The phrase "continuous light" within photography refers to using a constant light that lights your subject, this means that the light stays on for the entirety of the shoot; the light will also be facing the camera. Examples of continuous light are vehicle headlights which can create light trails and burning steel wool to create long exposures of sparks . An example of a photographer that uses continuous light is "Tristan O'Tierney" who's aim is to craft with light by taking long exposure shots of moving objects such as cars or trains. This creates a photographic technique called "light trails". Light trails is created when the cameras sensor is open to light for a long period of time; whilst moving lights pass by the cameras sensor this freezes the trail of light passing by the camera which results in light trails.
Basic camera settings to achieve continuous light is by using a slow shutter speed, ranging from 1 second to bulb mode, to allow the cameras sensor to be open for the long period of time. To compensate for the amount of light coming into the camera from the slow shutter speed you would need to use a bigger aperture number that would let in less light, such as f16 or f22. A low ISO such as 100 or 200 would be used to reduce the amount of noise within the image. A tripod would also have to be used when doing this technique as it will reduce the amount of motion blur within the image; a remote shutter release button is also useful to ensure there is no camera shake, which would occur if you would press the shutter button. The best locations to do light trails can be locations facing onto motorways, busy roads etc. Below are examples of continuous light.
Cars flowing down the Marin Hillside - Tristan O'Tierney
Star Trails | Bridal Veil Falls | DuPont State Forest - Kevin Adams
Painting with light
The phrase "painting with light" within Photography refers to a technique in which exposures are created whist holding and moving a hand held light source such as a torch, glow sticks and sparklers, whilst using long exposures. This light does not face the camera and is instead pointed onto the subject from behind the camera to illuminate it. An example of a photographer who uses this technique is "Patrick Rochon (aka the light painter) who does light painting as a full time career. Again, similar with the continuous light technique these trails of light is created when the cameras sensor is open to light for a long period of time; however in this technique the light is facing the subject and not the camera.
Again, the same basic camera settings above for continuous light are used for painting with light. This technique can be used to create a number of images such as light painting portraits, to painting a light scene. Examples of Patrick Rochon and others works can be found in the images below.
Painting with light portrait - Patrick Rochon
Built-in camera flash
Example of pop-up flash on a camera
The built-in camera flash within a camera is a flash unit which is built in within the main camera body, usually found on the top of DSLR's. Flash is used to supply light when there is not enough within the image. When using flash it is important to mix this with ambient light, otherwise if relying on the flash as the major light source the flash will create a flat and overly bright light which will destroy the scene. An example image of this is found below.
As mentioned earlier it is important to mix the pop up flash with ambient light, so make sure to shoot somewhere where there is plenty of natural light, for example an indoor garden with open glass windows and roof for the light to shine through. To control the flash you would first need to adjust your camera to manual mode as this allows more control over exposure settings. You would then adjust your ISO and aperture settings as normal depending on if there is light sensitivity and if you want to achieve a shallow or deeper depth of field. To control the ambient light within the image you would adjust your shutter speed - start at 1/125th and adjust this accordingly to allow more light into the camera if the ambient light is too dark - adjust and take various pictures of your subject, looking behind them to see if the light behind them is exposed properly. Once you have got the right exposure for the ambient light it is time to adjust the flash exposure which is the light for your subject. Start at 0 and adjust + if needing more light exposure on the subject or - if needing less light exposure on the subject.
Flash compensation setting
Advantages of using built- in camera flash is that if you are shooting your subject in harsh lighting conditions this can cause harsh shadows to fall on their face. By using the built in flash this will fill out the shadows on their face and produce some catch light in the subjects eyes. Another advantage is that it you are able to have a fill flash on hand when needed and could save time carrying around external flash guns. An example image of the flash filling out shadows is shown below.
However, there are major disadvantages when it comes to using built in flash. In regards to the distance between the built-in flash and the subject; if your subject is further away from the flash then the flash will fall off and the image will be underexposed; this is due to the flash only being able to let enough power for typically 12-15 feet away from the subject. However, if your subject is too close to the flash the flash duration will become shorter. If the subject is too close to the flash then their face will appear washed out and ghost like - relating to this the flash is not directional and will only fire directly in front which can also create a washed out look. Another disadvantage is that if you are shooting a large group of people - the flash will not have the power to light all individuals. Another disadvantage is that if you are shooting at night and are reliant on the built-in flash this will again make the images appear washed-out due to it not being mixed with ambient light; also if you are shooting your subject against a wall and using the flash a silhouette of shadow of the subject will appear - it is recommended to have the subject move further away from the wall or avoid shooting against a wall if necessary.
There is a number of things you can use to diffuse the built-in camera flash. The first thing you can do is to fold a piece of white paper and place this behind the flash facing upwards. Position the flash downwards onto your subject so that when the flash goes off the light will hit off the paper and bounce towards the ceiling; this would only work if the ceiling was white or neutral so that the light will fall evenly around the subject. Another way to diffuse the flash is to buy flash softening aides which are shown below; these will help to soften the flash.
Examples of flash softening aides
Methods of reducing camera shake
When doing photography, for example shutter speeds lower than 1/60th it is important to consider ways to reduce camera shake so that blur does not appear in your images. Three ways to reduce camera shake is by using a tripod, monopod, remote release and a self timer which is installed onto the camera . A tripod is a portable three legged stand that supports and stabilizes the camera. The tripod allows you to position your camera landscape or portrait, move the camera base back and forward and glides the camera left and right if doing panning shots. You can also adjust the height of the tripod if needed. Similar to the tripod is a monopod; however the difference with this is that a monopod is a single staff or pole that is again used to support cameras; this has less stability than the tripod however some monopods have balls at the bottom of them which can be placed on the ground whilst others do not. In this case you would either need to either position the monopod foot into the ground, using a wrist strap to support it more or positioning your monopod against the instep of the rear foot and the pole angled to the photographer’s other leg for additional bracing. Monopods are useful to use when doing sports photography.
Next you can use a remote release. This is a remote which can be used to take the photo when you cannot reach the shutter button, this is synced with the remote release settings on the camera. You can control if you want the remote to take the shot automatically or have a delay. The last thing you can use is the self timer mode within a camera, this is a built in setting within the camera, usually found in the settings. The self timer delays the shutter from firing for a number of chosen seconds. However different from the remote the shutter button does need to be pressed first.
An example image of a tripod
An example image of the self-timer display
An example image of a remote release
An example of using a monopod.
Why would you use these?
There are a number of reasons for using this equipment, the main reason is to reduce camera shake. However there is a number of other factors to consider:
Tripod + Monopods: You would use these if you are taking night time shots, sunsets, light trails, or where there is minimum light available. This is due to natural light being reduced therefore it is important to get as much light into the camera and this usually involves using slow shutter speeds. If using slow shutter speeds, this will result in motion blur within the image, a tripod and monopod will stabilize this. Another reason to use this is when doing close-up photography shots such as macro - this requires a lot of concentration therefore minor movements are crucial. Another reason to use this is when doing panning movements such as in sports or action shots. Having the tripod and monopod will make the panning more smoother. Another reason is when doing nature photography, this may require waiting around for a long period of time and the animal only making an appearance for a few seconds, the tripod will be positioned near to where the animal is hiding to ensure you are ready. The last reason would be if using telephoto lens E.g 150-600mm - these lenses can be difficult to keep steady as their long focal length magnifies any vibrations by using slow shutter speeds, wind or the photography themselves.
Remote Release + Self timer: You would use these when you cannot reach to press the shutter button or when you do not want to press the shutter button as this can cause camera shake to occur. There are also numerous other reasons to use these such as when doing self-portrait photography, when shooting a group of people and you want to be in the shot and doing painting with light photography when you are either in the shot or are painting the subject.
What to consider when buying a tripod/monopod
When buying equipment such as tripods or monopods it is very important to consider some things before making the purchase. Below is a pro and cons of using a cheap tripod/monopod against purchasing a more expensive type.
Velbon DF-41 Camera Tripod, retailed at £29.99 on Argos
Manfrotto Monopod retailed at £19.99 on Argos
The first two images are examples of inexpensive tripods and monopods. The pros of buying a cheaper alternative of equipment are that these tripods will more likely to be lightweight therefore there is no need to be carrying around heavy equipment. This equipment could also be seen as a good choice of an individual who has just started within the photography field and is still experimenting due to it being inexpensive. However there are a lot of cons in regards to these tripods. The first con being is that these tripods are often "plastic" therefore the distributor can sell the product at a lower price. Due to the plastic feel the tripod will not withhold itself when doing certain photography such as landscapes on top of mountains or stay upright in windy weather conditions as the legs are not strong enough to hold. It will also be likely that these tripods are not built to reduce vibration when using remote releases or self timers therefore the equipment will not stabilize the camera properly and blur will occur. As well, often when adjusting the height of these tripods, the more unstable the tripod becomes. A final con is that the leg locks could slip due to the tripod not having a heavy weight to stable the camera.
Manfrotto Carbon Fibre Tripod, retailed at £279 on Calphoto
Manfrotto XPro Monopod, retailed at £219 on Calphoto
The first and second image above are examples of an expensive tripod and monopod. The pros of buying more expensive equipment is that they are made from a strong material, therefore they are more likely to support the weight of your camera and lens. The equipment will also be able to withhold itself in extreme weather conditions and most often the most expensive equipment will be built to reduce vibration. Also, the tripod is more durable and will therefore last longer than a cheaper alternative and saves you having to keep replacing the cheaper alternative in the long run. Cons of this product is the price- a lot of photographers may not have the income to purchase more expensive equipment and may rely on cheap alternatives. Another con is the weight - because the structure of the equipment is stronger it will therefore have more weight that the cheaper alternative which some photographers may not want to carry around a heavy load.
Other equipment to consider when doing photography
Gold, white, silver, translucent and black reflectors
A reflector is a reflective surface which is used to re-direct light towards a scene or subject. When purchasing a reflector it is important to think about the colour of the reflector you want to use. A white reflector redirects soft light onto the subject whilst a silver reflector does the same job but reflects brighter light than a white reflector. Using a gold reflector will reflect warm tones of light onto your subject whilst a black reflector absorbs the light and creates shadow by subtracting the light out. A translucent reflector creates a softer and more even spread of light with less contrast.
The next thing to consider is the shape and size of the reflector. Reflectors can range from circle, oval, square, rectangle and triangle shapes and come in different sizes. Often circle reflectors are used to re-direct the light from the chest above or are used for headshots; the oval, square and rectangle reflectors are often used to re-direct the light for the full body however the reflector will need to be large, large reflectors also soften more light. Reflector sizes range from 30cm and under to above 95cm. Reflectors can be used for a number of thing - if shooting portraits outside or in natural light one side of the subjects face can be lighter than the other side; you can use the reflector to light the under lit side of their face and make this even. Also, reflectors can be used to bounce light back into areas of the face, body etc that are in shadow. If shooting back lit portraits the face will be underexposed therefore you can bounce some light onto the subjects face; a reflector can also be used to add some catchlight into the subjects eyes to bring life into the image. Below are examples images of using reflectors.
The image above is an example of flags. Flags are used to absorb and block light from spilling onto things where you don't want the light to go. Flags will only block part of a beam and this will also result in a shadow line; how sharp the shadow line depends on the size of the flag, the distance from the flag to the shadow and how soft or hard the light is. When you move the flag away from the light and closer to a wall, the edges of the flags shadow will become more defined. If you move the flag closer to the light, the edges of the shadow will blur. When thinking about the size of the flag, if flagging small hard light sources it is easier due to the beam being more defined; if lighting from a large diffuse light source the light will have tend to wrap around a smaller flag.
On the left the flag is further from the wall which results in a blurry shadow; on the right the flag is closer to the wall which results in a sharp shadow.
Flags can be used for a number of things within photography such as product photography when wanting to add shadows and dramatic effect to an image or wanting to block the direction of light in a shiny surface such as glass. A flag can also be used in portraiture work, if there is backlight on the subject the flag will allow the light to light the subjects shoulders without overexposing their head. Below are some photography shots that have used flags.
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