How To “Read” Light In Photography


I am a strong believer in the power of mastering the basics in any art or craft. The basics is where it all starts, and how well one knows and understands them will often determine the quality of work he or she produces. Just as much it is important to understand highlights and shadows rendering and know human anatomy for a professional classic portrait painter, understanding the light behavior and the basic elements of exposure is necessary for any photographer.

Direct light creates hard-edged dark shadows. The smaller the light source (relative to the size of the subject) or the farther away it is from the subject, the sharper and darker the shadows will be. The hardest light is created by a point or spot light source - a light small enough or far enough from the subject that its actual size is irrelevant. Think the sun in a clear sky, a spotlight on a performer on a stage - the shadows are dark and hard.

Diffused light scatters onto the subject from many directions, the shadows are very bright or absent altogether. The closer the light source to the subject or the larger it is (relative to the size of the subject), the softer and brighter the shadows will be. Think a heavily overcast sky, when entire sky becomes the source of light. Or light coming in through a big window on the northern side of a building - the shadows are very bright and soft, you can barely see their outline.

Practical implementations:

  • Use diffused - reflected or direct fill - light to soften shadows in your images.
  • Brighter shadows help visually even out bumpy or aged skin, so use this quality of diffused light to your advantage when working with clients or models whose skin is not very even.
  • Side lighting emphasizes facial features and reveals textures like that of skin. Make sure to avoid it when shooting female portraits, or in the mentioned above situations. Otherwise you will add post-production time and cost and create problems that you could have easily avoided by the correct choice of lighting.

Make sure to educate yourself on the purposes of and differences between light-shaping tools – light modifiers, flags, diffusers, grids, reflectors, etc. – and what you can do with them. The truth is, in order to consistently set up beautiful lighting you need to know the basic principles of light behavior and absolutely do not need to buy expensive equipment and props, because you can replace them with DIY tools that can help you shape the light just as well.


Allow me to share the main cues that will help you to “read” lighting and exposure settings in photos taken by other photographers:

1. The size and shape of catchlights in the eyes. This will help you to identify what light sources were used, how large or small they were, where and how close to the face they were placed.

This is what catchlights created by a strobe or small flash look like:

1 Aja_catchlights_710

This is what catchlights created by a beauty dish with a diffuser sock on look like:


You will also sometimes notice an even darker spot in the center of the round catchlights - that’s a reflection of a beauty dish with no diffuser on, and the hardness of the shadows on the model’s face will usually confirm it.

Also, you will often see only a half of the circle of the round catchlights - that’s because normally the main light is placed higher than the model’s eye level, so the upper halves of the catchlights are cut off by the eyelid and eyelashes.

Needless to say, that the circle of the catchlights will be smaller or bigger depending on how far or close the light with a beauty dish was placed to the model’s face.

This is what catchlights created by a large softbox look like:


On a side note, if the model’s pupils are very dilated it means that the photo was taken in a very dark studio/room. The speed of the strobe light is too fast for the pupils to contract before the picture is captured, and even if the modeling light was on, it must have been too weak for the model’s pupils to react to it and contract.


A Guide To Portrait Photography

Portrait photography is all about capturing a person's personality. This guide will help you shoot portraits that tell a story about the subject.
Portrait photography can be one of the most challenging forms of photography. Capturing a photo that appears natural and conveys the subject's personality is a skill that takes patience and practice.
The good news is that it doesn't rely on fancy or expensive equipment; portrait photography is all about capturing some sense of a person's character rather than producing a technically perfect composition.
The following tips will help you move beyond simple "snapshots" to taking some truly engaging portrait photos. By following them, you'll find it easier to bring out your subject's unique characteristics. You'll also begin to develop an eye for a good portrait shot, and learn how to turn an average shot into a great one.

Capture Their Personality
Portrait photography is all about people. Your photos don't have to be technically brilliant so long as you capture the essence of your subject. Think about what makes your model so uniquely "them" and try to capture that in your portrait. A good portrait photograph will tell a story about the person in it.
A great way to get a natural looking portrait photo is to photograph the person when they're off guard or not posing. When you put most people in front of a camera they automatically put their "photo face". Keep talking to them to help them relax, and to distract them from the fact that the camera is there; you'll end up with a much more natural photo that exposes their personality.
Shoot loads of photos. Shots are cheap, particularly when it comes to digital, so fire off as many as you can. Not only does this improve your chances of getting a good portrait shot, but your relentless snapping will make it impossible for your model to keep up their posing, no matter how hard they try. When they finally relax, that's when you'll likely get your most telling shots.

Choose a Location That Suits Your Subject
A studio setting with a plain background is a popular choice in portrait photography - it is perfect for isolating the subject and cutting out any distracting background elements. If you don't have access to a professional studio, you can always set up a home studio with a modest budget.
However, you can often create a more intimate, telling portrait by photographing your subject in surroundings that reflect their personality. Get to know them, and find out about their hobbies, interests and favourite places, and then see if you can somehow incorporate one of these into your portrait.
Photographing your subject in a place that reflects their character can add real interest to a portrait photo, helping the viewer to build up a mental picture of that person, in effect "getting to know them" better.
Whatever background you choose for your portrait, always remember that the main focus of your photo is the person, not the place. Keep the background free from distractions, use a wide aperture to send it out of focus, and keep your subject large in the frame.

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25 de carti gratuite despre fotografie

"Pentru ca niciodata nu este prea tarziu pentru a invata ceva nou, mai ales intr-un domeniu atat de vast cum este cel al fotografiei, am pregatit pentru voi o lista cu25 de carti si tutoriale foto gratuite (eBooks) care pot fi descarcate urmarind linkurile de mai jos.

Va invitam sa alegeti cele mai interesante carti despre fotografie pe care sa le rasfoiti in weekend, acum cand vremea de afara nu ne indeamna sa iesim din casa (totusi nu uitati ca vremea “rea” este prielnica pentru fotografii… dar despre asta am mai vorbit aici). Majoritatea cartilor de mai jos pot fi descarcate direct, in format PDF, accesand linkurile din imagini. Cateva insa necesita inregistrarea pe siteurile ‘gazda’ pentru a le putea descarca (am mentionat acest lucru in dreptul lor).

Ca de obicei, lista ramane deschisa si propunerilor voastre! Happy reading si …lumina buna!”

Nikon D750 Announcement

Today Nikon introduced yet another full-frame DSLR, the Nikon D750. Featuring the same 51-point autofocus system as the D810 and the D4S, 24.3 MP sensor, 6.5 FPS of continuous shooting speed, built-in Wi-Fi, advanced movie recording options and a tilting screen, the camera packs quite a bit for its $2,299 MSRP price tag. Placed above the Nikon D610 and below the D810, the D750 has an interesting mix of features from both. On one hand, it has a slightly faster frame rate than the D810, a slightly tweaked focus system and pretty much all the movie recording features of the D810. On the other hand, with the exception of the tilting screen, its ergonomics and body build closely resemble the lower-end D610. So what is this camera and why the D750 name? Is it finally the Nikon D700 successor that many of us have been waiting for? Let’s take a closer look at the camera and talk about what has changed.

Nikon D750

Many photographers have been waiting for a true D700 replacement, because they did not want the 36 MP D800/D810 cameras, or the inferior focus system and lower build of the D600/D610. In addition, many wildlife and sports shooters wanted to have a camera with less pixels and more speed, which these cameras simply did not provide. A true replacement for the D700 meant an “action” camera with a robust AF system, sufficient number of pixels, fast speed, large buffer, a pro build and superb ergonomics.

Sadly, the D750 does not address all of these concerns and thus cannot be called a true D700 successor. Although Nikon did deliver an updated autofocus system, the “Multi-CAM 3500 FX II” (rated down to -3EV), which is supposed to be more sensitive than the first version of the autofocus module found on the D810 and D4S, the camera is maxed out at 6.5 fps with or without a grip and its build and ergonomics resemble the D610/D7100 much more than the D700 or the D800/D810 series cameras. There is no dedicated AF-ON button, the top camera dial is very similar to the one found on the D600/D610/D7100 DSLRs, no remote or flash sync ports, smaller multi-button navigation control and other limitations of lower-end DSLRs. In addition, despite Nikon’s recent trend in removing the OLPF / anti-aliasing filter, the Nikon D750 still retains one. At the same time, the price point of $2,299 for this camera is not something one could really complain about. I could see a lot of anger in people if the D750 was priced at $3K, but at its current price, it seems like it will be a great value for many photographers, especially those that are considering moving up from DX cameras.



Sony’s has just announced at IBC, that the newest addition to its XDCAM range is a complete camera system that delivers long-form recording capabilities with 4K resolution in a compact, hand-held design.

The new PXW-FS7 XDCAM is a native E-mount camcorder, with an 11.6 million-pixel Super35 Exmor CMOS sensor, flexible viewfinder mounting system, Smartgrip, 4 built-in ND filters,  XAVC Intra/Long GOP recording, FS-RAW interface, with auto exposure and SteadyShot stabilization. An 18 mm flange-back distance enables the use of a range of 35mm lenses. The optional LA-EA4 A-mount lens adaptor allows compatibility with a wide range of high-quality A-mount lenses.

The new camera will be available in two versions: body-only, and the PXW-FS7K version with a new servo zoom E-Mount lens FE PZ 28-135mm F4 G OSS (SELP28135G).

Recording on the camcorder uses Sony´s XAVC Intra and XAVC Long GOP formats, each supporting 10-bit 4:2:2 recording (XAVC-I, 180fps; XAVC-L, 120fps). Recording in UHD (3840 x 2160) resolution, slow motion up to 60fps and Full High Definition (1920×1080) with 60/50 progressive frames is possible. A firmware update in early 2015 will enable native HD recording in the Apple ProRes HQ 422 codec, when using an optional extension unit (XDCA-FS7).

Through the XDCA-FS7’s FS-RAW interface, the PXW-FS7 is capable of 4K/2K RAW recording with Sony’s HXR-IFR5 and AXS-R5, or with a compatible third-party external recorder.