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Direction of Light

Along with quality of light, direction is another key property that will totally change the look of your images. With most stills photography, what we are essentially always doing is trying to make an object look three-dimensional when it’s shown as flat and two-dimensional on a computer screen or in print, this is essential for our wedding photography or portrait photography shoots. Our brain instantly recognizes that the object is a real, three-dimensional object by the way it is sculpted by shadow. Without shadows, everything looks flat. So instead of thinking "photograph the light," you can alternatively think, "photograph the shadows," as it's often the shadows that make your subject look real. Too many photographers try to get rid of shadows by over-lighting. For example, imagine if we photographed a smooth, white pool ball on a plain white background, and there were no shadows due to the light bouncing all over the place. We would have trouble even seeing the ball was there; it would seem to be a blank white picture. More often than not, there will be some shadows in your scene. If the same ball was photographed with a light source right next to the lens, then the shadows would fall behind the ball and we would hardly be able to see them. It would probably look like the ball was a white disc or plate, if we could even see it at all. Now imagine if that light source was taken away from the axis of the camera and placed higher up.

 We would see a lot of shadow underneath the ball, and our brain would instantly recognize it as a ball. Suddenly, the subject really would look three-dimensional. So moving your light source away from the direct axis of the camera lens is beneficial in creating interesting shadows, and true three-dimensional. In other words, the worst place for your flash to be is close to the lens. That's exactly where pop-up flashes are, and not far off where hot-shoe-style flashes usually fit. It is better alternative to get your flash away from the axis of the camera--especially if it's the main light source in a photo. However, it's not just about getting your main light off-camera; the direction of light is important, too. Our brains are programmed to get used to light coming from above—either from the sun or in a building—so if your main light source is higher than eye level, it looks reasonably natural. It's a good idea to check the direction of the shadow of the subject's nose. If it goes down, all is well. If it goes sideways, or even worse, upwards, then the light position might not be the best when trying to achieve something reasonably believable. Lighting from below looks unnatural and is called "horror" lighting. It was widely used in the Hammer horror films of decades ago—good if you want to make the viewer feel uneasy. Side lighting can be very effective as it gives a great three-dimensional feel, and often, a deep shadow behind the subject if they're not too far away from something like a wall. Try to keep your subject's nose pointed roughly in the direction of the light source so that their face will always be at least partially lit, rather than in full shadow A very effective lighting technique is back-lighting—where the main light comes from behind your subject. This is the exact opposite of what many people do. "Put the sun over your shoulder," was the advice.

On a bright, sunny midsummer's day, try turning your subject so that the sunlight is behind them. You can see the direction of the sun from the shadow cast, given to generations of photographers. Of course, this means your subject is squinting into the harsh sunlight. Often, it's better to turn the subject around so that the sun provides a back-light or rim-light—lighting that gives a lovely edge to the rim around the subject. This means that your subject's face will be in shadow. 

I personally love the natural light style of photography simply increase the exposure so that the sky and background Show fewer details, using the warm light to produce a superb magic to the image.

However armed with a flash, you can keep the exposure as before to leave plenty of detail in the sky and background, and then pump some light back into your subject's face to bring in the detail. This is an easy go-to technique that almost always works. If there isn't any sunlight, put your own in by using a second flash. We will discuss this more in later chapters. If you're lighting an inanimate object rather than a person, it's often better to only use back-lighting. Think about lighting around the subject, rather than lighting it. That way the light streaming toward your lens adds another dimension to the photo.

So many options are available to us as wedding photographers, understand the light and then control the camera to produce your art.