Posts Tagged ‘lighting’

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

27 Jul

Wildlife photography is one of the fastest growing hobbies today. With DSLR and lenses getting cheaper by the minute, it is only bound to grow faster. With more and more people taking to wildlife photography as a means to connect with nature and share its beauties, it’s become imperative that you start pushing the bar of your photography ever higher. One of the best and easiest ways to do that is to try out rim lighting shots. If you do not know what that means, you are on the right page – keep reading.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

There are many ways to get creative with your wildlife photography, but in this article I will teach you one of the most impactful. Let’s start with getting to know rim lighting a little better.

What is rim lighting?

By definition, rim lighting in photography means any image where the light at the edges of the subject seems more intense than the other areas. For example, take a look at the image below.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Notice how the outline of the giraffes stands out? The rim of the subject looks well-lit. Quite simply, that’s what rim lighting is about.

How do you achieve rim lighting?

First and foremost, you need to position yourself such that the subject stands between your camera and the light source (more often than not, that will be the sun in nature photography). Rim lighting will happen in the natural world only if you can see the rim, lit up with your eyes. Some of the easiest subjects for this are animals that have a lot of fur and are not too smooth coated, for example, bears, giraffes, lions, or deer with antlers.

Take a look at the visual below for a quick understanding on positioning yourself.



There are a few guidelines that you need to adhere to while trying to obtain a rim-lit image:

  • Rim lighting happens best when the sun is low in the sky, so try to look for a subject around that time.
  • A dark background is necessary (check all the images in this article) so make sure that you try this in an area where your background is conducive to good results.

Speaking about the camera now, composition aside, rim-lit photography can be done using one of two approaches.

Approach #1 – Exposure Compensation

Using exposure compensation is the easiest way to execute rim-lit shots. Once you have ensured that you are able to see a rim-lit subject just go ahead and try a test shot with a little underexposure. Take a look at the sequence of images below.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Make note, by default when using the built-in metering system in your camera, more often than not the image in such scenarios (a lot of black and little bit of white) will turn out to be a bit washed out. It is just that the camera does not know what is the most important part of the image and makes an error in judgement (it tries to average the exposure).

Knowing where to stop with regards to exposure compensation is a subjective call. You could be happy with the second or the third image above. Just know that the more you underexpose the darker the surroundings will get.

This is a perfectly valid way of getting a rim-lit shot, but I generally recommend the second approach. The simple reason being that exposure compensation doesn’t reset itself. If you forget your camera is set at an EV of -2, it would mean disaster for the next few shots where you may not be trying to create a rim lighting shot.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Approach #2 – Exposure Lock (AE-L)

This approach is slightly more advanced in terms of understanding. Imagine yourself standing in front of a monkey with the sun setting behind him and the immediate background being dark trees. Now, do the following:

  • Point your camera toward the sky. Half press your shutter-release button to activate metering.
  • Next, press the Exposure Lock Button (AE-L or * button) which often resides right where your right-hand thumb would rest.
  • Now, recompose your image with the subject as needed and click.

What happens is that when you point your camera towards the sky and ask it to meter from there, it takes a light reading from the bright sky and sets up a shutter/aperture combination accordingly. Let’s assume for a minute that the value came out to be 1/2000th at f/4.

Now, if you press the Exposure Lock button, the camera will lock on to these readings and will not change them for your next set of clicks. So when you recompose and photograph the monkey, the camera uses the locked in settings thus rendering only the areas in the frame that are as bright as the sky correctly. In this recomposed image, the only area that is as bright as the sky is the outline of the monkey, giving you a nice, well exposed rim-lit image.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

Practice around home first

Go ahead, practice the AE-L at home and then get out there and try a couple of rim-lit shots. Here is what you can do at home, before heading out to the wild.

Catch hold of a friend or family member and make them stand in front of a car at night. They should be covering the headlight of the car completely. If you stand at the other end with your friend in between yourself and the light source, you should be able to see his entire body with rim lighting.

Now that you know how to get a subject, go out there with your camera and start trying the exposure compensation trick to get some fabulous rim-lit images. Please share your rim-lit wildlife images below as well as any questions you may have about this technique.

How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting

The post How to do More Creative Wildlife Photography by using Rim Lighting by Rahul Sachdev appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Lighting 103: Use Color to Evoke Time and Place

21 Jul

It can be scary to add a lot of color to your light. But it’s easy to underestimate how much color it takes to transform a scene and set a mood. Don’t be shy. Those gels won’t bite.

This nighttime portrait of soprano Alexandra Rodrick was a big step for me. It was made about five years ago, when I was just starting to realize how color-fluid real light could be. I kinda knew it, but I still didn’t have the nerve to actually do it.

So I took a deep breath and threw way more blue into the environment than I normally would. And not only did I come out alive on the other side, but I ended up pretty happy.

I prevsiouly wrote in more detail about how we made the photo in On Assignment. It’s a two-part post, if you’re interested. So I won’t fully rehash that here.

We wanted to evoke nighttime, but you can’t really shoot this photo at night. Especially with the PhaseOne camera I shot this with. (You can see a full-sized version here.) The Phase effectively maxes out at ISO 100, and we wanted to get some depth and detail going way back into the scene. So we shot at twilight, and underexposed the ambient before adding three light sources into the mix.

Looking back, this photo was big leap forward for me. I took a chance and pushed a lot of CTB into the scene—full CTB, to be exact. We had to move the lights way back to light the scene evenly. In fact, here’s my fill light coming from my second floor dining room, here:

Before this point, I would have weenied around with a 1/2 CTB, or even a 1/4 CTB.
The result would have been very much muted. Safer, maybe. But not nearly as evocative.

This is the first time I had really tried to connote the feeling of full night in a photo and actually had been willing to push some real color. Am I fully happy with it now? Not totally, and more on that in a minute.

But my advice is, while it is very tempting to try partial/interim color shifts, do yourself a favor and experiment with pushing some real color density into your frame. You may be pleasantly surprised at the result.

In the past I tried lesser color densities and ended up with pictures that were okay, but didn’t really live up to what I pictured in my mind’s eye. (Fortunately, no one else had access to my mind’s eye, so my comparative failures were private affairs.)

What I am learning going forward is that the 1/4- and 1/2-measure color shifts come across as subtle in the final image. In fact, in many cases they would only be noticeable in their absence via side-by-side comparison.

And that subtlety is actually pretty cool and useful. Because as we have seen with portraiture, you can define what is in shadow with color as much as you can with density.

Think about it. By using a 1/2 CTB (maybe with a little green in there) in the shadows of a portrait against a 1/2 CTO key light in the highlights, you are defining shadows with color as much as you are with light levels.

This means you can not only get a more evocative palette of light on your subject, but you can vastly expand the range of visible detail in your photo. Because it is the color of light that is informing you in the shadow, rather than a harsher underexposure—and a corresponding lack of detail.

Our brain reads that relatively subtle blue shift also as signaling the transition to shadow. So if you are going to shift a whole scene to evoke a time and place—night in the woods, for instance—you’d better be willing to bring more color density to the party.

Don’t be shy. Take a chance. You can always back off if you don’t like it.

What I Would Do Differently Now

Back to Alexandra, I look at this frame and see that I was being relatively couragious (for me, then) in some parts of the photo, and a weenie in other parts.

Let’s talk about the light on her face, courtesy a 1/4 CTO’d speedlight in a China ball.

Yes, it separates from all that blue night woodsy light. But why is it warm? I told myself at the time that it felt more theatrical (warm spotlight in cool environment and all). But really, it was also me long being comfortable throwing a warm light at my subject’s face.

If I were shooting this today, I’d be more looking to integrate that key light into the scene. Less spotlight, more moonlight. As if she was catching a moon ray in the clearing.

I’d probably start with a 1/4 CTB. Cool her down, but but as much as the night woods. After all, moonlight is just reflected daylight.

And to that 1/4 CTB, I might consider adding a little green. Maybe 1/4 PlusGreen? Dunno, until I try it. But the idea would be to blend the moonlight with the influence of the green grass and leaves that would be filtering/reflecting it.

Would it be scary to try? Yeah, a little. I’m not used to blue-green faces in my photos. Not even a little bit. But it wouldn’t be nearly as scary now as it would have been for me back in 2012.

And to be honest, 2017 me thinks the slight blue-green face would look better. Which is the point of taking chances with your light, finding new things that work and the result being growth as a photographer.

This is the most recent post in Strobist’s Lighting 103 module. New installments publish on the first and third Thursday of each month. If you would like to be notified as they become available, please sign up here.

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Bye bye Bowens: The 94-year-old lighting company is going into liquidation

17 Jul

Lighting giant Bowens, a company with 94 years of history and millions of customers under its belt, has entered liquidation. The news has not been officially confirmed by Bowens or Aurelius, the investment firm that acquired the company one year ago, but several independent sources have corroborated the story.

Initial reports of Bowens’ downfall appeared on DIYPhotography, who heard from one inside source and confirmed with two others on Friday that the company has indeed entered liquidation. On Sunday, photography blog PetaPixel confirmed the news a fourth time, after they received an email from another “source familiar with the situation.”

“All UK staff (including China factory) were informed that the company is going into liquidation,” the source told PetaPixel. “We were aware the company was facing problems and have all been working long days to pull company through a hard time, but we never thought it would end.”

With pressure from fast-growing lighting brands like Godox, and big-name brands in the photo world going out of business at regular intervals, the disappointing news is not, alas, surprising. But no amount of regularity ever makes this kind of news easier to report on or read. If anything, it only gets harder.

At the time of this writing, Bowens International’s contact form is no longer accepting submissions. We will update this post if and when we are able to reach someone at Bowens for official confirmation.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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Lighting 103: Avoiding Cross Contamination

06 Jul

Abstract: When complementary-gelled lights are falling on the same plane, they can easily rob each other of color. So it is important to make sure your lights are hitting different areas, with minimal overlap.

Above is a two-speedlight portrait against a white wall. White walls are the natural enemy of a gel, and practically live to wash out your color. Especially when using two flashes with dense, complementary gels. Knowing how to keep your multi-colored lights operating on different planes will help you retain more saturated color.

Let's walk through the portrait above to get a better look at how our two lights are working separately—and together—in a variety of ways.Read more »

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Lighting 103: Greg’s Assignment: Results

23 Jun

Reporting in from our last assignment, in which you were asked to shoot a portrait in three different ways: clean white light, warm/cool light, and warm/cool light with the shadows muddied up with a little green. I did this one along with you—twice—and learned a lot in the process.

Which brings up a valuable point. You can read about this stuff all you want. But until you actually get off your ass and do it, you're not going to learn it.

In other words, learning to use color in your lighting is just like anything else. Read more »

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Lighting 103: Greg’s Assignment

02 Jun

Abstract: The best way to get a better understanding of light and color is to just do it.

In the last part of our conversation with Greg Heisler, he gave what I think is a very good piece of advice about light and color:

"I think what you have to do to be able to see it, is to shoot it. And then shoot it.

Like, shoot it the clean way, with white light. Then the next way is to shoot it with a warm and a cool. And so you see that. And then muddy up the light a little bit, and then see it that way."

So that's exactly what we're gonna do. Read more »

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Lighting 103: Greg Heisler on Light and Color

18 May

Abstract: Chromatically complex light adds much more realism to your lit photos.

Today’s Lighting 103 post features excerpts from a bar conversation with Greg Heisler. It's just as if we cornered him at a conference (which I did) and he agreed to have a drink and talk color (which he did).

This is roadmap stuff. It's above and beyond the specific info he includes with each of the assignments in his book, 50 Portraits, the companion text to L103.Read more »

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Back to basics: A simple three-point lighting setup for headshots

16 May

Music photographer PJ Pantelis points out that three point lighting is nothing new, but it’s not something every self-taught photographer has learned. If that sounds like you and you’re looking to experiment with studio portraiture, his recent demo provides a great starting point. 

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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Lighting Tips for Perfect Portraits

09 May

Snapping a portrait, is much more complex than than pinning up a laser backdrop and requesting your subject say “cheese.”

The key to a polished look is lighting!

Read our tips for making your pals look their best in any light (you might just want to add some shine to help them look their best).
Read the rest of Lighting Tips for Perfect Portraits (301 words)

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Lighting 103: Use Gels to Tune Your Home’s Lighting

05 May

Abstract: You can use your knowledge of color temperature and gels to improve the quality of light in your home.

So far, everything we have done has centered on gelling a single light to create a single desired color shift. But before we make the jump into using multiple colors and light sources, one quick hack for your home's lighting that will help you to improve the quality of light in compact fluorescent and LED bulbs.

Like the gawdawful green-tinged lamp above, for example. Read more »

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