July 31, 2010

photography technique – looking for great light

This afternoon I walked around the Princeton campus with a couple, Renee and David, looking for cool spots to photograph them.  I noticed the spread of light on a wall coming through an entrance way …

… and I knew it would make for dramatic light that enhanced the texture on the wall.  The fall-off in light would also create a natural vignette …

Perfect light and place to work with Renee and David.  I first set up Renee for the individual shot, and then had David come into the picture .

quality of light; positioning of our subject; and choice of background

The theme with this blog post is an accent to other recent posts – that for best effect, the choice of light and background needs to be deliberate.

For a photo shoot like this – an engagement photo session of a client – as photographers we can’t just rely on serendipity to rear its head on occasion. We have to look for photogenic spots and good opportunities.  We need to be on the look out for interesting light.

While I am always open to the chance of  ‘just being lucky’, these choices – positioning of my subject; the background and the light – all need to be deliberate.

camera settings for the image at the top:  1/200 @ f4 @ 800 ISO; no flash.

Equipment used for these images:
Nikon D3;  Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 AF-S (B&H);  … zoomed to 38mm


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{ 8 comments. } Add a Comment

1 Bob Rossi August 1, 2010 at 11:26 am

I agree with you about deliberate choice of location and camera angle. It makes all the difference in the world between an average and a great photo. The light is beautiful in that tunnel. Thanks again for changing the way I look at light particularly flash lighting.


2 Alfredo August 1, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Love the effect you got here, especially the vignette on the background. What are your thoughts about using a little bit of fill flash here to soften the shadows on her face a bit (-2 or -3 FEV)? I think the shadows are a bit too dark for my taste (eyes and right cheek) but would the fill ruin the shot?


3 Neil vN August 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm

A bit of fill-light by bouncing flash into the area behind me would’ve helped with the contrast.

These are but a few photos from the session, and wasn’t so much about the portraits here, rather than the mood … so I let it be as it is in this case.

Neil vN


4 Alain August 2, 2010 at 4:05 am

Thanks Neil. I totally agree with you, light is something we, as photographers, have to look for.


5 MrGreenBug August 3, 2010 at 12:08 am

Very nice article Neil! Another important learning for today.


6 nan sanders August 31, 2010 at 10:57 pm

what about digital noise. I have been bouncing the flash behind me, or off a wall or window–but still seem to get a lot of digital noise. How do you get around this at high ISO. I have the D700.


7 Neil vN September 1, 2010 at 12:41 am

Nan, at what ISO settings do you find there’s too much noise? I do suspect your problem is under-exposure and not related directly to the D700 and high ISO noise.

Neil vN


8 Tony Sale January 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Beautiful light beautiful people, nice work Neil and very helpful.


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