Window of opportunity, lighting tips
The first thing I do when someone asks me to take their group picture at a party is to move them into a spot with good lighting. I don't know what it is with people, but we seem to gravitate towards standing in front of windows thinking: "oh, how wonderful we will get the nice view in the picture". I hate to be the one to break the news, but no, that is not what will happen.
What not to do
Here is what happens: with the camera set to default metering it looks at the entire scene with the darker foreground (the subject) and the lighter background (the window) and sets the exposure to even it all out at a 18% grey. The result is a photo where nothing really works, and the result is as you see it with a too dark foreground and too light background. There are two work-arounds for this (well, three if you count using flash, but we will cover that in another post). Either set you camera to spot meter or simply (the option I mostly choose) ask the group to turn around and face the light.
Shot against the light using spot-meter. Better.
Spot metering doesn't get it completely right either, but is a lot better than the default metered photo.
What to do
Instead, turn around to let the beautiful, natural window light expose your subject. Clearly the natural window light wins. This is the kind of lighting that photographers dream of. Because it's not always around (nor practical to use in all situations), we buy all sorts of expensive and elaborate lighting equipment to emulate it. But the natural stuff just is the best.
I say, pick a good spot in your home and next time you have lots of light (with no direct sunlight) coming in pull your children, husband, dog or even flowers into the beautiful, natural light and happily snap away.
Here is some of my macro photography shot using only natural window light.
All shots are with Nikon D700 coupled with Nikkor 50mm f1.4 G or Nikkor 105mm f2.8 VR Micro under natural light. For an added effect I found a spray bottle filled with water and added the droplets. It looks great and I am sure the flowers enjoy it as well. A lot of today's point and shoot cameras come with both spot metering and macro options built-in. When looking for your next camera check the attributes list for "Spot Metering Mode". For macro ability check the focus range. If the minimum focus range is around 5 cm or less, you should be able to get some great close-up shots.
- 85mm f1.4
- San Francisco
- shutter speed