You challenge is to tell the story of “A Day in the Life” of yourself or someone you know well, while also practicing using the light to your full advantage. Try to capture the following:
- Evenly lit face in full sun (noon or early afternoon)
- Bright sun portrait with de-focused background (noon or early afternoon)
- Backlit Golden hour Portrait
- Unstaged Silhouette
- Sunburst (sun stars) and/or light leaks video
- Clean (no grain) low-light indoor video (night/morning scene indoors)
- Night portrait with bokeh background (early morning or night)
- Night landscape with no grain. Everything in focus. (early morning or night)
- Soft light night portrait/interview on the street (early morning or night)
- One creative use of an external light source that you bring with you.
Remember to submit a reflection about what you learned when you submit your video.
Core Goal: Engage in “Visual Exercise”
There is no such thing as “bad light”
Important tip for ethnographic video and photography: there is no such thing as “bad” light. Light – any light – can be a tool to tell your story.
- Natural light is the most powerful tool we have.
- Harsh mid-day light is not “bad” light.
- Golden hour does => more vibrant colors and softer light
- Photos don’t need to be beautiful to be powerful
- There is no good or bad light.
- Each type of light can convey different things
Types of Light:
- Golden Hour Light: Sunrise/Sunset: Great for making things beautiful with golden tint.
- Can also be used to create a sense of drama by using dramatic shadows
- Harsh Midday Light: Great for showing hardship or tough living conditions
- Show raw, gritty, unfiltered reality
- Shows textures and wrinkles prominently
- Scenery can look beautiful, but with a rough edge
- Overcast: Flat and Neutral. Little emotional impact on its own.
- Slight grayish tint if any tint at all.
- Make the weather a character.
- Or shoot characters in themselves that do not need any fancy lighting
- Or shoot actions
- Or melancholy
- Twilight: Tends toward a blue tint (or pink, purple, orange if near sunset)
- Blue = mystique
- Purple, orange, pink = magical and awe-inspiring
- Darker stages of twilight minimize detail. Great for poetic silhouettes.
- Fog: very soft light, atmospheric with a strong sense of mood
- Lose detail as you move further away – which can be very evocative
- Consider making the fog a character
- Early morning light on fog can be magical
- Light as the driving force of the photo
- Sometimes the light is the main character
- Especially when it interacts with elements like smoke, water and dust
To know your equipment, you have to practice. So here is the challenge. See if you can go out and shoot these 10 shots:
1. Evenly lit face in full sun (noon or early afternoon)
- Shoot in the shade so your subject doesn’t have to squint and the light is even. Ideally the sun should be behind you in this scenario (light bounces to subject and fills/lights there face)
- Consider the background when deciding on depth of field.
- Do not use auto-exposure. Set your exposure for the subject.
- If trees are not dense enough you can get uneven light and may need to shoot with the sun behind you. (see front-lit / back-lit examples)
- Use natural reflectors (cement, snow, etc.) as fill light
- Wide-Angle lenses not as flattering, but can be useful for storytelling.
When there is no shade:
2. Bright sun portrait with de-focused background
- de-focused background requires low f-stop
- to do that, use a variable ND filter (1:40)
- You can soften the light with a reflector (Soft = large diffuse light source, Hard = small intense light source)
3. Backlit Golden hour Portrait
- Looking directly into the sun looks great for photos, might not work for video due to squinting
- (2:30) You can backlight by exposing for the face and letting the sun spill over.
- You might be able to get some cool flares.
- Do not set White Balance automatically
- Set your equipment before golden hour
- Consider using a reflector if you have one
- Make use of flaring
- Shoot Wide Angle
- Expose for the sky/background not your subject.
- Put subject in the shade and expose for the sky.
5. Sunburst (sun stars) and/or light leaks video
6. Clean (no grain) low-light indoor video
- Use a wide aperture (small f-stop)
- Use ISO as a last resort
- Use additional lights to brighten what you want to brighten
- (Lights are cheaper than a High-ISO capable camera)
How to Light for a Dark Scene
The key: Use lights. Bounce them off the walls or floor
7. Night portrait with bokeh background
You CAN get bokeh with a cheap kit lens:
- Shoot at the longest end of the lens (max zoom)
- Get as close as possible
- Place the subject as far away from the background as possible
8. Night landscape with no grain. Everything in focus.
- Keep ISO 1600 or preferably lower
- Use manual lens if your auto-focus is failing
- Sometimes you don’t want to shoot at the lowest aperture
- f2 and ISO 640 can usually capture a night scene pretty well
9. Soft light night portrait/interview on the street
- Use the lights in the environment. Lots to play with!
- Big lights = Soft Light. Small light source = Harsh light.
- A lighted shop window can serve as a huge soft light
10. Fun with Lights, etc.