Monday, March 7, 2011

Lighting for Impact

A few of you have asked how I lit the photo of the beer glass that I had put up on facebook last week.  It is simply lit from behind by a desk lamp.  The purpose of this post is not to reveal how the photo was lit, but rather to talk about the significance of lighting for impact.  Those of you familiar with how cameras read light will know that the internal meter will tell you whether your camera settings will give you a dark picture or a bright picture.  If you’ve got your camera on any of the “auto” modes, then it simply does all the work for you – it sets the shutter and aperture automatically for a “properly exposed” photo that ideally is isn’t either too light or too dark.  This is usually good for the majority of everyday situations, however understanding that you can intentionally make the photo brighter or darker can drastically change the mood of your picture. 

This beer glass is a very simplistic demonstration of this concept.  Take a look at the first picture above.  The black thing behind the glass is the desk lamp, which is illuminating the entire room.  When I point the camera at glass, my camera reads the amount of light in the scene, and gives me a reading that tells me how to properly expose this photo.  It is essentially what an “auto mode” photo would look like.  But I like dramatic photos, and don’t like all that clutter going on in the background, so I’ll intentionally make my background go dark.  Here’s how:

Look at picture above.  I am intentionally changing my shutter speed or aperture to make the overall photo darker.  Notice how the overall mood of the photo has already changed.  The lamp is now pointed straight at the glass, illuminating the liquid.  If this glass were opaque, I would have myself a nice silhouette, but it’s clear, and the light shining through is giving me a nice glow.   Let’s see how it looks when we change our settings further to make the scene darker.

Photo 3 above is even more dramatic, and the background is completely dark, hiding all that clutter, and emphasizing the beer glass – shape and color especially stand out here.  The impact is so much more dramatic.  

So go ahead and experiment with your exposures to see how it may change the mood of your photos!  You’d be surprised how different things will look.


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