Make a boring photo interesting using available light.

Over the years, as I have progressed as a photographer, I see more and more photos posted online that look the same. Why? Because people rely too much on 2 things. Safe light (or open shade) and/or on-camera flash. Below is an example of a photo that is more interesting than it should be. Why, because of the dimension and light. The whole feeling of the photo is changed because I used the harsh window light to make for a more interesting composition.

Here we have a photo of my whacky daughter, obsessed with Dora, and for some reason wearing a diaper on her head. Ok, I know, kind of strange. But, I do have a point.

To get her face properly exposed, I had to over-expose the scene. Now, when I was a rookie to photography, I would have been afraid to leave AUTO mode. I never would have been able to get an image like this. Today, there are 2 ways to achieve this. Aperture Priority or Manual mode. In this case, I was in Aperture Priority at f/2.8. The key is to take the dumb camera meter out of the equation. Why? The meter would read all this light around the subject and speed up the shutter. The result, you would get a decently exposed overall scene with a very dark face. So, by over-exposing by EV +1.7, I certainly blew out the back a bit (I could dodge/burn it back), but I kept the face exposed and maintained the cool looking light falling on the subject. I like it.

Some might say, well, why not make it easy and just use fill-flash. Sure, you can do that. But, you would be left with a flash boring photo of my daughter wearing a diaper on her head. Fill-flash washes out the subject and scene. There is a time and place for it, sure. When I need a “safe” shot then I might use some fill. But, when I am trying to create art, no way.

-Chris

2 thoughts on “Make a boring photo interesting using available light.

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