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Understanding Light

Lesson 11 of 34

Open Shade

Mark Wallace

Understanding Light

Mark Wallace

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Lesson Info

11. Open Shade

Lesson Info

Open Shade

The next thing we're gonna do is show you the difference between shade and open shade. So when I just put her in shade, what we're gonna lose, is a lot of the directionality of light, and so, let me see if I can find the place. And this is sort of how we find the light, is just sort of walking around going, hey, what works here? So, Lex, I'm gonna see if I can have you right back here. And I might be out of my zone. I can still shoot here, yeah? So we're gonna have you against this wall. And for this we just have very very soft light. And in this situation here, honestly, if I had my wishlist, I would actually bring a small studio strobe in to add some directional light, to control it totally, but that is not always the situation. So Lex is over there, she looks great, she's got cables by her feet, but we're gonna go with that. And, again for this, can you go meter that for me? Yeah. And I'm at 2 8? (mumbles). Okay. So 2 8. 320. 320. Okay. We can lock it. We can lock it. Perf...

ect. This is so fun. Alright. Nothing like a bit of live TV. Perfect Alexa, I like that. (camera shutter) Good. And we can see here, that we have really nice soft light and we do have some directionality of light because, again, open shade. See how this light goes from left to right on her face? That's because the white bus, and there's some things that you can't see off camera, are shining light into her face, which is really really nice. Alright I'm gonna try one more thing here. Who's got my 85 1.2 lens? The big heavy lens. There's another little trick that I've used. Yep, I'm gonna use that lens. There you go, hold that. You got it? I'm gonna put this lens cap. There you go. Alright, this lens that I just changed to, this is an 85 millimeter, 1.2 lens. So it's a fancy shmancy lens, and the reason I love this lens, is it's a 1.2 lens, so in other words, I can open the aperture so wide, that I can get really really shallow depth of field and amazing bokeh. So there's something that we can do here. So Lex, come on over here. And I'm gonna have you up against this window right there. Just like that. Actually come this way, 'cause we have light coming through. There you go. And just face me this way. Okay, yeah. And she has 2000? Okay. So what we're gonna do here is, in this glass, there is a reflection of a bunch of stuff across the street. And so sometimes when I'm shooting at a location like this you'll have trees and things across the street, and I'll wanna make it look like that's the background. And with the reflection, I can throw it out of focus and it'll actually look like that's the background of the shot. And I have to be to the side so I'm also not in the shot. And let's see if we can get this to work. And at 1.2, (camera shutter) focus is critical. Critical, critical. And let's have you go this way a little bit. So we're gonna try to not get those art pieces in there. We're still at 2000? Okay. And I'm trying to find where we don't have a bus or a camera person or whatever in the shot. Yeah it's not gonna work there. We had too many people in the background. So let's just take a look at this shot that I did earlier. You can see with this lens, you can't really tell that the is on a street, in this urban environment. We have all of this stuff totally thrown out of focus and that works pretty well. The last thing we're gonna do here with this specialty lens is we're gonna see again if we can get some of those specular highlights to work. So we're gonna have you on that glass. And then where's the silver reflector. Okay, so the silver reflector, what I want you to do, is we're just gonna hold it up like this. And I want you to try to throw a little bit of light just right on her face. There you go, just like that. Yep. And you might have to work around me, there we go. (camera shutter) Perfect, perfect, perfect. Let's have you come this way just a little bit, Lex. And normally I would have an apple box or something. Yeah, you look great right there. (camera shutter) Good. Then let's have you come forward just a hair. Go this way. So what I'm doing is, there's light coming through this window, and if she's this way, we're getting light on the side of her face. I don't want that, so I'm moving her this way, to hide that light, and then we're bringing in this reflector to try to get a little bit more punch, so we can see... And this should be up. So remember, your reflector should be high, 'cause we don't want it to come from below. There we go. There we go, can you meter that for me? (camera shutter) And then also we're getting something that's called... yes. 4000 4000. That is showing up in our scene, so I want you to come over here, and now try to do that. So we're getting a specular highlight in our scene from the actual reflector. That's 2500. 2500. And it's on the face? (camera shutter) There we go. (camera shutter) There we go. Okay, let's take a look. There's a few other things I'd love to do in this. So number one, if I had an apple box or two, to get Lex a little bit higher, because this is too high above her, and so we're not getting that fill that we really want. So we could do that. Or, if we could, which we can't because of the restriction of our location, we would go down and shoot between these, and so we wouldn't have the artwork we'd have more of a blue tone, and so being able to shoot into the windows would work. We are definitely working through the crazy parameters of cables and cameras and all kinds of fun stuff, so we're doing the best we can. So let's take a peak at this. And you can see how, when we go through these, from one to the other, the difference that the reflector makes, being on and being off, and so, when you're working with the reflector it's certainly important to pay close attention to how the wind is shifting and shoot a lot because you never know when that reflector's gonna go away. So reflector's on, reflector's on, woops, it just went away. And so, that's the difference in those things. Alright, students, who has questions for me, 'cause I am ready for questions. No questions at all? None, not a single one? Alright, so I'm gonna give you the camera, and you guys are gonna shoot, and then no. You're like no, we don't wanna do that. Then we have lot's of questions. Susan do you have any other question? We do have some questions. Yes. Okay. Okay, Mark, one question. We were talking about desert island stuff earlier, we were talking about desert island stuff earlier, can you let me know, your reflector, what's your desert island reflector, you can only use one, you go into a, you know, something small, something big? So the one I would use is the one we don't have here today, that's the five in one reflector that I described earlier. Where you have a translucent panel, silver, white, gold, and then gold silver. Because it's so versatile. The downside of that is, it's about this size, maybe a little bit smaller, and so you're really limited to the kind of work that you're gonna be able to do. You're not gonna be able to do a lot of full body stuff, but for flexibility, that works a lot. And the other nice thing about that, is you can use it for product shots, and other types of work as well. If it was a desert island with another choice, then I would definitely use the Sun-Swatter, the big, California Sun Bounce, Sun-Swatter, because you can take hard light and convert it to soft light, and it works really really well. Kay Mark, we had a question from earlier about, how many people do you feel like you can photograph under that Sun-Swatter? Like how big of a group would you...? Under that Sun-Swatter, maybe two. Maybe two, one or two, yeah. They have a larger, it's called a scrim, and that's really what you should go to when you're shooting a larger group. In fact if we were in a high dollar production for Discovery Channel or something right now, what we probably woulda done is, above us, built out a frame, that's a 24 by 24 foot frame, and it's got that translucent material and that's called a scrim. And so, if you every wonder how these reality shows and stuff seem to have great light all the time, well if they would just pan back, what you'll find is in the trees and in these big frames they've got these, basically large pieces of cloth tied up above to soften that light. So that's what you should use for larger groups. Or open shade. So yeah, across the street I see some awesome open shade over there. Down here against this wall we would use that. And it's much easier to find shade than it is to change your hard light in a situation like that. Okay Mark, another question. While reflecting, do we always need to stand as close to the subject as possible? Does that make softer light? More wrap around light? What do you think? Yeah so the reason that I was doing that, and I'm gonna have you hold this. So Lex come on over, I'm gonna show you, I'm gonna steal this from you. The reason that I was getting as close as possible is we're trying to get these catch lights to be more pronounced. And the way to do that is, again, really really close because of effective size. But that is not necessarily the case of a reflector. So why don't you go back where John is, and the sun is going behind the clouds really fast, but what I could do, if I wanted to get some more light, I could use this over here, and it's really bright. This is a really really bright light. And so, it's not really an enjoyable experience to have this shine in your face like that. Sorry about that. And so, what you can do is you can get back quite a ways and so it's not quite as nasty, but think about like, the kid in math class that used to blind you with his watch from the window. That's sorta what this is like. So, yeah, there is another reflector that is a little bit warmer, and so it's not quite as brutal as that. I'm just gonna keep doing that. (laughs) I know. I'm just gonna keep doing that, (laughs) I like to watch Lex squirm. She's like, ah, it hurts. But yeah, so you don't have to be really close. That was for the quality of light and to get a nice big catch light. Alright we do have a question over here, from a student. So if you have... You're gonna have to come over here 'cause you don't have a microphone, so you're gonna have to be right next to my... Oh you do have a mic? Oh okay, sorry. So if you have your scene set up, and it's lit perfectly, but the background is part of the subject as well, how long do you have in a natural setting, before you have to recalibrate everything? So it depends on the time of day. So when the sun is between, I don't know, ten o'clock and 3 or 4ish, it doesn't change too much. And it depends on the time of year, so Seattle, I don't know if you've noticed, but the sun goes down at like midnight here, or something crazy. So in the southern hemisphere, at the end of the day, the sun's just like, foom, it's gone. Northern hemisphere it's, uh na na, na na, alright, we're chill, we're going down. And so it really depends on where you are. There are Ipad apps and Iphone apps and android apps that are for natural light photographers, that will tell you all of those calculation. It will tell you where the sun's gonna be in the sky, how long it's gonna be there, when golden hour is. All of that stuff. And so it's well worth the investment of whatever is, 99 cents or two bucks, to get one of those if you're shooting outside. But like right now, the sun has moved in the sky pretty significantly for us. It's moved almost behind this big building over here so if we were shooting out here for, I don't know, whatever event it was, I would be getting worried at this point right now. Because the light that was over here that was really really hard and bright is not there anymore, so the very first things that we shot, not even an hour ago, is done. So it really depends on where you are, and what time of year it is, that kind of stuff, but just judging on this, you gotta work pretty fast. Okay. If you work with gels and lens filters, at what point when you're calibrating everything, do you factor that in? Do you set it up and then add it, or do you...? So, what type of lens filters and what types of gels are you talking about? Julie? Do you know the question? I didn't hear the question, I'm sorry. If you work with gels and lens filters... This is new for me, but we wanna try it, so, playing with the color, with an actual lens filter, and playing with the lenses themselves, as opposed to post production. So, I don't know that there's a lens... So when you put a colored lens filter on, it's to... Usually it's for film. But it's to totally, radically change the entire color caste of everything. But as far as the metering and all that kind of stuff you'd put the filter and then do all the metering as well. 'Cause depending on the filter, it will tell you that it's gonna reduce the light by a third stop, or a half a stop, or a full stop. So you have to know what the filter is doing and the filter will tell you on the information. And then you have to make adjustments. If you're using through the lens metering, it's gonna make the adjustment automatically. If you're using a meter, you'll have to make that adjustment based on the information of the filter. As far as the gel on a flash, you're geling the light on the flash for two reasons. One, either the flash isn't the same color temperature as the light you're working in and you wanna match that. And in that case you would set your white balance to the ambient light and make sure you match your flash to that. We're gonna do that tomorrow. If you're adding a gel to your flash for artistic expression, other words you want a big blue background, well then you just put the gel on and you shoot, and then you're done, because you don't wanna correct for that 'cause you're reversing the stuff that you just added, right. Oh man, okay. Yeah, yeah. Yeah you want to have the blue there, or red, or whatever it is. And we have some gels, by the way, tomorrow, that we're gonna be... We'll see if we can play with some of those tomorrow. I don't know if we can show that building, but the sun is about to go away. And as soon as it does, then all the situation that we have now, is gonna end. So we've got about ten minutes maybe, before things... And so we're at this transitional area, that as soon as we something set up, it's gonna be wonky. Okay, well why don't we take a few more questions. Yeah let's do that. Then we'll wrap for the day. Does that sound good? Yeah. Alright I think Andrew has a question. Do you have a question, Andrew? Yeah, I do. So obviously it's nice to be able to check everything while you're tethered, but logistically, you're not gonna do this on a shoot. So what kind of tips and tricks do you have for making sure you have the right shot? Okay, so the histogram is critical for understanding that. So step one, if you have a light meter, use that light meter and trust it. And I can't tell you how many times I have not trusted my... Like right now I'm not even trusting my light meter, I'm like oh, these are all under exposed and I don't like them and the color temperature looks off. And I'm making judgements based on this screen, but I know as soon as we go inside and look at these pictures under controlled environment, my opinion of those are going to change radically. So yeah, I can't wait to see what these actually look like 'cause out here I can't really tell. If I don't have this, I'm looking at this, I would definitely judge my exposure based on the histogram, not based on what we're seeing in the camera 'cause this is always gonna look underexposed in bright light and you can do things like that and try to figure it out. The second thing that I would recommend doing is have this set up for your histogram, but as you're working with your specific lenses and your camera, you're going to start seeing the same thing over and over and over again. So you're gonna look at this and go oh, it's underexposed, you're gonna go inside, put it on the computer, and go oh, no that's perfect. You're gonna go outside you're gonna shoot again, you're gonna go oh, it's underexposed, you're gonna put it on your computer and go oh, that's perfect. And the third time, you're gonna go ha! Looks underexposed, but I know better, it's actually exposed correctly, and I know that because I'm looking at my histogram and I'm seeing that it's at this place, then... So experience is gonna be your guide for a lot of that. And different cameras and lenses react differently. And so there is no short cut for experience and practice and learning that stuff. So that's the second thing I would do. Then the third thing that you can do is, I think Hoodman makes this thing, it's called like, Loupe, it sticks on the back and so you can look there and it blocks out the light. A lot of portrait photographers use that on location to sort of see things. I like to use the science to see if things are right or wrong. And then lastly, if possible, always shoot in RAW. Because when you shoot in RAW, what we'll find is we have, specifically in the darks, in the blacks, in the shadows, we have a lot of latitude for correcting any kind of mistake. And when you're using Lightroom, you can correct, let's say you do a series of shots. You can correct the first one and then just apply that to all the other ones. So it' really really easy to do that and really fast. And then also you can sweeten your color temperature and you can do those things in post. So if you can, shoot in RAW and then sweeten in post. You're gonna have greater flexibility that way. One of the things that you might not have is, if you're shooting events, news, photojournalism, receptions, like there are a billion things like that, there isn't enough time for that, and there are too many pictures for that. And that's where the Expodisc is the tool of choice. Get the Expodisc, have it come in, and with working with that you're gonna become used to how that workflow works. Is that a good sentence. How that workflow works. And it will benefit you, you'll know based on experience in your equipment, what works and what doesn't. And then if you are tethering on location, normally you can get a... and that makes this totally dark and so you can put your head in there and see things. And we didn't have one of those, but if you're shooting at a critical commercial shoot, normally what we'll have is either the entire enclosure, or, if it's a larger budget shoot, again this is highly impractical for most people, but you'll have a big... city bus going by. You'll have an actual production van. And so it's like a little office and you get in the van and you can see stuff. Or a digital assistant, which, again, this is crazy pipe dreams for the type of work that most people are doing, but at the commercial level, that's what they do, is they'll have somebody in a van somewhere looking at images coming in and making adjustments and you actually have a technician that helps with that. So it goes all the way from just learn your gear, use the histogram, to hire a guy that's super experienced and is gonna cost you an arm and a leg. So did that help answer that? Yeah, and just one more kind of follow up. With the histogram you're mostly looking clipped highlights. Is that what you're looking for? Yeah, it's what I'm look for. When we talk about how RAW impacts light, if you overexpose, you can't bring anything back. So remember those buckets of light we talked about? So when you overexpose those things are overflowing and you can never bring them back. If you underexposed a little bit, you can always say, oh we captured this much, so just move everything up relative to each other. And you have more latitude in fixing the dark areas than you do the light areas. Yeah. Yes. Okay, do we have another question? Yeah, ready for a few more? Yes. So Mark, when you're using your camera to do your metering, which metering mode are you in and why do you choose that mode? Okay, perfect question The history of metering goes like this. Originally, I believe, was an average. So it just took an average of everything that was in this scene, right, mixed it up to the 18%. And then what happened was people started noticing that when people took pictures, consumers, they put people, and the things that were of interest, in the middle of the scene. And so camera manufacturers said, lets do this where we do a center-weighted average. In other words, let's take this stuff that's in the middle of the scene and make that more important than the stuff that's at the edges. And so center weighted averaging came along. But a lot of people still knew how to work with just average, and so they kept both modes. And then, along came spot metering, where we say hey, I wanna look at just this one thing here and see what that is, and base my metering on that. That works pretty well, the problem is, with the SLR lens, spot metering is sort of like a cone that goes out. So you'll have, depending on the camera and the lens, anywhere between 10 and 20 degrees. So that spot might be, close up pretty small, but in a distance, that spot could be very very large. So essentially it's doing nothing for you. And so over a few feet, spot metering isn't really that advantageous. To me. And so it's for using with the zone system and some stuff that we won't have time to go into actually. So spot metering is for that specific thing, but it's really really iffy, if you meter, let's say, something this way, but the next time you meter it just a little bit off, or up or down, or maybe light hits the lens. Spot metering can be tricky. So for those reasons, I don't use average metering, because it's old school and it's not very accurate, I don't use center-weighted average 'cause I don't stick stuff in the center of my screen, and I don't use spot metering because of the problems with that. And if I was gonna use spot metering I use a actual hand-held meter. So the metering mode I use, is called evaluative. And on a Canon camera that is by default the metering mode that is gonna be turned on. In the Nikon it's called matrix metering. And for Sony I'm not sure what it's called, I think it's matrix. But basically what that does, is it uses technology from computers. So what it does is it looks at a scene, and then look and go oh, okay, we have a bunch of stuff right here with this really bright dot up there. And the computer will say, you know what, I know that that's just a bright sun and it's something that we should ignore and it'll give you a better reading. So evaluative metering or matrix metering, that's the latest greatest in technology. And the nice thing about that is every time there's a new camera that comes out, there's like Digic 2, Digic 3, Digic 4 processing. And what that is, is they're upgrading the computer system that operates the metering mode in the camera. So that's what I use, is evaluative. (words drowned out by background noise) question. Let's see here. A question from Kayla J L. Can you tell us a little bit about how you would suggest practicing these techniques when you are first getting started. And what would you say are the key pieces of equipment needed to get started? So what I would do, getting started, is find a model or friend, or a mannequin. I used to have this little pig called stunt pig that I would do things, lights, and we'd shape light on stunt pig. And so that's what I would start with. You can find beginner models on Or go to local agencies, local modeling agency... test shoots. But what I would recommend is go out and shoot with no expectation of getting a portfolio worthy image. So like if Lex, come on over here Lex (mumbles). Let's say that Lex is a beginner model which she clearly is not. She's gonna want some experience figuring out how to pose, what clothes look good on her, what hair and makeup is gonna work. She's just gonna get started, I'm just getting started, and so we can do something that's called time for print, where I say, you know what, if you give me an hour or two, I'll shoot and then I'll give you three or four pictures. And so it's not gonna cost either one of us any money, I learned something, she learned something, and you can do that with a number of newer models, and eventually you'll learn all that stuff. Or just use a friend or family member. And so doing that is gonna help you immensely. When I started, I don't know how many time for print shoots I did, but... I think I probably did time for print, TFP, for three or four years, of just shooting, shooting, shooting. The other thing that I would recommend doing, as far as the lighting equipment essentials, I don't know what it is exactly that you're shooting, but if you're shooting in natural light, then a five in one is definitely something that I would highly recommend, as one of the first things that you get. Diffusion panel and reflector, so those things. Beyond that, if you wanna do studio lighting, then I'm gonna recommend some studio lighting gear tomorrow. I'm always gonna recommend the ProPhoto gear even though it's really expensive, but in the long run, you'll see because the color temperature, flash duration, and consistency, it is... You'll make your money back. And if you're shooting with speed lights, I recommend that you get the absolute best, Nikon, Canon, Sony, whatever your brand of camera is, the very best speed light that you can possibly afford. Even if you feel like you're getting too much bang for the buck, 'cause as you learn speedlights, you're gonna learn things like, rear curtain sync, high speed sync, real conrtrolling other flash, it's doing all kinds of things that your lower end flash won't do, and... You're gonna learn that, oh, I can't really work in this environment 'cause I don't have enough power, I can't really... softbox or umbrella because I don't have enough juice to do that. So in the long run, it's gonna be a lot more cost efficient for you to buy (babbles) my words are not coming out. It's gonna be better for you to buy the best that you possibly can. And I recommend highly, if you're starting out in photography, to buy used equipment. There is nothing wrong with buying used gear. In fact Adorama has a used camera department that I highly recommend. And if you buy from a... Find used equipment that they've looked at, made sure it works and if there's an issue with it that you can bring it back. And so most of my gear I bought used, actually. My 70 to 200 I bought used. My 24 to 70 I bought used. I've got 16 to 35 I bought used. The only thing I bought new is my camera and my 85 to 1 2, everything else I got used. And so you can save on a lens and on gear like 50, 60%, so yeah, check that stuff out. Used is fine.

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.