I was recently going through some images from this summer on one of my hard drives, and I came across these two frames that made me smile. I thought they might be helpful in explaining how to “manipulate light” (or manipulate your camera’s settings, really) to get two different moods from the same setting, same light, same subjects, etc. (I do this all the time at sessions with clients.) And the only thing my sweet subject had to do was turn around to face me; I didn’t move an inch!
Look #1 is dark and shadowy (my favorite).
Lila was just ahead of me on our way out the door, and I asked her to stop and wait for Mama. She obeyed, and just peeked out the doorway. Of course, I swooned at the backlight wrapping around her little body. I grabbed my camera, metered quickly for the light spilling on the edge of her skin closest to the light, and pressed the shutter.
When I processed the photo, I was careful to leave some detail in the shadows, especially on her back and legs, rather than to completely silhouette her with some crazy levels and curves. I wanted that detail I captured to remain in the image, and loved the way the highlights on her skin were still preserved as well. I also love the texture in the wood floor and in her straw hat, so I was careful about my mid-tones here too.
Look #2 is light and bright.
I knew I needed a bit more light to hit my sensor to achieve a different look, so I quickly metered for her back (which was still toward me) and adjusted my camera’s settings. I opened up the aperture a bit more and slowed the shutter speed down as well. This allowed more light to enter my camera for a longer period of time, therefore yielding a brighter, more light-filled exposure.
Then I simply called her name. She turned and looked back at me… I swooned at her sweet face this time… and then I pressed the shutter again.
I processed the image quickly in ACR, and chose color this time. The floor behind her is a smidge bright here on the web, although it’s perfectly exposed in Photoshop. (Don’t you just love when that happens?!) I love the airiness to this photo, and I think it just screams summer. Best of all, it’s a very different feel than that of the first image I created. (Both images were created in RAW and shot in Manual Mode.)
These photographs were taken a mere 7 seconds apart. Sometimes that’s all it takes to assess the light, shoot a frame or two, decide to change the mood up, and readjust your settings. In addition to understanding how light can be used differently in the same setting, I can’t stress enough how important it is to memorize your specific camera’s buttons, dials and settings so that you can adjust them very quickly. When you’re just learning to use your camera (and especially when you’re earning your living with it), I feel that it’s so important to shoot in manual mode. This is a must if you want to make your camera create what your mind already sees, because oftentimes you’ll need to “fool” your camera’s meter to get your desired results. You can’t always rely on the piece of equipment in your hand to know what your vision is, and carry it out for you. When it comes right down to it, YOU are the artist and YOU are in control. You’ll need to understand how aperture, ISO and shutter speed work together to create the exposure that you have in mind.
If you’re an avid reader like I am, and want to understand how aperture, ISO and shutter speed rely on each other, then definitely check out Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson. All that technical jargon finally made sense, years ago, when I read this book (with camera in hand, of course).
I hope this helps someone. And please, let me know if you’d like to see any specific photography tutorials from me. I’ll do my best to accommodate your requests!
Co-editor, Stacey Woods is an on-location, natural light lifestyle photographer for the Tampa Bay, FL area. Her favorite subjects are expecting mamas, the tiniest of babies, and children of all ages, and she prefers to photograph them in black and white, almost exclusively. Her online photo journal can be found at Stacey Woods Photography. Stacey’s own husband and children (a 6-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter) are her greatest source of inspiration… and laughter!