Lightning (II): Direction of the light

Three different ilumination ways.
Three different ilumination ways.

Last week I review on a post the more basic characteristics of light, so it seems just right to keep talking about light on photography and how it works to keep improving it, little by little. I know is hard, believe me, is a long run work, but is the best way to improve our photography so, lets do this!

When working with the light direction we have to pay attention to the shadows we want to create, the unwanted light, so we would move the light around our subject to get the effect we want to get in our picture. Which light positions can we have? Basically we can move the light 360º around our subject, having it reduce to three light positions: frontal lightning, side lightning, and back lightning.

1. Frontal lightning.

This is the lightning we get when we set the light just right in front our subject, therefore the light is falling directly on the whole subject, and it usually ends up with a really flatten and bidimensional effect, which most of the time is quite unflattering, as the result will provide a picture with lack of volume and depth. Also, this type of light reduces the texture of the subject, or the scene, and that’s also most of the times unwated.

There’s another kind of front light we could use that’s the high front light, that usually lit the scene well, and if we are using the sun as light source will also make the colors pop out, the downside of this will be that this kind of light usually make your subjects squint, and sometimes it can create deep shadows under eyes and chins that we’d cover up with a second light, maybe using a flash or a reflector.

Frontal light
Frontal light

2. Side lightning.

When we position the light to any of the sides of our subject we have side light, which will give us more shadows, and that will translate in more texture, volume and depth. This can help seperate the subject from the background, even if also can be to harsh for some subjects, as it can create too bright and too dark areas.

Also, when we use it on portraits and depending of the quality of the light, we can be emphasizing wrinkles, skin pores… if that’s something we’re working on, great! If not we’d have to use a soft lightning so we have texture but we don’t have it so hard.

Side light
Side light

3. Back light

This is probably my favourite light, and the one I have no idea to make it work as I want to, yet. Where do we need to have the light in this case? Of course at the back of the subject. This light is great, I think it has plenty of magic, strenght and it is just wonderful, helps subjects to stand out and makes everything more simple.

The downside? Of course this kind of light makes amazing silhouettes, but makes hard to keep your subject on light, instead just as a black shadow, therefore is hard to have the cool light and not just a superdark subject. Also we’ve to be careful with lens flares, unles we like them. Anyways, we can always use the back light as second light and use a reflector to light our subject.

Back light
Back light

Once we know the three basic positions of the light, I’d like to also share how the degrees of the light have some influence on the photography. Specially when we work with side lightning. Therefore we will have two main side lightning.

Angled towards the subject, the most typical angle to work with this light would be 45º from the subject, there are shadows created as well as shape and texture. The width of the shadows will increase as the light moves to a side of the camera.

On the subject side, so if the light is just on the side of the subject, at 90º of the subject, will create a really dramatic effect, as half of the subject will be lit and the other half on complete shadows.

Hope you found this useful and it’ll help to bust your photography! What’s your favourite kind of light direction? How do you practice it? Tell me all about it on the comments!

Also if you want to give it a try and practice you’d check this site! Is amazing!

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