April 20, 2009

Control the Light


Photo and post provided by Rick Sammon

Light. It’s the main element in every photograph that you have ever taken – and will take. I talk about that extensively in my book, Exploring the Light: Making the Very Best In-Camera Exposures.

When it comes to light, we must know how to:

1. See the light – the contrast range in the scene, the color of light, the direction of light, and the quality of light.
2. Control the light – with a flash, reflector or diffuser, or by changing the subject’s position (as in moving a subject into the shade).
3. Play/work with the light – in the digital darkroom, where you can adjust levels, curves, color, and so on.

New to seeing the light? Know this: Our eyes have a dynamic range of about 11 f-stops, which is why, for example when we are outdoors viewing a landscape, white clouds don’t look overexposed and washed out, even when part of the scene is in deep shade – shade into which we can often see.

Digital cameras have a dynamic range of five or six f-stops. Sure, we can pull out more date from an image in the digital darkroom, but there is a trade off: increased noise in the image. That’s why your exposures really should be right on.

All the aforementioned light-controlling accessories – flash, reflector, diffuser – have something in common: they compress the brightness range of the scene, making it easier to get a good exposure of a subject in a high-contrast situation. I never leave home without them!

Here’s an example of how using a diffuser dramatically compressed the brightness range in a scene for a much more flattering picture. That’s me in the top image. I am using a diffuser that’s part of a reflector/diffuser kit by FJ Westcott that I developed called, Westcott Rick Sammon Tote Kit. The photographs were taken in Mongolia during one of my workshops.

Scott and I have decided to hold a little contest. We’re going to give away one of my FJ Westcott, Rick Sammon Tote Kits. Just follow both of us: http://www.twitter.com/ricksammon and http://www.twitter.com/scottbourne. That’s it – if you’re 18 years or older and live somewhere that contests aren’t illegal, you’re eligible to win.

We’ll pick a winner later this week by selecting one of our random followers on Twitter. Spread the word if you think your friends would like to get in on the contest. Thanks.

This post sponsored by Lensbaby.