How To Work With Available Light
by William Lulow
These days, more and more photographers are using available light for their image making. Because sensors are much more sensitive to light than film used to be, it is easier to get decent exposures by pumping up your camera’s ISO rating. You have to be careful though with the type of light you get from available light sources. You need to be aware of what kinds of light you are shooting with, the direction it comes from and how it affects your image.
If you study artificial light and how it works, you will have a better understanding of the different types of available light and how you, as a photographer, respond to it. I think it is more important than ever before for photographers to study artificial lighting and all its ramifications, so that they are more aware of the kinds of available light with which they work.
This image was made using available light (modified in Photoshop to produce the color/BW effect), with an ISO of 1600 and an exposure of f/2.8 at 1/60th of a second. In the days of film, a magenta filter would have been necessary to produce the correct color balance for daylight film. Today, digital cameras do all the color conversion for us. But, the direction of this available light is from the top. It is created by the room’s fluorescent light banks. The effect of the lighting is soft, but not very intense.
This bridal shot was made outside in direct sunlight, but since the sun was behind the subject, a fill-in flash was necessary to bring out the details in the bride’s face.
These are merely two examples of things that photographers need to be aware of when shooting with available light. Sometimes, the sun or other ambient source needs some help if the viewer of the image is to be able to discern all the details we want them to see.
Since most light is directional (it is coming from a single source), we need to be aware of the kind of light that it provides and how best to use it to produce the images we want.