Its All About The Light

Its All About The Light

Written 13 years ago by Mark Evans

We’ve all seen stunning photos from time to time, oozing a class that seems unattainable to us mere mortals. But what makes a really good photo? Composition? Colour? Light? When you think about it, light is the main ingredient, if there was no light then there would be no photo in the first place. Likewise, if there was no quality light then there would be no stunning photos.

Getting quality light usually requires good planning and good timing. Unfortunately for most of us, the best light occurs around sunset and sunrise, so getting up early to catch the sunrise can be pretty tough. But if you make the effort, it will usually be rewarded, with the splendour of that golden disc peeking over the horizon and bathing your scene in a warm glow, giving you the perfect light to capture a stunning photo. Well that is if its not cloudy.

The scene you choose to photograph and the aspect of the sun to it can play a crucial role. It pays to scout a scene the day before you’re going to shoot it, looking at the best position to get a shot, taking into account which direction the sun will shine from. Then on the day, plan get to your spot an hour or so before sunrise or sunset, so any unforseen eventualities can be dealt with, and get your gear set up. This is the point where it clouds over and starts bouncing down! Although on many occasions this kind of planning pays dividends which makes it all worthwhile.

Heres some tips for catching the light:

  • Scout your scene the day before to see what time of day it gets the best light, and what direction it comes from
  • Get to your spot an hour beforehand to set up
  • Bracket your exposures to make sure you don’t have to go back, see Exposure Bracketing
  • Use a graduated neutral density filter to hold back the exposure of the sky, see Using ND Grads
  • Try using the diffuse light of an overcast or misty day
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