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Shedding Light on Light Sources
Everywhere I go, I analyze light with the best slow motion camera 2017.

Be it a twinkling star, a flickering candle, a dimmed street light, or the sun setting after a storm, light comes from many sources and in varying degrees of intensity. It is how these sources and degrees of intensity are manipulated with the camera that impacts the outcome of an image.

A source of light, and how it is used to the photographer’s advantage, can make the difference between a mediocre image and a stunning capture. Hard Light versus Soft Light

One of the first concepts of light to understand is the difference between hard light and soft light. By definition, the difference between them has to do with the shadows. Soft light is created by sources that are large in relation to the subject; whereas, hard light comes from a light source that is small relative to the subject.

Because hard light is created by a focused light, it casts a shadow around the subject, which will create hard edges. This light is what most photographers avoid or at least compensate for by using diffusers or light boxes to add a softer look with best lens for canon 70D .

Soft light, on the other hand, casts diffused shadow’s with softer edges. Soft light delivers very light shadow’s or even no shadow’s at all.

Low Light Versus Abundant Light

When we think about light, the sun is more often than not the first source that comes to mind. Because of this, most photographers count on the peak of sunlight to light their subjects. Abundant light, such as with this image, generally occurs between the daytime hours of about ten o’clock a.m. and four o’clock p.m. depending on the season and location.

Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

While daylight can offer some nice captures, it is during the rest of the twenty-four-hour period when professionals like to shoot because with low light a photographer can translate their work into an image that depicts certain moods and connectivity to their viewer. Whether in a field or on the water or some other locale, low’ light captivates in wrarm and cool ways that broad daylight simply can’t.

The soft lighting created by low light is fundamentally more desirable to a master photographer because of how it flatters the subject. High noon hours, such as ten in the morning until two in the afternoon (or later during the summer), create harsh shadows from an unforgiving bight light. There is nowhere for flaws to hide. Whereas, the softness created by low light allows those family portraits to glow, reducing harsh shadows on faces. The same soft light creates a subtleness that brings out the colorful hues and beauty in a landscape image, leaving long, elegantly casted shadows across fields and mountains or waters and sandy beaches.

Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

Rather than counting on ample light, amateurs ought to seek opportunities during lower light hours in order to take advantage of the learning opportunities that come with working in low light. Doing so will help in transforming from amateur to expert. With enough time and shutter clicks, mastery and understanding of how low light translates into different moods in their images will emerge. The following steps will provide information to work with out in tire field and will help to guide the way.

Step 2: Conquer ISO Settings

Let’s face it…whether you’re a Nikon, Canon, Sony, or other DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) user, the camera’s buttons and menus can be intimidating.

Most DSLR photographers keep the camera in Auto Mode and hope for the best. However, it is getting over that fear and beginning to understand the four critical settings—ISO, aperture or f/stop, shutter speed, and white balance—that will enhance results greatly. Increasing the camera’s ISO (International Standards Organization) setting is an option when shooting in low light situations.

Increasing the ISO setting from 100, for example, to 400, 800, or higher, allows the photographer to increase their shutter speed in situations where a faster shutter opening and closing is desirable. Because of this, the higher ISO setting provides flexibility with when it comes to setting the shutter speed and f/stops.

The downside of higher ISO settings is the increase in graininess in the images. Therefore, one of the keys to mastering ISO settings is finding the balance between how much grain is acceptable for each image versus what shutter speed the photographer wants the subject photographed at.
In most cases, the photographer wants an ultrasharp shot, and too much grain is distracting. However, there are situations, often highly artistic ones, where a grainy look is the desired effect.

When it comes to the actual setting, the majority of DSLRs have ISO settings that range from 50 or 100 up to 1600 or 3200. When shooting in regular daylight, the most common ISOs are too or 200. When shooting in low light, it is common to increase the ISO to 400 or greater; however, this is influenced by several factors. When setting up a shot, ask these question before determining the ISO:
l Is clarity the primary factor?

Will both the subject and the camera be still for the shot (this allows a slower shutter speed and lower ISO)?

l Will filters that can impact the shutter speed (i.e. force a slower shutter speed) be used?
It is critical to ask these questions before adjusting the settings because the answer will lead to using the ISO that provides optimal results. A word about tripods

The best way to avoid having to bump up the ISO setting is to rely on a tripod. A tripod is the surest way to eliminate the likelihood of blurred images that can be created by camera shake. Overcome the idea that it is a burden to lug a tripod along because making the effort to bring it ensures better quality images, so doesn’t that make it worth the effort?

The good news is that image quality has progressed greatly with digital cameras when it comes to quality and higher ISO settings. Nowadays, the ISO can be set relatively high before grain and noise kick in. This is great news for low light photographers!

If daylight is ending, but it isn’t quite dark yet, set up the tripod and consider trying to start at 100 ISO and see what the results are. If needed, bump the setting up to 200 or higher depending on the results achieved. In the experimental phase, it’s a great lesson to shoot and compare at a variety of ISO levels to see what each one does for the shot.

Step 3:

Unders tanding Aperture/Depth of Field

It is not only beneficial but it’s essential to understand what depth of field means. With a clear understanding of how depth of field works, the rest will make much more sense.

Simply stated, depth of field relates to how much of the image’s background and foreground are in focus.

Note: if the entire image is blurred, that doesn’t have to do with depth of field—that is simply a blurred image! Depth of field is determined by three factors: 1) Aperture, 2) Focal Length, and 3) the distance from the camera to the subject.

Shallow (or narrow) depth of field is when the subject is in focus and the background is blurred. This effect is commonly used in portraits and fine art, for example.

Greater (or large) depth of field is when the entire image (or mostly so) is in focus. Landscape images are often shot as large depth of field so that both the foreground and the background remain in focus.

A more detail graphic is shown later that exemplifies all of the settings, but for now, this graphic gives a simplistic look, which makes it easy to visualize, at how aperture settings work.


The best way to control the depth of field in an image is by adjusting the aperture. A rule to follow is this: the smaller the number (i.e. f/1.4), the bigger the aperture (opening), the shallower the depth of field Alternatively, the greater the number (i.e. f/22), the smaller the aperture (opening), the f/16greater the depth of field.

In these examples from a boardwalk, and for simplicity purposes, I photographed the same scene at three varying apertures.

The first example was shot at 5.6, a rather wide of field. The poles in the background are blurred in relation to the foreground.

Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

The second example was shot at f 13, a narrower aperture, which resulted in a bit greater depth of field, allowing more of the poles to be in focus until about halfway down the row before they

Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

The third example was shot at f 22, a much narrower aperture, which resulted in greater depth of field, allowing for greater sharpness throughout the image. Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography
As f/stop settings are experimented with, such as with these three boardwalk images, it is important to remember the impact that adjusting the f/stop has on the results of an image. When it comes to low light photography, this is even more critical. Why? Because with low light there are many times w’hen it is better to let more light in with a larger aperture, allowing for a faster shutter speed. Therefore, using a smaller f/stop, in order to open the aperture wider, allows for a faster shutter speeds. Depending on the stability of the camera, a fast shutter speed may be more desirable than greater depth of field. All of this depends on the subject and the desired outcome of the photograph, and is also why having knowiedge of depth of field is so important.

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