Working with Natural Light
We need to talk about some things that we can't do in the studio. Yes, in the studio. Specifically, natural light. On location. So we can't just travel the world and do all these things, so we're gonna try to do it via the presentation here. So, the golden hour is something that all scenic photographers and portrait photographers should know about. It is sometimes referred to as the magic hour. Traditionally it's the hour right after the sun comes up and the hour right before the sun goes down, at the beginning and end of the day. But, technically it is when the sun is six degrees above and below the horizon. That's when this magic happens. What that magic is is the sun is so low in the sky the light has to travel a greater distance through the atmosphere. And so what happens is, the atmosphere actually strips out a lot of the blue in the sunlight, and it makes the sun look orange and golden. And that's why it's called the golden hour. And so, not only is it this really pleasing light,...
it's very warm. It's very directional and low. And so you have the ability, if you're shooting at the golden hour, to choose the kind of light you want. And so, Lex, we'll have you come out here for just a second. I'll sort of model this with Alexis here. I didn't tell her we were doing this. Sorry. Hey. So, if you'll stand here, and then come out just a little bit, so maybe right there. Okay, perfect. So, if I'm, let's say, a portrait photographer and I want to shoot at the golden hour. The nice thing is I can shoot with the sun to my back and it's going to hit my subject straight on and it's gonna give me that flat likeness like we saw with the crazy little thing earlier today. Or I can shoot with her to the side, like this, and I'm gonna get side light. Or I can have her go all the way back like this and I can have light coming from behind and use a reflector or a fill flash to get something that's really pleasing. And when we go outside and we start shooting on location we're gonna find out that it's generally better to shoot with the sun coming in to the camera than it is to shoot this way, where if Lex turns around, she's gonna have this going on. The sun is melting me. And so one of the things that a lot of beginning photographers do is they'll take their subject and immediately they'll stick them right here with the sun behind their head and they'll get squinty nasty pictures and people crying. It's really not good. We don't want to do that. So we're gonna learn how to control that. Thank you. We're gonna learn how to fix all those things. So the golden hour is spectacular and not only is good for portrait photography but for scenic photos it is great. I live in Arizona and everybody comes to Arizona to go see the Grand Canyon and so many people get to the Grand Canyon and they're blown away at how huge it is, it's massive, hundreds of miles long. And they take pictures and their pictures come out and they don't look anything like the Grand Canyon we all see in the postcards. And the reason for that is, most photographers are shooting in the middle of the day when the sun is in the middle of the sky and we don't get all those shadows that sort of define what the Grand Canyon is, or whatever scenic thing is that you're shooting, and it's not that warm color. So generally if you're doing scenic photos you should do them at the right time of day, which is during the golden hour. The other thing with the golden hour, before we see some pictures here, is there's a thing called particulate matter or pollution. And so it's different in the morning and in the evening. And so if you live in a place like Houston, which is really polluted, or Phoenix, which is really polluted, or LA, which is really polluted, those kind of places, you get some really amazing things. Because the sun goes way down at night and the sunsets are brilliant cause what's happening is there's all this dust and exhaust and stuff that's floating in the air and the sun actually hits that and refracts. And that's what gives us these amazing sunsets is the nasty dust and pollution. And so there is more of that in the evening than there is in the morning. Because in the morning people have stopped driving, all the construction work has stopped and so in cities, not necessarily out in nature, you'll get more particulate matter in the evening than you will in the morning. And so you can get two different golden hours in a day. Its really cool. And, depending on which way you want to shoot, you know if you have a mountain that's on this side, you're gonna have to shoot at sunset, if that's the east. You know, depending on what side the thing is that you want to shoot, you'll have to choose either morning or night. So you're at the mercy of the sun, which is really cool. So I actually went out in the desert and shot some stuff a while back. And these are golden hour photos of the Sonoran Desert about an hour outside of where I live. And you can see these are really clearly, the sun is very, very low to the horizon. And for this I actually shot in to the sun. And the reason I did that was I wanted to have these cactus, sort of, glowing. And you can see right here there's some lens flare. These are sort of glowing. You can see another shot here. This is of Lex. We shot this for a photo actually. The new Profoto B1. This was shot and the sun was just about to go over the horizon. But you see this right here, with the sun you can actually see the rays. Those are called crepuscular rays. And I should've written it out so you'd know how to spell them. But when the sun, or any light, travels through an atmospheric condition, fog, dust, whatever, you can actually see what one of my students call Jesus beams. That little aah aah. Those are technically called crepuscular rays. And so one of the tricks in scenic photography, and since this is as close to scenic photography as I get, is a model in lingerie in the desert. A lot of photographers want those rays of light. There's a place in Arizona that is very, very famous called Antelope Canyon. There's these really awesome desert walls and you see these beams of light coming in all the time. If you ever go there what you'll find is that the tour guides take the dust and they just throw it in the air all day. They're just throwing dust in the air. And that's how you can see the beams of light. So, any time that light is traveling through some kind of atmospheric condition, it's crepuscular rays. And the more directional the light, and the harder the light, the more apparent these rays are. So if this was a really cloudy day we wouldn't have had this beam of light here because it would've been too diffused. I was helping a student who wanted to figure out how to have this rock and roll kind of set. I should've brought out this picture. He wanted to drill holes in a board and he wanted to have beams of light coming out, sort of like the X Files, showing everywhere. And he couldn't figure out how to make that happen. And what we had to do was add a bunch of smoke in the studio, but we had to add very directional lights. So we put grids, we'll show you these grids. But the light has to be really directional to get those beams. And a lot of people want those beams, but it's directional light going through some kind of atmospheric thing. Those are called crepuscular rays. And you can contrast this, so this very, very hard directional light. By the way, she was filled in. See the shadows here. So that's a give away that there was a flash involved. And we're gonna talk about parabolic light modifiers later, but this was a parabolic umbrella which gives her, you see on her arms there's this dark outline, through her face and on her arms. It's almost like somebody took a Sharpie and outlined her body. That's from something called a parabolic light modifier where the light is coming straight in. When it comes straight in, it hits here but falls off on the side and so you get this sort of dark surrounding. This is a video on Profoto's website actually. You can see it. We shot that in, it was 30 seconds, right? Yeah. We were showing how fancy this thing was and we timed it. And we shot this. We had 30 seconds to do it and I think that was 60 seconds. It was about 60 seconds, yeah. From setup to shoot this happened in 60 seconds. So anyway, I don't want to sell Profoto gear, but it's amazing. This is not golden hour. This is in the redwoods, up outside of Crescent City, California, where I went to high school. And the difference between this light, this is very, very, how would you describe this? I'm gonna put you guys on the spot. How would you describe this, hard or soft light?
Soft light, yes, hurray. Very diffused light, and we have issues with dynamic range here. So you see how this is falling out of the camera's dynamic range. We had those issues. We see this, we've got specular highlights here on the top of these beams, on the top of that tree. This is a very saturated colorful image, so we have that. This is not golden hour, this is just soft light. So don't confuse those two. We can do scenic photography that's in soft light like this or you can do stuff at golden hour. This, by the way, if this was in the rain, something we hadn't talked about, I'll just bring it up now, what we would is we would have lots of specular highlights. All these specular highlights on these rails and stuff, on these stairs and all the leaves. If everything was wet we would have lots of specular highlights coming in to the lens. And light would be scattering off of all that water everywhere and it would actually give our camera some problems with contrast. And so to fix that, there's a filter called a circular polarizer. And so if you're a scenic photographer, a circular polarizer will help you overcome those issues. You can actually twist it and all the shiny stuff that's sort of coming in just goes away. And you can shoot. So, in this situation I didn't need one, but if it was raining or it had been wet, I would definitely have needed a circular polarizer for that shot. Okay that's golden hour and not golden hour. Let's talk about natural light modifiers in the context of shooting a person. Taking pictures of a person. So what we're gonna do is, I want to show you a few things. So we have reflectors. What reflectors will help us do, and I've got one over here I'll just show you. What reflectors help us do is they fill in light. So they help us overcome that dynamic range issue, where we have something that's too dark. It'll help us do something, like if we were shooting with the sun to our subject's back, if we want to bounce some light in we can do that. Normally a reflector is gonna give us directional light so it's actually bouncing in very directionally, depending on the type of reflector. You can have it either more or less directional. The second thing we're gonna talk about and work with is something like this. This is called a diffusion panel and what it does is it becomes artificial clouds. And it'll help us soften the light. We will want to have different sizes of those. We've got a huge one here but you can get smaller ones as well. And then I'm gonna describe for you, with the whiteboard, don't let me forget. It's up to you. Don't let me forget to talk about open shade versus closed shade, cause I'm gonna forget. Cause when we get outside we have to understand that all shade is not created equal. We can have different kinds of shade and some of it is better than others. Which is sort of cool. So we're gonna do that and then we're gonna learn why our camera's light meter sucks. Which is awesome, but here we go. I know. Pretty cool, huh? This is a very high quality reflector and it has two sides. It's got silver and white. Now why do you suppose it has a silver and a white? And guesses? I'll give you a hint, it's about the specular highlights. So white is less specular than silver. If you see on the floor here, look on the floor. See how much light that is showing? And you can actually see the shape of the reflector on the floor. So it's very specular. We can actually see the size and shape of the reflection on the floor, and if it was on a person or whatever, the same thing would apply. Whereas the white, look at this, you can't really see it. You can see a reflection. But you can't see the shape and it's not as clear. So this is a more diffused light. This is a more directional light. This is more specular. This is less specular. You can also get these in translucent material. It's the same as this. But it's just this size. We didn't get one for this workshop because we already had one. And then you can also get these in black. There are many companies that make these in something that's called a five-in-one reflector. And I highly recommend that you either get a few of these. And this is a really high quality reflector, or get some five-in-one reflectors. And a five-in-one reflector is basically the same type of frame and the middle of it is a translucent piece of material and then over that this material is wrapped. So it has white on one side and silver on the other and that's reversible. And then you'll have two other colors, either a black and a gold or a gold/silver mix. So you get five different reflectors and a translucent modifier all in one. So that's why it's called a five-in-one. And these fold up. Like that. And anybody from Arizona can do this and people from outside of Arizona have never seen this thing before. Cause we have things in our cars. You guys have these in other cities? So funny that. It's just fun to do that. All right. So that's what this is. Not so specular, very specular. This is used a lot for fashion work. Lex, I'm gonna have you come out again. And to make this work, I'm gonna have you stand here. Yeah, about right there. So see how this is uneven light on her? So a lot of fashion photography in magazines and stuff, they will use this where it's an uneven, highly specular light on a subject. We're gonna turn on the real sun in a little bit and you're gonna be blasted. And you can see how that is filling her. As opposed to this white where you can't even see it, right? Like, what's the use? But we will be able to see it and we'll be able to do a bunch of things. Thank you. So, yeah, this is much more specular. You can even see it on there. Look at that. You can change the shape of that as well. See how it's vertical, you can do that. You can shape these. So we're gonna be working with this quite a bit. All right. So, what we want to do here is we have created artificial sun. So, John, you are the sun. Here it goes, the sunshine. This light, by the way, I don't know if we can show that. This is called an Arri Open Face 2K and Arri is the brand. A-r-r-I. Open face because it has nothing in front of it. It's an open face light, it just let's light come out. And 2K stands for two thousand watts. And with incandescent lights like this the power output is measured in watts. So just like the bulbs that you put in, your hundred watt, sixty watt. So this is 2000 watts. And that, in lighting terms is not really tons of power for movies and stuff like that. Usually you get it in a 5K, 10K, 20K. These are really, really big. And this is very, very hot light. This is called a hot light. You can actually feel the heat from here. Which is what? 12, 15 feet away. Yeah, you can feel how hot it is from right here. It's gonna be boiling. So we have that. Alexis, come on out here. Yay for you. Lex is perpetually freezing in the studio. And I'm perpetually hot, so you're in luck. Do you feel that heat?
Yeah. I like it. (laughing)
Okay, so I need some help from you guys. So come on out. Let's have the front three, row, people. Front three, row, people. Front three, row, people, is that a term?
[Man From Audience] It is now.
It is now. So you guys are gonna be assistants. So the first thing we're gonna do is, Lex, I'm gonna have you stand here, just like that. And what we're gonna look at, if you guys come over here so the camera's can see everything clearly. Thank you. What we're looking at here is the shadow. Now her shadow is gonna tell us something about the direction of our light source. And so, in this scenario, this light is just sun with no clouds. Okay, that's what we're emulating here. And so a lot of times you'll have a day where the sun's gonna be out and it's gonna be a little overcast, or patchy clouds, stuff like that. And sometimes, especially when the sun is sort of up high in the sky, it's sort of difficult to figure out where exactly the sun is. Not in Phoenix, but in some places. And one of the tricks you can use to make sure you line things up is look at the shadow to know exactly where to stand. Cause I was thinking, you know, here's where I needed to stand to get that directly behind her. But actually it's over here. And so this is gonna be sort of a guide to help us figure out where the light is. So the shadows are gonna help us out. And then we're also looking at the shadows to see how hard or soft this light is. We can see that this, look at these shadows down here, I don't know if the cameras can see this. This is not a totally opaque shadow, right? We can see through this, it's not totally black. Which means there has to be light coming from somewhere else, to fill this in. And that light are these lights here, so we're gonna ask to see if they can be, at least these lights turned off. And we'll see if this changes any. But this is giving us a clue to what's happening out here. And also notice on Lex's face, we can see her face clearly. And, how is that possible? Well we can see that because, yeah, we have this huge white reflector right here. We have the ground and we're getting lots of stuff. I don't know if the camera can come over, but when we look in Lex's eyes you could clearly see this white reflection in your eyes. Now it has gone because these are being turned off. So all of those things that we talked about, specular highlights, the shadows, the transition area, those are giving us clues. And also see if you can show these guys. Look at the specular highlights in your eyes. They're tiny. Tiny, tiny specular highlights. And we can see the shadows and all the stuff that we talked about earlier. And it is drastically different than what we're seeing on Lex, even though we're in the same room. Her light is totally different than your light. Just based on position, which is really cool. Okay, so the first thing we want to do is work out how we're gonna make this photo pleasing. And so what we're gonna do is, John I'm gonna see, this is really heavy, can you lower that? We're gonna try and have the sun go down a little bit. So we have more of a golden hour thing. I really tightened it up, you might have to use bionics. Yeah, you got it. We have this very large stand. Cool. The other thing is he's being very gentle cause the filament in that, if it jars it'll break and then we won't have a sun and then the whole thing will come crashing down literally. And it'll be horrible. Yeah, a little bit, there you go. That's cool. And then twist it this way. There you go. Keep going, keep going, keep going. Bueno. So you can see it though, right? When he was moving it? Getting brighter and not so bright. We'll talk about that with studio lighting and about feathering the light. There's all kinds of other things, there's so much about light. Okay, I think you're gonna have to come this way so we can show, oh you're over there that's perfect. So what we see here is now, notice on the hair here, it's just go this golden, a silver lining basically, right? And that's what we originally learned when we talked about the position of light. That light from behind is going to create a silhouette. We're getting fill light from all these reflections but the dynamic range is such that, if we tried to take a picture of this, her hair is gonna be totally blown out. In fact, let's try it. We're gonna just take a shot really quickly. And then I'm gonna put you guys to work as far as the assistants part of this works. So I'm gonna take a shot. And I am shooting this. We're also gonna try to figure out how to properly expose this. So our camera's probably gonna have issues with this. But I'm gonna shoot this with an ISO, I'm gonna keep it at about 400. I'm shooting an aperture value of 4.5, so we have pretty shallow depth of field. And John's behind you. I'm just gonna show you what happens when we try this. We have all the issues that we talked about earlier. Where we have an image, the color isn't right, the contrast is really low, and it's not exposed correctly. We know the reason for the contrast issues is because the light is coming straight in to the lens. Which we don't like. John, do we have that flag right there? I'm gonna put you in charge of flagging this.
Okay, so the way this works to flag a light, I'm gonna grab this, is basically we're extending our lens hood. We're just making it a lot longer. And so, what you'll do is, you're gonna look to see how the light is falling on the lens and you're gonna lower this until it's shaded.
Until it casts a shadow.
Yeah, till it casts a shadow. And then we're gonna start there and then we're gonna keep working. This, by the way, you can do with a newspaper, a magazine, your hand, whatever you have works. You don't have to have a fancy flag like this. And so, I'm gonna again step over here. See if you can get me, there you go, perfect. (camera clicks) All right, so now lets take a look. All we did was add a flag, that's all we did. And so, that's the difference. So before, after. And let me see if I can get a little bit closer picture to match that one. So we'll do again a before and after. We're gonna shoot two in a row. So we can do this. So come on out. And we're gonna shoot these two in a row. So this is with no flag. (camera clicks) And then flag. Perfect. Then keep this up, there you go. (camera clicks) Okay, good. Now, the exposures aren't right on this. But we're gonna show these back to back. So you can actually see them. Can I hand this to you? Thank you. So back to back we have flag on the right, no flag on the left. You see how that changed the contrast dramatically. Just by doing that. We're doing this pretty extreme where we have the sun pretty low, but you'll see the same thing if you take your lens hood off in some situations where you're gonna start having issues with contrast because light is coming in to the lens. So if you're shooting with this golden hour kind of light really low, it's great to have somebody help you just flag the light. All they have to do is put shade on the lens and you have to make sure that whatever you're using to flag the light isn't in the lens. Which is what I did. It's like, hey. And then you'll get to something like this. Okay the problem with this, she has no specular highlights. So let's take a look at her eyeballs. And you'll see, it's underexposed and we really don't have any interesting specular highlights there. Right? Her eyes look sort of dead. There's nothing to shape the light on her face. It's sort of a flat photo. So what we're gonna do next is, we're gonna shoot the same thing. Let's not do that on that one. (laughing) Please don't do the same thing to me I did to you. I own this one. That one I didn't. Okay, so what we're gonna do is. And, by the way, if you didn't hear it, John was like, catch. So what we're gonna do is we have an issue with the exposure on this. This is underexposed. We wanna fix that so I'm gonna start shooting in manual mode. If you don't know how to shoot in manual mode google it. No, google Mark Wallace manual mode, and you'll see a video on how to shoot in manual mode. And for this I've got to figure out what the proper exposure is, and so, if I depend on my light meter and I just fill the frame with what we were shooting I'm probably gonna get the same underexposed issues. So what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna zoom way in on Lex's face. Way, way, way in. And then I'm gonna make the exposure based on just her face. So I'm eliminating all this bright light in the frame. And so, all I'm doing is I'm getting uncomfortably close, like this. Yeah, she loves this. And then what I'll do is, I will change my aperture when we're shooting at four five and then we're shooting at 1/30th of a second, which is not fast enough. Right, that's not fast enough. So what I'll have to do in this situation, there's two things I can do. Well, three. I could use a tripod which would help to make my camera not so shaky so at a thirtieth of a second I'm gonna run in to problems. My shutter speed should be about a hundredth of a second for this lens, cause this is a 70 mm lens. So I could use a tripod, but if Lex moves we're still gonna get blur. So that's not so good. The second thing I can do is use a flash. But the whole point of this is no flash. The third thing I can do is I need to increase my ISO sensitivity. And in my opinion it's better to have an image that is clear with a little bit of noise than an image that's blurry. Okay, so that's what we're gonna do. And then what we're gonna do is add a reflector. It's the fourth thing we can do to bring the light up. But first we're gonna shoot this in manual mode and see if we've got it dialed in. So I'm gonna increase my ISO from all the way up to 1600 and I'll take a peek there. And now we're at and then if you can flag for me again please. And then, yeah, so here we go. Perfect. Back just a hair. Perfect. (camera clicks) Okay. Now what we have is again, we have a photo that's exposed for her face. You can see that that exposure has been corrected. We got John back there, which is really cool. But still our specular highlights in her eyes are not so special. So let's so this. Let's start adding some joy to this. So would you like to be reflector? So what we're gonna do is, we're gonna have you over here on this side. Because if we go over there the cameras won't be able to see. And what we're gonna do is we're gonna have you come sort of to the side like this. I know you're thinking well I should be here, right? But if we bounce to the side, something like this, what we're gonna get, is we're gonna get, I'll put this on the floor so you can sort of see. We're gonna get light coming in and bouncing to the side and we're gonna emulate more of that 45 degree angle. So if we go straight on like this, we're gonna get flat light. By putting it to the side we're gonna get more actual form. Three dimensional form. Normally I would put it on this side because of the way that the light is shining and so we're not gonna get the perfect light from this, cause I'd normally be on the other side but then our cameras can't see us. We're gonna try this with white and then we're gonna try this with silver. The problem with silver, I'm gonna do this to your camera right there. You can see. I can't see anything. Killing me. So this is gonna make you squint just as much as bright sunlight's gonna make you squint. And it's really unfair, see? It hurts right?
Take it. So let's try with white. And we want to get this close. And the reason we want it close, is close is gonna give us soft. And close is going to give us a nice, large effective size. And then I will try metering again once we have that up there to see how we do. And I'm just in manual mode There we go. Like that and then we're definitely going to need to flag this light again. I could probably just do it with my hand. Yeah, I can do it with my hand. (camera clicks) All right. Let's take a look at that. And this is gonna be overexposed because I didn't compensate for the reflector. See how we have this much light on this side. So what I'll do here, if you put that up again, I am gonna have you flag this. So bring this back this way. There you go. There you go, just like that. Perfect.
There you go. Yeah, up a little bit. Perfect. (camera clicks) Okay. We're doing this inside. We're gonna compare these shots. Obviously we would not do this in an environment like this. But, see how this light has now become much more directional and what we'll do is we're gonna compare this first shot and this second shot here. So you can start seeing here how our light was very flat, underexposed. To now, this is a directional light. See the difference between the light on this side of her face and this side. And now we're starting to get a specular highlight in her eyes as well. So let's just go in on this really quickly. There you go. You can start seeing that reflection there. So we're getting some specular highlights in her eyes. It's pretty cool, I like that. Okay, so the next thing we're gonna do, we're gonna try the same thing but now we're gonna use silver. Silver is something you normally would use when it's very, very bright outside. And this is the job I had when I was (mumbles) In this situation here it's easy to see where this light is falling. Outside it's not the same, cause it's really, really bright. So what I normally do is I look at the ground and I'll bring the light in and then walk it up. So that's sort of how you do it. You can sort of find the light on the ground, and once you find the light then walk it up. That's one of the best ways to do this. As you can see on the white, it's really hard to see. Can sort of see that. That'll be more of what it's like out in nature. Okay, you wanna try it?
Okay. We're not getting rid of you totally.
Do you want it closer or further away because it's stronger?
For this, let's try this back just a little ways.
I know. And what we want to do, remember the direction of light not only is left to right but also height. So this guy.
Yes. You want to have it up high. And the thing about this reflector is it's built.
That would be better?
Yeah, or this. I'm gonna grab this from you.
You can actually do this.
So you can sort of figure out the light and you sort of have to peek through. Okay? Reflector wrangling takes a bit of practice. By the way, when you're metering light you don't want to get between the reflector and the subject when you're trying to figure out exactly what kind of light to have. Block this. Can I get a flag please? Can I get a flag? Do you have a flag? Then we go back up so you can do that? Just a little bit more. All right. Okay. We're gonna do this one more time. Give me a little bit more flag there. There you go. (camera clicks) Okay. We'll take a look at that. I think I underexposed this a little bit. But we'll see if we have. Yeah, now look at our specular highlight. See how small that is? It's teeny tiny. Which is really interesting. So what we would try to do and with this reflector it's tricky cause it's silver. And with silver, I'm gonna grab this from you, I'm gonna have you guys step aside just for a second. When you're working with one of these guys, notice how the shape of this changes. So from this angle we're just getting a narrow strip. Over here I can sort of change that to a much larger patch. So what had happened is because of the angle that we were using this at, we were getting a very, very small light instead of a very broad light. And so for this we would probably shoot from over here and play with that. And maybe even get in closer so we get a larger specular highlight.