Too much light

When cooking, if you’re the sort who thinks one teaspoon is good, and 2 or 3 will be even better, then you probably eat alone a lot.

Come to think of it, you probably eat lots of leftovers too.

When you’re making pictures, especially when you are starting to explore lighting, resist over-lighting.

It’s all about quality of light not quantity.

It’s precisely that reason photographers sometimes choose to light their subjects.

Less is more–Artist Johnnie Dominguez was photographed using just available light and a large gold reflector. My friend Ted Kulesa held the reflector on the left of Johnnie just outside the frame. Canon 40D ISO 800 1/125 sec @ f2.8 camera on monopod. 80-200 zoom @ 80 mm. No fancy schmancy lights or flash used. I did have an voice-activated assistant Ted Kulesa. I wish I took more behind-the-scenes pictures of this. I’m starting to do so now that I’m teaching.

It’s about control.

Just like the artist who paints, the photographer starts with a blank canvas as well.

What the artist with the brush creates when applying colors and the different shades is depth and the illusion of 3 dimensions.

The photographer working in this similar canvas uses his control of the highlights and shadows–the precise placement of  his lights–to achieve the same illusion.

It’s this lighting that creates a mood or a “feel” in a picture.

The next time you watch a movie,  pay attention to the lighting.

Every scene is lit.

It just doesn’t look like it.

It’s so subtle for a reason.

The cinematographer wants you to only notice the actors, not their lighting.

Photographing your subject in an area that is flooded with many lumens ( a measure of brightness) is a must if you’re shooting sports because you need the high shutter speed to freeze the action.

Not so when you’re doing a portrait.

For starters, consider the comfort of your subject. When it’s so bright, chances are, they’ll be squinting.

If they’re extra sensitive to bright light, and you happen to be photographing women, they’ll be tearing up and before you know it, you’re going to get Raccoon Eyes when their mascara runs.

There are 2 other technical reasons:

  • Too much depth-of-field.
  • Everything in the scene is lit.

Too much depth-of-field

Depth-of-field or zone of sharpness simply translates to having more clutter in the background and possibly foreground sharp.

It can be a bad thing when you’re forced to shoot at a small aperture even at low ISO settings of 100.

So, yes, there is such a thing as too much depth-of-field.

Everything in the scene is lit

When the sun is out or if all the lights in the room are on, that means everything is lit.

Everything being lit also means you have lots of distractions to contend with.

Lots of light is great if you’re looking for something, but not necessarily so when you want to do a portrait.

So the next time you’re scouting locations, consider the possibilities. Here’s a picture of the basement where I took this picture.

Naturally I shot in color and converted to black and white in post production to give me the biggest file possible.

Do you prefer the color instead?

Interestingly, this portrait of Johnnie was the only BW print from my show and it was the only one that sold.

2 thoughts on “Too much light”

  1. Hello Janice,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and for posting your comment. I see you went to school in La Verne. I happen to know quite a few photography graduates from there. Regards.

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