Most amateurs and way too many, self-proclaimed, professional photographers pay little attention to the quality of the light when they photography anything! Probably the worst offenders, by subject, are the flower loving subset of “photographers”. I’ve never been that thrilled with flower photography in general because there’s little challenge in photographing something that’s literally rooted in the ground! I suppose that’s why many amateur photographers start with flowers.
So, what makes these “flower people” think anyone wants to see their pretty flower photos done in flat dull light or flat full sunlight—usually just a single flower smack dead in the middle of the frame? These are at best “record shots”; only proof that this flower exists—like the world hasn’t seen a rose before!
As photographers—especially those of you that have artistic goals—you must do better than “record shots”.
To that end, You Must pay attention to the Direction of the Light relative to your subject…
f8.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 120mm
The sunflower image above was just backlight—something I’m always looking for when I’m outside. Here it’s my key light—on portrait sessions it’s my background light—hair light—kicker light depending on the location.
The bottom line: When doing fine art images outside of things I want the light coming in on my subject’s 3-o’clock, 9-o’clock or 6-o’clock (back light). These sun positions can vary depending on the subject depth) or thickness). e.g. for a thick subject like a large rock formation I may start when the sun is on my subject’s 2-o’clock or 10-o’clock. I avoid doing photography if the light is striking my subject on the 12-o’clock (flat front light).
When you have 12-o’clock light: You are either standing in the wrong spot (MOVE!) or you are there at the wrong time of day (Come back later).
Here’s one I did at an unusual time of day for me…
f5.6 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
This was done at Ten in the morning at the Japanese Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California. The gardens are nestled against the Saratoga Mountains with trees all around and facing East—so, it never gets the low angle setting sunlight that I prefer. So, I used the high angle morning light and positioned my camera so that light was coming in at the flower’s 3-o’clock.
This lighting makes the water lily glow amid the lily pads and I like the contrast between the pristine water lily and the pond scum.
Back to my favorite time of day…
f14.0 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
This was just done this week at 9PM—about a half-hour before sunset. The sun is coming in at about the flower’s 8-o’clock—kind of angled back light. The sun is so low that it’s shooting through the flower’s pedals creating a spot light effect across the stamen. This is THREE DIMENSIONAL LIGHTING—the key to creating texture and drama.
Let me know if you have questions…’Til next week.
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com
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