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8 - Control the light

Watch the weather forecast and plan the photo session for a fine day. This may seem obvious but how many times can you see adverts illustrated with pictures take in bad weather? When the sky is grey, how do you make clients daydream of the Ile de Ré bathed in sunlight glinting off the ocean? Unfortunately, if the weather forecast is bad for the chosen day, it is better to postpone the session and set it up for a later date. Taking photos in the sun, with good light, is essential.

You should avoid using a flash as natural light is always more flattering than the aggressive light of the flash. It is really a question of reproducing the ambiance of the interior where light is all important. Adding the superficial light of the flash will emphasize the foreground but reduce the depth of the picture and make the photo less coordinated.

As far as possible, use the most natural light you can and avoid the mixed lighting which will make adjusting your digital camera more complicated. On the other hand, some artificial lights, such as lamps and candles, can light up certain key places in your scene, thereby bringing a more interesting and varied effect to the picture than if the light was uniform.

If the sun is out, the outside photos have every chance of being successful. With inside photos, it is a bit more complicated for the same scene very often has areas where there is a lot of light, such as round the windows, and areas which are darker. If the darker areas are brightened up, then the brighter areas will be over-exposed. Likewise, if the very bright areas are made darker, then the darker areas will become under-exposed. We can use two techniques to tone down these contrasts:

  1. If you are technically-minded, you can opt for bracketing the exposure. This means taking the same scene three times in quick succession with different levels of exposure. Normal exposure for the first photo, over-exposure for the second and under-exposure for the third. After that, it’s a question of asking a computer expert to combine the three photos by taking the best of each one.
  2. The second technique is much simpler, as the work of combining the photos is done directly by your digital camera but this must have the HDR function (High Dynamic Range), which will merge the three photos in order to create the final one. This technique is not a gimmick as, when it is mastered, it can very significantly improve the quality of your shots.

In both cases (bracketing or HDR), it is highly recommended to use the self timer or a remote control in order to activate the camera without touching it, and to be certain that the digital camera is totally immobile at the moment of activation.