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Sculpting with Light

When I first started photographing weddings (and for many years after that) I was always looking for ways to add more light to whatever I was shooting. More light, more light, there never seemed to be enough light. But, as the years pass and I’ve learned to have more control over my gear and my creative vision, I’ve found that it’s not always about adding more light, sometimes it’s actually better to remove some light. The trick is knowing the difference and when to do what. I found a prime example of this just last weekend as I was photographing a bride getting ready at her parents’ house. We hung her dress in the window of the dining room, backlit and flanked by the curtains her mother had sewn herself. I photographed this photo of the dress.

(SOOC, ISO 500 2.8 at 1/100 sec)

Sculpting with Light

I took a glimpse on the back of the camera (yes, I chimp) and it was okay, just missing that wow factor. There was just too much fill light hitting the dress from the front. It also had that warm tungsten-y look to it. Kinda flat, kinda boring.

So I looked up and noticed that the dining room light was on. I reached over and turned it off, shot another photo of the same dress.

(SOOC, ISO 500 2.5 1/100 sec)

Sculpting with Light

Suddenly the same dress from the same angle is full of shadows and highlights and texture and detail, as are the curtains. Suddenly the entire image is much more interesting. And all it took was the flick of a light switch.

You just have to remember that whether you’re turning lights on or turning them off or moving them around….what are you trying to accomplish? You are sculpting the light around you. It’s up to you to notice those little nuances and correct as you go along. I don’t always think of these things off the bat. Usually I need to shoot a frame, see what’s wrong with it, what I can improve upon and then shoot another frame.

Written by Justine Ungaro

photographer justine ungaro

Justine Ungaro has been photographing weddings in her own clean, classic style since 2003. A second generation photographer, Justine grew up in the Washington DC area and moved to Los Angeles in 2006 where she expanded her business to include children’s and music industry portraiture and soon after began giving workshops and speaking at photography conventions. She currently maintains studios in Los Angeles and DC.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!