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Why shadows can be more important than highlights

ZenonZenon Member
edited April 2014 in home
I was going to add this to the ACLburger's Studio lights or flash thread but decided to start a new thread. It is funny how you know the process of how something works but you have these little revelations from time to time.

Several times I mentioned highlights and shadows in that thread. We know we need depth to make an image look great or more natural. One statement by Syl Arena - a white sheet of paper is plain but when you crumple it up and unfold it now it has texture and is more interesting. We learn what Neil teaches us with directional lighting. If I have absolutely no other choice I will shoot direct flash. I take all steps to ensure I at least have a good balance between flash and ambient but I know my subjects will look flat. They are acceptable but not very exiting. Even if my highlights (exposure) are bang on the image is still flat. How would you describe flat?

This morning was the usual routine driving my wife to work. On the way home I was behind a pickup truck and it had 4 of those stickers on the tailgate that makes it look like someone shot at the truck. I've seen them before. Today I'm looking at them thinking how real they appear. It really looks like there is a dent where the bullet hit. It intrigued me. I'm trying figure this out, pulling up as closely as I can I realize the illusion is because of highlight and shadows.

The black circle indicates where the bullet hit. The left half moon which is white (highlight) and right is dark grey (shadow) gave the illusion the light is coming from the right. This gave the image or sticker depth.

I'm not very good at this but I did a quick drawing. Something for anyone new to flash to think about when you are shooting. Shadows are critical to make your image look more natural - almost 3D if you think about it. Thought I would share todays little revelation, even if I knew already new this. Never thought if it as a 3D look.





image

Comments

  • Thanks. Your crumbled paper is interesting to think about. Why does it have depth? Because of the shadows. Think of a great portrait, why does it pop out? Even a painting. I think finding the magic is finding a balance not only between ambient and flash but between contrast and flat. Maybe the magic's the point at which you can't tell where flat ends and shadows begin? Maybe the magic's in having shadows that are so subtle that they can't be seen until you go looking for them. Flat lighting may be 'safe' in that it's evenly lit, but what a bore when you compare it to the same photo that's lit such that it has dimension.
  • ZenonZenon Member
    The crumpled paper thingy was from Syl Arena's Speedliter's Handbook. It sheds more light (no pun intended) when you see those street paintings where it looks like there is a hole in the ground. I've never been into painting very much but I just learned something about their craft. Just gained more respect for them.

    "Maybe the magic's the point at which you can't tell where flat ends and shadows begin? Maybe the magic's in having shadows that are so subtle that they can't be seen until you go looking for them." You just summed up the Natural Looking Flash under Flash Photography Techniques. I refer a lot of people to that spot at Tangents.
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