Photogragphy is catching reflections of light. If there is no light there is nothing to photograph.
The camera is the device to catch reflections. How much reflections I want to capture is regulated by the camera automatical, semi-automatical or manual. In this tutorial I want to focus on light and its characteristic to produce various reflections. Why reflections? We do not photograph the source of light (would be the end of a camera) but objects which reflect the light. For a people photographer it is about the special reflection a person produces.
The sun is the only natural light source we know. Sun light is also the strongest light source we know. Sun light is composed of various light waves. They amount into the so called color temperature. Measured value for sun light is 5777 Kelvin at highest sun level. As position of the sun changes the color temperature changes.
Therefore how we see an object depends on the position of the sun. At high rise an object is seen in its real colors, the more the sun sets the more the object changes its color reproduction. Photographers love to work with the setting sun. Why? Reaching sunset the color temperature first becomes warm and changes to cold light. This comes from the light waves. Color temperature changes from warm to cold. We call it warm light if the light holds at lot of yellow shares, cold light holds mostly blue shares. In physics the blue light waves are the longest light waves, they can be seen in the longest distance. That is why police uses blue light for signal.
In the two sunset hours we undergo the change of light from Golden Hour where objects are colorized golden, to Blue Hour, which indeed lasts for about ten minutes only. Two fascinating hours for a photographer. Sunrise happens in reverse order, from cold to warm. The atmosphere is hazed with moisture very often which makes reflections more tender and milder. Photographers very much like to use this effect.
Why is this important? In people photography human skin is the most important surface for reflection. The skin reflection determines the picture’s look. The skin tone is the decision point of the quality of a picture. If skin tone does not fit the picture will not appeal to us. Then sometimes there is only one way out left, delete all color code and convert the picture to black-and-white. This will save the picture but surely is not want we wanted to achieve.
What do we have to consider to obtain the perfect skin tone when taking the shot? Photoshop should not be the instance to save my work but the tool to perfect the picture.
The best reflection of our skin tone is caused by neutral light with a value of 5600 Kelvin. Increasing the yellow light shares will intensify warm characteristics. Increasing the red light shares skin tone starts looking critical. In blue light skin loos sick and unapproachable.
One of the biggest mistakes is to position a person on a green meadow and taking the picture at sunset. Skin will look really sick, the person does not look attractive.
Why? The green meadow also reflects the light towards the object and changes the color temperature drastically. Skin will absorb the green reflection and will reflect it in return into the camera. The result is a sick person.
By way of comparison: position a person into a autumn landscape with brown, yellow and red tones and the setting sun will enforce these colors. The skin has a lot of these color shares which now get intensified with the reflection. The result is a picture everybody will like.
Professional photographers do not rely on the sun only. In professional and semi-professional photography additional light sources are being used. These flash lights simulate the sun light, specifically in color temperature of 5600 Kelvin. Photographers do this for various reasons. Sun light always comes from the same direction and changes the color temperature with sun level. As photographer I want to have stable light conditions over a certain period of time and that forces to use artificial light sources. Flash lights are used the most for that purpose. However much can go wrong working with flash lights, because flashlights can change their color temperature also. Physics and behavior of flashlights are the same as for sunlight. If time is too short for all reflections to get into the camera, only red and blue tones will make it through, the full light spectrum is not used. The picture is underexposed and contains more red and blue color tones which is not good for the skin tone. Why?
We separate persons into 4 color groups independently of their skin color. Skin has color shares, pigments which reflect in different ways. There are skins which reflect red the better and skins which reflect blue the better. Persons reflecting red the better belong to color group warm and the one reflecting blue the better to color group cold. You see this immediately when a cold color type person comes in contact with warm colors the reflections appear wrong something is disturbing. It is important in photography to find the correct color character of the person’s skin. Neutral daylight helps. Drifting to warm area by intensifying yellow tone with a gold reflector with a cold color person the person will look green, with a warm color person it will be perfect. Cold color skin tomes can be brightened using a silver reflector. So the decision which side to use of a reflector shade – silver or gold – depends on the skin type. If you are uncertain you can use reflector shades which have a silver and gold mixed side, or you use a pure white reflector shade.
Above are all rules in photography. But the one who knows the rules can also work with the exception. Photography is a creative process. If you consciously decide to produce a picture with a certain characteristics, these rules will help to decide which ones to follow and which to dismiss. Breach can change dramaturgy of a picture decisively. If the result is exactly what you have planned, then it is RIGHT!
I want to show an example how to work with underexposed pictures
First an example of a perfect exposed picture with model Jhannet Correa
Now this picture is extrem under exposed. I want to do that, see the change of the skintones on model Jhannet Correa
You see how the blue and red light is effecting the skintones. But I know I can light it up in the RAW converter min 2 lenses
than it will look like that
My goal was to mix the two pictures and build a light effect in like that
Now I start my normal retouch processing like I show in tutorial 1
And this is the final result
You can see, breaking the rules can make sense, but you only can break rules that you know and how they works.
Hope you like my Tutorial