Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Light 6: Electronic Flash

Now, lets talk about the killer of photography.

In the good old days, even amateur photographers used to take their subjects near the window or a source of light, or else put their cameras on tripod. Simply to get a shot with a reasonably good light. But now? what do we do? Switch the flash on, and click! To hell with light, to darn with shadows!
But there's one thing we are forgetting here. "Our eyes rely on shadows to recognize shapes." There is no useful shadow cues if the light source and the lens is coming from the same angle. So guys, don't point and shoot without thinking, or else you have to be happy with the "deer in the spotlight" look of your photo.
So does that mean you have to throw away the flash that came with your camera, or never use it? No! Remember the fill flash? It serves really well to minimize dark shadows in harsh sunlight. And not only that, accessory flash can be a useful tool, if used correctly. There's an array of strategies to use flash effectively.

Strategy 1: Get the flash off-camera.
Modern DSLRs provides the option of using a separate flash not attached directly on the camera. Even if you do not own a DSLR, never worry... buy an Flash bracket, which holds the flash on to the side of the camera, instead of the usual "top-of-the lens".

Strategy 2: Bounce flash
Another good option is to get a dual flash. In this case, the main flash fires to the ceiling. Creating an illusion of light coming from the top. And a second low-power flash fires straight ahead to compensate the dark shadows forming otherwise.

Strategy 3: Attach a diffuser
Diffusers are small translucent plastic cubes, that fits on to the flash head to diffuse the harsh light coming from it. Diffusers really play their part well in creating a soft light, but they waste too much of light, causing the range of the flash to diminish considerably.

Flash cool tip: wrap a colored cellophane sheet onto the flash to get some tint on your photos, if you want them to be cooler, use blue, yellow for a golden light, and red for a warm tint!

Monday, 21 January 2008

Light 5: Artificial Lights

Ok, the sun has gone down now. It is dark. no twilight or afterglow is left, the sky is pitch black.
So? Is it finally time to call it a day? No, my friend, not yet. You still have lights. Not natural, artificial they may be, but still, LIGHTS!

Street lights: It is very difficult to ascertain the color temperature of street lights, They emit in various narrow spectral bands. And these bands produce very unpredictable results on digital sensors or films. But still, I have seen, Tungsten films sometimes produce good results, so does "Tungsten" white balance in digicams. But sometimes they give an eerie greenish light to the shot, which again, I am personally very fond of.

Indoor Light- Fluorescent: Fluorescent lights emit diffused lights. Quite well-suited for B/W photography. But in case of color photography, use a "fluorescent -> daylight" (FL-D) filter over the lens in an attempt to compensate, in case of a film camera, and Turn the white balance to "Fluorescent", in case of Digitals. The light is quite low too, so use exposures of f/2.8 and 1/15th of shutter speed.

Indoor Light- Incandescent: The light bulbs are much warmer than the daylight, throwing a loud yellow cast over the shot, which, can be compensated by a blue filter over the lens. Again, in case of digitals, tweak the white balance to "Incandescent".

Artificial Lights cool tip: Take lots and lots of photos, until you yourself are not satisfied with the results! ;)

Next post: flash