Lighting & Composition for Mobile Photography
Editing Applications Worth Mentioning
There are many as many ways to edit an image as there are to take a picture. Many photographers find a way to make their artwork standout in how they edit images in post. You can do this with your smartphone or tablet using some of the following applications.
People ask me all the time what they should get so they can take 'good pictures.' While there is some difference between equipment, there is an even bigger difference in the photographer's eyes. A skilled photographer trains to develop their eye, learning to see the world through a lens and putting a unique perspective on an ordinary piece of life.
Key Factors in Critique
Note: It is not enough to say that something is "good" or "bad," you must explain what you think is strong or weak. Pinpoint elements that work really well within a photograph, and then you may list elements that are distracting to your eye. Describe possible solutions for how the photographer could avoid such errors in the future.
The Point: The goal of critique is to improve the work. If we only hear that things are "good" or "bad" then we never move forward creatively but rather just get hurt in the process.
Guidelines for Describing Photographs
Note: Descriptions are fact, which is different from interpretation or opinion.
Dialogue for Describing Subject Matter
"To describe a photograph or an exhibition is to notice things about it and to tell another, out loud or in print, what one notices. [...] To describe is to criticize."
"Describing [art] is a logical place to start when viewing an exhibition or a popular photograph because it is a means of gathering basic information on which understanding is built. Psychologically, however, we often want to judge first, and our first statements often express approval or disapproval."
"Subject matter is different from subject. Subject, however, is synonymous with theme or meaning and is more of an interpretive than descriptive endeavor."
How would you describe the subject matter of these images?
Be politically correct and appropriate in your responses.
Example description of the middle photograph, above:
Physical: asexual, old person, black person, cold temperatures
Emotional: frustration, fragility, anger, confusion, isolation
Dialogue for Discribing the Composition
"Form refers to how the subject matter is presented [...] the shape of the content. Descriptive statements about a photograph's form concern how it is composed, arranged, and constructed visually."
Examples of how to describe form:
Describing the Technical Elements
"The term medium refers to [...] the kind and size of film that was used, the size of the print, whatever it is black and white or in color, characteristics of the camera that was used, and other technical information about how the picture was made, including how the photographer photographs."
Digital Shift (Optional)
Many people think that photography is much simpler now that film stocks are no longer a factor. But, that's not true. Digital photography poses new challenges including sensor types, sensor sizes, ISO ranges and caps, file formats, and compression rates. Simply put, there is no single "way" to take a picture.
Ultimately, these three formats (below) are the formats photographers tend to use daily. RAW, TIFF, and JPEG. This chart gives a quick explanation for why you would use one format over the others.
Critiquing a Photographer's Style (Optional)
"Style indicates a resemblance among diverse art objectives from an artist, movement, time period, or geographic location and is recognized by a characteristic handling of subject matter ..."
Examples of photography styles include, "snapshot aesthetic," and "directorial photography;"
When determining someone's style, consider:
More style descriptors
Staring Directly Out at the Viewer
Condescending of Subjects
Bringing the "Mighty" Down to Normal Size
Invasion of Privacy
To help students use this rig quickly and effectively, I created this cheat sheet card. This cards are attached to each of the cameras and help students quickly recall how to change shutter speed, ISO, and aperture to achieve the look they want.
*Note: We no longer use the small audio box but rather the Zoom H5 audio recorder.
The word photography means drawing with light.
Photography comes from two Greek words; 'photos' which means light and 'graphe' which means drawing.
These two images above (lighting and window) represent how important light is in capturing an image. Without light the camera would only capture pitch black frames.
Quality of Light
Hard Light is light that comes direct and harsh from a light source. The transition between light and dark is clear and noticeable (meaning you can see the line).
Soft Light is light that comes diffused and scattered from a light source. The transition between light and dark is gradual (meaning you cannot see a hard line).
When we talk about light, we talk about it in terms of quality. The quality of light can be described as hard light or soft light. And, it is clear which is which when you look at the transition between where a light falls from brightly lit into shadow (see examples below).
The images above show how hard light has a sharp and definable edge.
The images also show that soft light has a gradual and subtle edge.
Examples of Hard Light
Meaning, these have clearly defined lines between light and shadow.
Examples of Soft Light
These images have a gentle gradation between light and shadow so that the line is almost impossible to identify.
This is a very important differentiation (between hard and soft light) that you need to make as portrait photographers, because soft light is often the most flattering light for faces.
What does the word diffuse mean? This is likely the single most important word you may use when talking about photography and lighting. Diffusing a light is the process of taking the hard parallel light rays and scattering them in different directions to make them soft.
Look at this guy for a second... The light on his face is pretty similar. You can really tell the difference between the types of light (side-by-side comparison) when you look at the shadows cast on the wall behind him. These shadows tell you whether the light is hard or soft. Learn to look at shadows!
Example Scene: Studying Styles of Lighting
"The first set was inspired by the sort of 1950’s Hollywood, film-noir style light with the subject the classic 'femme-fatale' that often featured in these movies. As [the woman's] outfit was all black, we needed some 1) fill which is provided by the gridded strip-box on the right. This is feathered off towards camera. The 2) main light, a gridded beauty dish, is actually hidden behind that strip-box and is aimed at her head and shoulders. The last light, the 3) edge light is off to camera left lighting the hair and providing edge light down her right arm." -- Owen Lloyd Photography
Summary: This setup combines hard and soft light. The soft light provides a nice broad light from above while the backlight creates some nice crisp small shadows to help give definition and shape.
Direction of Light
Everything you do must be motivated because it builds meaning. If the light is coming from above the viewer will associate and assume the light source is either a street lamp, the sun, the moon, etc. Everything you do builds meaning and depth to your images. It is your job as a photographer to figure out the look you're doing for and what you ultimately want viewers of the image to feel. Then you need to work backwards to build that feeling.
Types of Lights
Choosing the Right Light for your Project...
The size of your light source matters, mega-time. If you have a small light source in relation to your subject then your light will appear more hard. If you have a large light source in relation to your subject it will appear more soft by nature. This is important to keep in mind when you're choosing the light you want to use with your subject.
Small Light Sources = Hard Light
Wrapping cables matters. Not only does it make it easier for everyone using the cables to know what they're picking up, but it also extends the light of the cable. Watch one of these two videos to learn two different approaches to doing the same task.
Big Light Sources = Soft Light
Designing Your Lighting Setup
Lighting can be hard on location when you have limited time, resources, and power. You can do a lot with a little, and many photographers get more skilled at this over the years.
Simple One-Light Setup
Good lighting doesn't have to be complicated. If you are...
Three Point Lighting Setup
This lighting setup is often used for formal interviews or high-end work. It gives a 3-dimensional shape to your subject and helps them stand out from the background.
Example images of three point lighting:
Split Lighting Setup
A lighting style where one light (the key light) is on one side of the subject while there are no lights on the opposite side of the subject--creating a strong shadow on the other side of the subject.
Butterfly Lighting Setup
A lighting style named as such because the light casts a shadow along the mouth that shaped like a butterfly. To achieve this, place a light directly above your subject at a 45-degree angle. Then hold a reflector underneath his/her chin to fill in the harsh shadow.
Keys to a Successful Shoot
Image of Lighting, http://depot.betteroffted.com/high-quality-at-low-price-lighting-universe/modern-lighting-universe/
Lowell Lighting Reference, http://lowel.tiffen.com/edu/components_interview.html
Easy Light Setup Improves Your Films, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVIbirzZn0M
Three point lighting graphic overhead, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/3_point_lighting.svg/2000px-3_point_lighting.svg.png
Students will explore the work of one famous photographer in order to study how s/he utilizes the rules of composition. This is a challenge because not every photographer uses all of the nine rules, but many photographers do utilize a select few of the rules over and over again. I want students to be able to decipher which rule(s) the photographer is using in individual photographs, as well as to begin a dialogue about what makes a photograph work. A secondary goal of this assignment is for students to begin thinking of elements in a picture and how they work or don't work (removing the terms "good" and "bad" from the discussion altogether).
Each student must create a Google Slides presentation with one slide for each rule.
Submit your Google Slides presentation by sharing it with me.
EXAMPLE STUDENT PRESENTATIONS (BELOW)