How to find the right light for your photography – using just your hand!
Today I am sharing a super-quick tip that will help you with how to find the right light for your photography – even when you are working on your own. All you need is your hand. Cool right? Although this originated as a podcast episode – we provide it in blog form for you too.
Wow – 40 episodes down! I’m not going to lie – today I am EXHAUSTED! Last night I hosted my first ever live webinar. It was one hour dedicated to using window light in three different ways and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I spent the whole day yesterday fretting and tweaking and practicing with the software. By the time the webinar started I was a quivering wreck!
If you managed to attend then I can’t thank you enough. I couldn’t believe the numbers joining. So much so that the webinar maxed out and some of you couldn’t join. I am so sorry about that but there IS a recording and you can watch it right here.
Your feedback has been great – I am so delighted that you enjoyed it and you found it useful. I received a Facebook message last night from Celia who said;
‘Dear Julie, I have just logged off from your webinar and wanted to make contact with you before life gets in the way and I forget. Never before has an hour passed so quickly for me before. And never before have I had so much high quality information and advice passed on to me so willingly and enthusiastically. I just can’t wait to try it all out. I have seen images using side light before and I love them but I have never been able to recreate them. I now completely understand what I was doing wrong. Like you said, I was trying to brighten the shadows! But you are right – the shadows make it wonderful. I am so desperate for the sun to come up tomorrow so that I can try! I can’t wait for the natural light course to come out. Thank you again for sharing so much of your hard earned knowledge and expertise. I am off to subscribe to your podcast!’
I am not kidding when I say there were tears when I read that message (ok so I was a bit tired and emotional). It means the world!
If you would like to watch the webinar then the recording is available to all. You can watch it right here.
But for now – let’s talk about this ‘hand trick’ that you can use to find the light.
Last week I talked to you in detail about finding the best light for your portrait photography and I taught you my trick of asking my subject to turn on the spot whilst I walk around them.
But what about when you are working on your own capturing other things? You don’t always have someone with you do you?
Sometimes it is abundantly clear where the light is coming from. If the sun is out and you are out in the open, then of course the light is coming from wherever the sun is. If you are indoors in a room with one window, then of course the light is coming from the window. These are times when you don’t need to put any effort into thinking about light direction – it is pretty obvious.
But I find myself in situations OFTEN when I am not 100% sure about where my best light is coming from.
For example, maybe you are outdoors in a built-up area. There are buildings all around you and you are in shade. The sun might be behind you but that doesn’t necessarily mean that is where you will get your best light. There might be too many tall building casting shadows. Maybe there is a gap between two buildings in front of you which is actually providing better quality front light.
Or perhaps you are in the woods and you are trying to work out where your best light is through the trees surrounding you?
Or maybe you are in a room with lots of windows. Where is the best light coming from?
Well, there is a ‘tried and tested’ trick to finding the light and it involves nothing but your hand.
I use it all the time and it works a treat.
You do need to develop a keen eye to really use this well but once you start seeing it – you will never stop.
To explain, you stand in the middle of your location and you hold your hand up and out in front of you so that you can look at your palm. Then you start to turn on the spot allowing your palm to be hit by the light from all directions as you turn.
As you turn, you study, and I really mean study, your palm. In particular, you are examining the brightness of your skin and the lines on your palm. We all have them. Those creases in your palm will help you to find the light.
Well, when the skin on your palm is bright and the creases appear to be at their flattest (with no shadows), this means you have found your ‘front light’. You have found the direction your light is coming from. Although diffused, front light can be lovely for portraits, it is generally considered quite a boring light to shoot most other subjects in. It can give your photographs a bit of a ‘snapshot’ feel.
Time to look for some shadows…
The lines will appear most visible when they are casting the most shadow. This will make your palm look textured and you will be able to see even the thinnest and smallest of lines that you couldn’t see when it was being hit by front light. When this happens, you have found your ‘side light’. This is the light you want to shoot with if you want contrast and depth to your image.
When your palm is darkest and the lines are flat – you have found ‘back light’. The light is coming from behind and might give you a nice glow around whatever it is that you are shooting. However, with this back light you will have to consider ways of lighting your subject from the front or side. A little touch of flash or a reflector may be necessary.
If your palm looks the same to you as you turn around the full 360 degrees – you have found pretty drab light and I would say that it is time to move on!
You want to see a difference as you move around.
This is a great thing to do on a regular basis. It will take some practice and experience to hone your eye. It still amazes me how light can completely change the way something as simple as the palm of a hand can look.
Try it and let me know how you get on!
Remember – if you want to learn more about using window light in three different ways you can watch the webinar at www.windowlightwebinar.com.