Buy Leads , RDP , SMTP , Cpanel
Buy Leads , RDP , SMTP , Cpanel
Buy Leads , RDP , SMTP , Cpanel
How to make expressive photographs in “bad” light

How to make expressive photographs in “bad” light


Alone, Phoenix, Arizona, 2009
By Phil Douglis

At mid-day, a high sun will create deep shadows that can render a scene harsh and soulless. However there are times where such harsh light can intensify the meaning of a photograph. This is such an image. I noticed a man waiting outside of an office building. He was pacing nervously, and seemed overwhelmed by the scale of the building behind him. I made this image from across the street, zooming back to include gaping shadows on each side of him. I caught many different positions, but the one that spoke most eloquently to me was this one. He turned his back to my camera and walked towards the building, his hands clasped behind his back as if in frustration. Scale incongruity is at work here, but so too is the symbolic meaning of black shadow. In this case, the shadows seem to express the unknown, the face of urban loneliness.

Photographers who make images to convey atmosphere, mood, beauty, and meaning, usually prefer to shoot during the first and the last few hours of the day. That’s when the light is warmer, the shadows softer and less harsh, the colors warm and the low angle of the sun can bring out texture and detail with striking dimensionality, clarity and relief. Some kinds of travel photography, such as landscapes and architectural studies, depend almost entirely on the beauty of the light for their meaning. For example, trying to make a landscape photograph with the sun high overhead invites a flat, evenly illuminated scene with harsh pockets of shadow.

As much as we would like to shoot during these “golden hours,” there are many times when our schedules simply make it impossible for us to do so. And so, we must often cope with light that is less than ideal for our purposes and hope for the best. How, then, can we make expressive photographs when the mid-day light is high in the sky, falling straight down on our subjects, creating harsh shadows and difficult contrasts?

This gallery demonstrates some approaches that worked for me, and may work for you, in the mid-day light. I start it off with fourteen images that I made while accompanying one of my tutorial students on two mid-day shoots: the first between one and three in the afternoon, and the second between ten and noon in the morning. On both days, the skies were clear, and the Phoenix, Arizona sunlight mercilessly poured down on us from straight overhead.

As you will l see, I often try to make use of the harsh light itself to tell part of my story. I underexpose many of these images to avoid burning out highlights, and in the process, I create shadows that can abstract the subject and imply meaning. I often look for shadows that create patterns and rhythms to enrich expression. (To systematically under-expose to avoid burning out highlights, simply adjust your “exposure compensation” control to “minus two thirds of one stop” and using your spot-metering mode, take your exposure reading on the brightest spot in the frame. Your image will become darker than usual, creating abstraction. You can restore any essential details later in post processing.)

I also try to make use of backlighting, which creates silhouettes, as well as shooting subjects within shaded areas such as windows, awnings and umbrellas. I often shoot towards the sun, using backlighting to create luminosity, causing some subjects to glow as the light passes right through them. I will photograph in completely shaded areas, looking for soft reflected light bouncing off nearby surfaces as my illumination source. I may even forsake outdoor photography itself and choose to work inside of buildings during the hours of “bad light,” photographing my subjects in the indirect natural light passing through doors and windows.

Phil Douglis, The Douglis Visual Workshops

About Us | Contact Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Copyright Communitelligence 2014-15

Follow us Linkedin/Communitelligence YouTube/Communitelligence Facebook/Communitelligence Pinterest/Communitelligence