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Four Secrets About Light and Flash


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#1 TheSentinel

TheSentinel

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Posted 20 February 2012 - 07:32 PM

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Four Secrets About Light and Flash

By Dave Johnson, PCWorld Feb 20, 2012 10:00 AM

Photography, it's often said, is "painting with light." In fact, understanding how to use ambient light and your camera's flash is generally the best way to improve your photos, since you can do everything else right, but if the light is wrong, you won't like your photos. I've written about using your flash before--such as "Two Ways to Freeze Action With Your Flash." This week, let's focus on five critical tips for getting better photos with light and flash.
1. The More Diffused Your Light Source, the More Pleasing the Light

I'll call this the First Law of Lighting--in fact, I'd say that it's the fundamental principle behind most of the advice you hear about lighting a photo.

No doubt, you've heard it said that you should shoot on overcast days, or wait for the sun to pass behind a cloud. And you know that you can get better results when you bounce your camera flash or use an adapter that diffuses the light. These techniques are leveraging the First Law--a broader or larger light source will create a softer, more attractive light on your subject.

A narrow light beam, such as from your flash or the sun (which is admittedly much larger than the earth, but narrow from the camera's perspective) is hard light that makes for sharp shadows and high contrast. But if you diffuse that light over a wider area--making it big and broad--you soften the light and reduce the contrast. That's usually more pleasing to the eye. Knowing (and applying) this one fact about light allows you to transform your photos, because now you know that diffusing or broadening narrow light sources will generally de-harshen your photos, ease shadows, and make subjects look more attractive.

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