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Archive for Sunday, November 2, 2008

Break the rules to create original effects

A steady stream of Old German Baptist Brethren makes their way to a tent-raising at the church conference south of Lawrence in this May 2008 file photo. This image demonstrates both a silhouette and a hint of lens flare.

A steady stream of Old German Baptist Brethren makes their way to a tent-raising at the church conference south of Lawrence in this May 2008 file photo. This image demonstrates both a silhouette and a hint of lens flare.

November 2, 2008

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I subscribe to a simple photographic philosophy: Know the rules, then break them. If all photographs always adhered to strict rules all the time, photography would be predictable, unsurprising and boring. And those are three adjectives that photographers should never want attached to their work.

The following photography tips are specifically for breaking the age-old rule of always having the sun to your back. Use these tips to create fresh and exciting photographs.

Lens flare

Lens flare is created when light enters the lens and hits the camera's digital sensor, causing a polygonal, circular or splintering burst of rainbow-colored light. It can lower the overall contrast of a photograph significantly and is often undesirable. Lens flares can, however, be used to enhance and add energy to a photo. The technique for creating lens flare is quite simple: Put your subject directly in front of the sun or another bright light source. Now, move slightly left or right so that the sun barely starts to peek around the subject. You, my friends, have created lens flare. The type of lens flare (polygonal/circular/linear) has to do with the shape of the lens diaphragm.

The Silhouette

Every photographer needs to know how to shoot a silhouette.

Silhouettes are created when the subject you are photographing stands between yourself and the sun. The subject is rendered dark as the camera exposes for the bright background. Silhouettes are best captured in low-angle light, which means early morning or late evening light. There are a few basic rules to creating successful silhouettes: First, make sure that the background is clean. A dark object in the background might create the illusion that your subject is growing an arm out of their head. Second, underexpose. Your camera, when on automatic mode, attempts to render the entire scene as 33 percent black. Since you want your subject to be 100 percent black, you will need to underexpose to darken the frame. Third, one silhouette in a portfolio is enough. Too many and you might look like a one-trick pony.

Rim Lighting

Rim lighting is produced using the same approach to create a silhouette, except that you expose correctly for the skin tones, which are located in shadow. This typically means that you must overexpose to render your subject brightly. In doing so, you will create a bright golden outline around your subject, called a rim light. Silhouettes and rim lighting aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, and they oftentimes occur alongside each other, depending on the images' overall tonal gradation.

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