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Light and Composition

photography workshop lanzarote


Iceland-boat-mountainsLight is one of the most important aspects of photography and it has to be appropriate for the subject matter to bring it to life and make an image pop. Backlighting is one way to add a touch of drama.

By shooting straight into the sun you can easily achieve this, and by including it as part of the overall composition you can add another level of atmosphere to an image.

In January Thor and I were at the plane wreck near Vik in Iceland making sure everything was good to go for our Iceland photo workshop - and we figured it was the perfect place to demonstrate this technique.

I know some photographers are concerned about shooting into the sun but if you think about it we do it when we photograph sunsets. It’s not wise to hold the shutter open for long periods of time (1 second +) when shooting at the sun, but you don’t need to because your shutter speeds will be pretty fast anyway.

I said at the beginning the light has to be appropriate for the subject because different things work in different light. Hard light with strong shadows generally works best on strong subjects like landscapes, buildings, machinery etc. Whilst softer light such as you get in shade or on an overcast day are great for softer subjects like flowers, plants and people.

Backlighting is when the light is behind a subject and the shadows come toward us adding texture and drama to an otherwise flat shot. And as the sun is part of our environment, why not include it as part of a composition?

I wish I could tell you what camera settings to use but this will depend on how bright it is, what the subject is, if you want a starburst effect which is created by using a small aperture etc.  You need to take care with your exposure, shoot manually and check your histogram, but as you can see in the video it’s not rocket science.

Remember to think like a photographer. Don’t just rush in. Walk round the subject and consider where you want to place the elements of the composition in the frame.

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