Location and Light

I have always been drawn to beautiful locations, tidy clean places and greenery in general. Does such locations affect the quality of the photos? Do we have to find amazing locations to take photographs at? Well, in some cases it may help but in fact we do not have to take our photographs at these amazing locations to get amazing results. (Valenzuela, 2012) in his book “Perfect Picture Practice” emphasises that locations do not make a beautiful photograph but light does. He encourages to see locations based on their light quality not its prettiness.

Looking at location itself despite the light; we should keep in mind that we don’t need a huge garden to provide a better background. We should know that we can simplify the shot by using depth of field. Throwing a background out of focus and focusing on the subject is one way. However, if we want to include the background; we should make sure that the background does not compete with the subject itself or calls for more attention (since we are talking about portrait). We should be able to eliminate any distraction.

It is well known that direct sunlight is the worst type of natural light for portrait. It won’t produce a flattering result as it would make the subject squint if the sun is in front of them! It will also produce dark shadows in the eyes and under the nose. In this situation it is advised that we move the subject away into an open shade or ask the subject to turn around so the sun will be behind them and then shoot exposing for the face. If that is not possible then a little fill in flash might help. However, it is best off to avoid direct sun on the subject. An open shade and overcast days are good for eliminating the shadows’ problems and squinting, however, on an overcast day it is advised that we meter the face and lock the exposure because although the sun is behind the clouds; it can still be very bright! Another type of light is backlighting (sun behind the subject). This light can be very flattering yet tricky! We should pay attention to the sun shining directing into the lens. A lens hood might help and again metering the subjects face from a close up then locking the exposure is the best thing to do.

When the background is cluttered with colourful objects; throwing it out of focus using a very wide aperture is the way to avoid the background calling for attention.  Another thing to do in this situation is to convert the image to black and white so you will loose the problem of colours of the background contrasting with your main subject.

In her book “Creative Portrait Photography”; Natalie Dybisz also known as Miss Aniela (Dybisz, 2012, p.6) explains that ‘A portrait can exist to tell, to show, or simply to display a semblance in the most observational sense’.

In his book “Spirit of Place – the Art of the Traveling Photographer”; the author Bob Krist used to struggle with the question “What is your favourite place?” Now he realised that he approached the question wrong. He explains ‘my favourite place is always the next place – the place I haven’t yet been’. (Krist, 2000, p.7).

Krist explains how to capture the beauty and spirit of a place and why doesn’t our pictures seem to remember the place as we saw it. He suggests that we use the sophistication of our intelligent cameras combined with some basic elements of composition. The main rule is to simplify! Finding a great location for shooting is good but one has to ask the reason behind the image taken and what does the photographer really wants to show. Listing down more than four means the photographer is trying too much for one picture. He stresses that we should give each picture one centre of interest only. The best way to do it is to shoot the location then move closer and crop some of the elements then shoot again and keep moving closer (cropping) and shooting till something is missing. When something is missing; that means that this element should be part of the image. Going simple and removing clutter is the way for a better photographs.

Other important elements are the compositional guide lines:

• Rule of third.
• Leading Lines.
• Concept of Scale: (A subject should be seen of a known size). This means to know what lens to shoot with in order to get the right scale.

Bibliography / References:

All Things Photography (2012) Types of Photography Lighting [online]. All Things Photography. Available from: http://www.all-things-photography.com/types-of-photography-lighting.html [Accessed 3 August 2016]

Krest, B. (2000) Spirit of Place – The Art of Traveling Photographer. New York: Amphoto Books.

Valenzuela, R. (2012) Picture Perfect Practice. Berkeley: New Riders Press.



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