I know. That just makes you cringe, doesn't it? Cringe, what is he doing to his lens? Yeah, it's insured. Okay, so that's what lens hoods are, and that's why you want them. Alright, so we're gonna do one more thing that I forgot to show you, so Lex, I'm gonna have you hop up just for a second. And we need to keep it dark in here still. So I need to show you guys the source shape of this light. So before you do that, John, we'll see if we can show this. So I don't know if we can see this right here. If you guys look very closely, there's a reflector in here, do I show up? And then also, the light is in here, I don't know if you can zoom, zoom way, way in. This light actually has a spiral, the element in that is an actual little spiral, I'll let you see that. And also, it moves back and forth. See how that moves in and out? Okay. So what I wanna show you next is how the source of light and the shape of that light will actually change how the light looks when it falls on the subject. And this is gonna be, I actually brought this all the way from Phoenix to show you, because it shows up really well, but you can actually see how the light changes based on the shape of that. So we're gonna do this next. So remember, it has a spiral, the lamp is horizontal, and it zooms in and out. Got all that? Okay. Watch this, it's really cool. So Lex, I'm gonna have you, I think we're done with you for a second or two, so you can go have a seat, thank you. Alright, here we go. Gonna shine this on this whole thing, blam-o. Okay, let your eyes adjust a little bit, and you're actually going to see a few things based on the shape of this light. So this has a little mesh on the side, remember it had that protective covering on the front? Look over here, what you see on this right here. See this little checker-y grid right there? That's coming from this side, the light coming through that. So we can actually see the source is affecting these shadows right here. Also note this is a really horizontal, hard light that matches the shape of the light. And watch this, we can actually, see when I move that back and forth? You can actually see the squiggly spiral of the lamp that's inside. Isn't that crazy? And, by moving this back and forth, we're changing this from a focused, directional hard light, and we're moving this back to a more broad, open, more diffused light, because the light, instead of going straight forward, is now going out, ah, and when it goes out, it's bouncing off more things, and that softens the light. So we're actually getting several different looks just by changing how far away the lamp is from the reflector inside of this light. Pretty cool. We have some fancy pro photo lights that we'll be using later on during this workshop, and they actually have the same thing. You can zoom the reflectors in and out on the lights, and they're like that specifically to emulate this same thing, where you can have a really, really hard light, or you can have a much larger effective size which gives you softer light. So you can have several different things, which is really cool. Okay, we're ready for questions, do we have questions? And we can turn the lights back on. [Female Moderator] Yes, we always have questions. We can start with any of you guys, you guys are doing good, okay. Okay, so Janine asks, "What are the pros and cons of sharp and soft light, "and the best uses of each?" Perfect. So, let's use the term hard and soft light, instead of sharp and soft. So, hard and soft. There are two things, and I'll have Lex come out, and we'll do this demo, because we have enough time to do a demo. So hard light, and I learned this from a guy named Greg Gorman, so Google him. He used to be a photographer, he still is a photographer. He shot Hollywood movie posters in the 80s. And so I got to spend some time with him in his studio, and so he taught me this stuff. He's sort of known for shooting high contrast black and white images. If you've seen the Andy Warhol picture where he's got these really cool sunglasses and his hair is all spiky, and all that kind of stuff, so this guy, Greg Gorman, shot that and some others. So if you Google him, you'll see all these black and white images. And so what he taught me is, when you wanna have really really punchy black and white portraits or images, what you want is you want really directional, hard light. So when I say directional hard light, this light right here, remember, this is hard light, but this is zoomed out, right? So I'm getting hard light over here, but see how my shadow is on my hand, right there? So this is hard light, but it's not really directional. This is light that's just sort of going ah, it's going everywhere. If I zoom this in, what we're getting here is a much more directional light. See the shadows aren't as scattered everywhere? And so, what you wanna do is for black and white images, you want small, very directional lights, so you get really, really nice hard shadows, and those will convert to black and white images very, very nicely. We're gonna bring Lex out, and show you this. There is a guy named Josef Albers, who was from the Bauhaus school in Germany before World War II, A-L-B-E-R-S. Google that guy. Josef. He did many studies on the difference between color, black and white, and the shape of light. And he wrote this rule, and it said that shape is the enemy of color. In other words, when you have something that has a really strong shape, so let's paint in our minds some things that have really strong shapes. Things like bicycle chains have a really strong shape. You can see that. A coiled extension cord has a really nice shape to it. A silhouette of a tree has a really nice shape to it. Those things tend to be monochromatic. Not necessarily black and white, but all a similar color. So a bicycle chain is essentially all silver or black, depending on which kind you have. A garden hose is all green. A silhouette is all black. So things that have this really, really strong shape tend to be monochromatic. And we can invert that by saying, if we want something to have strong shape, like a black and white image, then let's take the color out of that, and so that works hand in hand. And we can give things stronger shape by giving them really, really hard light. So we're gonna do that with Lex here in a little bit. Okay, that was a long answer, and I wanna do a demo of that, so you can really see the difference between a soft box converted to black and white, and a hard light converted to black and white, and you'll see that the hard light is like, wow, that's what we want for black and white, so it's rally cool. In fact, the guy I talked about earlier, Karim Shamsi-Basha, one of his signature images is his, I think it's his son, as he's being born, and it's like, I'm trying to describe this. But the way that the light is, all you see is the baby and the umbilical cord. It's this magnificent image of this little baby just screaming his very first breath. So hire Karim, K-A-R-I-M, you can see this image. I wanted to use it, but I couldn't get the permission to use it for this workshop. But you can go Google it. is his website. That image is a striking black and white image. It's one of the most amazing baby photographs I've ever seen, because I'm really not into purple babies and all that kind of stuff. But it's amazing, because it's like the first breath of life, and it's really, really hard light, and it's super high contrast lighting, it's really amazing. Okay, so we'll talk a lot more about that. But what's another question? Alright, I have a question from Miss Wen, who said "Love this class already. Thanks. "How do you compensate for reflective color casts "when light bounces off orangewood floors or green foliage? "You talked about the white light bouncing off the board." Yes. What a pain that is. And you know, I shot, I did some boudoir photography, I mean, I'm no Steve Rice, but I've done a lot of boudoir photography, and one of the problems that you'll run into a lot is silk red sheets always have this crazy color cast on people's faces, and I'm shooting in locations that have orange walls, et cetera. The solution to that, unfortunately there's two things you can do: A, you can go into post-production, and you can try to pull some of that color out. It's very difficult to do that though, because you're affecting, say you have red on somebody's face. When you try to pull those reds out, you're affecting all of the red. So you're affecting all the reds in the face, and you're affecting the reds on the wall, and it tends to be, let's go monochromatic and make it black and white for that. The only solution that I found to deal with that is to change the environment. And so if you have a wall that's got a nasty, nasty color cast to it, you can do a couple of things. One, you can gel your light, which is very difficult to match color casts, unless you have a fancy color meter, which I happen to have, we're gonna show you. Those things are a thousand bucks right out of the box, and so it's very impractical to have one of those, and be metering it. The other thing is, just shoot somewhere else. That's what you should do. You should go, this is not working, let's go somewhere else and shoot. If you can't do that, you can also, the subtraction panels I was talking about, the big black or large white panels, you can just throw those in. This is where it really helps to have an assistant, and then the floor is usually very guilty of having color casts or ceilings, and so if you have ceilings, what you're gonna want to do is not bounce the light off of that ceiling or off the wall. Instead, use your own modifiers, bring soft boxes, umbrellas, things like that. And so you can avoid light bouncing off of those things. So that's really the critical thing is, if at all possible, if there's something that has a strong color to it, keep your light from bouncing on that. Put something there to modify that. Okay, and we'll see if we can emulate that. In here, everything's sort of neutral on purpose, and so we don't run into it, but maybe we'll see if we can find something that's a nasty color, and see if we can bounce some of that stuff off there. Alright, what other questions do we have? Okay, we have another one from Fashion TV. "Mark, should we always position light "to create catch lights on subject eyes?" I know we get that question a lot. Oh, yeah! That's a debate, that's sort of like, is post-production good or bad? I am in the, here's my school of thought. You would never buy a doll that had no catch lights. Go look at any kid's doll. They all have catch lights painted on. Any cartoon, whatever. Because when you remove those, what you get is an evil villain, and people look like they're dead. And so we don't want that. So I think, absolutely, the catch lights are necessary, I think, in eyes. And I'll even go in the studio to the extent of adding multiple lights that do nothing except add catch lights to eyes. And so if you wanna have a model that looks very doe-y eyed and like their eyes are watery, it's almost impossible to get somebody to have watery eyes and take a picture that looks good. We associate watery eyes and that sort of misty eyed look by the reflections that those eyes cast. It's not the water in the eyes that we really see, it's the reflections that the water creates. And so if you wanna have a look of sort of innocence and that misty eyed amazing look that a lot of fashion work has, the key to that is add extra catch lights, add more specular highlights, and you'll get a bunch of the things. In fact, there's a book that's not published anymore but the publisher is RotoVision, R-O-T-O-V-I-S-I-O-N. Check out RotoVision books, they are phenomenal. They have one, it's called "Lighting for Portrait Photography, "Fashion Glamour Environment" or something like that, I'll see if I can find it during the break. But they have this setup, they'll have a picture on one side, and it has a setup on the other side of all the lights that are used, and there was a very simple portrait light, a portrait of this girl. And on the other side, the lighting diagram, they had like 20 lights. I'm like, what, why would you have that many lights? And so, this was a book years ago, I went through and I duplicated every single setup in this thing. It was awesome. But what I found was, oh, that's why. When you add all these different lights, what you're getting is you're modifying the specular highlights. You're not really modifying the shadows on the face, but you're modifying the specular highlights. And so, I think to get to the next level, especially of portrait photography, and definitely product photography, you really need to spend time mastering specular highlights. That's really where you're gonna differentiate yourself between every photographer out there and someone that really knows their business is being able to control those specular highlights. Okay, what other questions do we have? So on the other side of that, if you wanted someone to look dead or evil, in a portrait? Two things you can do. Okay. One, no more specular highlights, right? Get rid of the catch lights. And then two, put that light down low, so that will.. And then three, usually multiple light sources, but hard light sources. Hard light sources are gonna create shadows, and shadows will heighten any kind of texture. And so, when you have light that's coming from the side, by the way, it's gonna cast a shadow, right? When you have a really broad, big soft box, something that has soft light, it's gonna sort of soften that up. And so if you have, let's say you're doing a senior portrait, and you have somebody that doesn't have necessarily great skin. You don't wanna use hard side light, because it's gonna show every blemish, right? Or wrinkles, whatever, you wanna use a big soft light. John McCain actually was photographed by, I actually forgot her name. She's the photographer that makes makes everybody cry, little kids. What is her name? Greenfield, yeah. Jill Greenfield, is that her name? Yeah, Jill Greenfield, Google her. But she got in trouble for shooting John McCain with crazy light. He didn't know, I don't know how he didn't know. He didn't know she was shooting him like that, and she got into all kinds of trouble, because she posted this thing, and said he was evil, and all this stuff. And so she got in a lot of trouble. Google that, and you'll see, this is how you make somebody look evil. The other thing that I would suggest that you did to understand light is to watch a lot of movies. So, "Nosferatu", everybody should watch "Nosferatu", it's an old black and white movie. To see how they lit that is pretty amazing, and just see all the different genres, and see how they use, like the new "Star Trek", too much lens flare, all that kinda stuff. But light is light, it applies, and so you can see how the evil villains were versus the good guys. The other thing you can do for good and evil are color choices. So generally, anything that is evil, fiery, bad, is red. So surround that person or thing with red. Any Disney movie, watch it and you'll see the same thing. Things that tend to be good and just and righteous and all that stuff are blue. Watch any Disney cartoon. The bad guy's always red, the good guy's always blue. And the whole set changes back and forth. And so once you see that, you'll never see a Disney the same way. Like, ah, they manipulated me! So, yeah, that's how it works. Okay, yes? Is there like a right and a wrong for the amount of catch lights you have? There's not. And I don't think, I think that's personal preference. I like to have, I like to first shape the light on the face, and see where that catch light falls, and if I need to make a modification, do that. But I rarely will build an entire portrait out of the catch light alone. In fact, I don't think I ever have. So yeah, build a light on the face first, and then change that. For product photography, yeah, there definitely is a right and a wrong. You don't wanna have a glass bottle that has just every soft box or modifier showing up. You don't wanna do that, so that would be wrong. But for a face, it's personal preference, based on what you wanna portray.

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers. 

The success of every photographer — artistically and professionally — is based on a strong understanding of how light works. Join photographer Mark Wallace for a three-day course that will demystify the fundamentals of lighting and give you the concrete skills you need to get a powerful image using the right lighting every time you shoot.

Mark will cover everything you need to know about hard, soft, directional, and diffused light. You’ll learn about reading natural light and manipulating it with tools like reflectors and diffusion panels. Mark will also guide you through working with light in a studio environment. You’ll explore using basic studio lights to manipulate and shape light and working with strobes and speedlights. You’ll also learn about shooting on-location and how to balance shape, and color ambient light and light from a flash.

By the end of this course, you’ll be equipped with a whole new understanding of light that will help you to shoot more efficiently, capture consistently well-lit images, and reach new creative heights as a photographer.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Presentation 1

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

Zone Lighting Basic Setup

Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Claudia Ochsner

This is an excellent course. I recommend this course to every photographer, of any level who want to put money into lighting stuff. Mark Wallace has a gift to teach and to truly enlighten his audience about complex issues in photography. The money for this course is well spent, the time is more valuable than hanging around in forums and ask questions to others who don't have a clue as well. The products used ( partly promoted ) are very "American" - I have to say that as Swiss. Because you know there are two other brands which could compete at the top level of studio lights as well. Just kidding - But seriously - many thanks to Mark, John, Lex ( Gosh - you are so beautiful ) , CL and their team to help me to reach out for a new level in my photography. I am now going to push my boundaries, well knowing that understanding light is science, but for sure not rocket science.

Rose-Marie Gallagher

This was an outstanding course! Mark presented TONS of quality information, starting at the very basic concepts and working up from there. He is interesting to listen to and very understandable. Great examples that expand the learning. Highly recommended! Thanks for bringing Mark's class to CL...I hope there will be more.

a Creativelive Student

This is probably the first Creative Live course I have purchased that I've watched in its entirety. Every single solitary video. I feel so strongly about Mark's teaching ability that this is also the very time I have written a review. I first came across Mark Wallace on Adorama TV. Interesting and so knowledgeable. So I explored and found other tutorials by Mark on Pocket Wizard. So when Creative Live offered this three day course - I bought it without hesitation. Mark makes the difficult - easy to comprehend and the un-understandable - understandable. I have learned so much from him and I haven't even met the guy! There are so many questions I'd like to ask - that doesn't mean that the videos were lacking in any respect. Rather, time constraints prevented Mark from covering topics he wanted to cover. I am definitely going to purchase the original Mark Wallace Creative Live course on Speedlights. I am also voting for a course: "28 days with Mark Wallace," so that we can tap into his genius with Lighting. How about it Creative Live? Bravo Mark - a very successful course. I am looking forward to the next one.