Today we’re talking ANGLE of light, and why it matters in your photography.
So for this demonstration, I’m going to be using my iPhone light, because I want to be able to move my light around as much as I can. This is a really tiny light source (you can see that my shadows are really crisp). If I had a really large light source, then my shadows would be really smooth from dark to light. But you can see pretty much the outline of my face on the wall.
I’ll be looking at a different screen for a little while when I move the light around. I’m sorry about that but I want to see exactly what I’m doing! So that’s why I won’t be looking directly at the camera.
First things first:
The first thing that I see across somebody’s face is the nose shadow. It can get really really honkin large and weird looking and that’s kind of the first thing that I look at. I mean look at that! It just messes up my face. It looks like there’s something going on with my eye. (Also look at this, holding the light low) We’ve all done this as kids, the whole campfire thing.
It’s really funny, just going from the bottom to the top of somebody’s face, you can give such a different look. And I just really want you to start paying attention to the angle of light on a subject’s face. If you notice, as I move this light around, there’s all sorts of different angles that show up on my face. You can see, most notably, the nose changing. So here it’s just one side of my face completely dark, then as we bring it around it gets lighter and lighter, and you can start to see my nose a little more clearly. And then when we’re pretty much center, there’s not that much shadow on my face. It’s not super flattering but it’s definitely interesting. And then off to the side, it’s just the exact opposite.
The higher up you are, you get different angles obviously! And I like somewhere around here — 45 degrees kinda pointing down, a little bit off center. So when you start with your light, I want you to get your light off the camera and put it up and to the side and point it kind of down at your subject. Don’t go so high that you can see these black holes in my eyes. This is what happens when you are in high noon when the sun is directly up in the sky, this is what happens.
And when you take pictures of people and they say well how come it looks like my eyes are black sockets?? And as the sun sets, it becomes a more gentle angle to your face. That’s why that golden hour matters so much. If we’re outside we can’t be using our own light if we’re depending on natural light, but the concept stays! Where you need to know where the sun is going to be and then play off of that in order to light your subject the best.
One thing you could use is bouncing light off of a wall. If the sun is hitting a white wall outside, you could have your subject step away from the white wall and FACE the white wall, instead of putting them against the white wall in the direct sun. Then YOU could stand with your BACK to the white wall, and shoot them as the white wall actually lights THEM up.
So when I’m taking shots, I’m really thinking through WHAT ANGLE IS THE LIGHT COMING IN? And how is the light hitting their face?
You could also do something where you curl your hand, and your hand actually acts like the brow bone because of that overhang. And what you’ll notice is as the light is higher, you can see that shadow pretty clearly. You can see, this is kind of what high noon would be like, where my fingers right here are acting like a brow bone and I can see that shadow. And if I just do this with my hand (curl my fingers) and I just walk around staring at my hand, seeing it as the eye socket and I try to find a place or angle where the shadows look better (instead of that black hole in the eye socket). So as you rotate around or find different spots you’ll see that shadow change if you just stare right into your palm. You’ll see the shadow underneath your fingers change from your point of view, it’s looking something like this.
You might even find different qualities of light but you can see that you might end up at a spot where that’s the type of light. And what that means is the light is going to get into your subject’s eyes. Not to blind them — I don’t mean put them in direct sunlight. What I mean is, if you’re in a spot like this (with black holes in the eye sockets), you’re going to have a heck of a time in post-processing trying to bring up their eyes — trying to get their eyes to pop out. They’re just going to be black holes.
But as you move around and as you find different light (and usually outside we’re not moving our light, we’re moving our bodies to find different light, but for this example I’m doing the opposite), you can see how that shadow changes on your hand. So everywhere you go now, I really want you to start seeing angle of light. Any time you see somebody’s face, you should be able to tell what angle it’s coming from based on the way the shadows lay across the face. You can tell, wherever my light is, the opposite side is in shadow.
So every time you see a picture from now on, every time you see a movie, or honestly when you’re chillin with your grandma on the back porch — look in her eyes, look around her nose, her eye sockets, and see where that light is coming from based on the shadow.
Hope that helped you! NUMBER ONE RULE is PLAY. Because the more you PLAY, the more you’ll figure out.
Take out your iPhone right now, and go into a dark bathroom and just experiment with putting the light in all sorts of different places and next time you go out to shoot, you’ll start seeing the angle of the light even more and you’ll choose different angles based on how you want your light to lay on the face of your subject!
Oh one more thing that I just thought of! As I’m flashing my light into the lens, you can see those light flares going off to the side. This is what we’re looking for when we’re shooting into the sun. If you don’t like light flares, then this tip isn’t going to help you. But those flares happen when you shoot directly into a bright light. Now, shooting into light isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes it ruins the contrast of an image, so you’ll want to keep your eye on how contrasty you want your images. If you’re okay with a little bit of haze, then go for it! But pay attention to that!
As you can see, the flare comes off the opposite side as a line from where the light is. So! And same thing with shadow. You see shadow on the opposite side of wherever the light is. So however you want that flare to land, you have to think about that. If you want the flare to come down the left side of the image, you need to have your light over to the right side of the image. And then vice-versa.
So much fun!! Have fun guys. Thanks for stoppin in. Talk to you later!