7 Types of light that challenge photographers

As a photographer, we cannot deny that lighting is our greatest asset. You cannot possibly shoot a good photograph without a balanced light. Unfortunately, there are cases where the type of light you have or you meet in your location will present some challenges that you will need to overcome.

When you meet yourself in this type of situation, it becomes obvious that being a photographer is more than just pressing the shutter button. Even with the most sophisticated camera in the world, you will still need to have certain skills and employ certain techniques to overcome the challenges that are presented by the type of light available where you are about to shoot.

In this article, we will discuss various ways to overcome this issue and get a good photograph irrespective of the type of light available.

1. Backlight

Ever found yourself in a situation where the subject is backing the light source? This always creates a unique challenge. It is likely going to lead to under-exposing of your subject since your camera will struggle with the bright light from the background.

To overcome this problem, I will recommend that you switch to your spot metering or centre-weighted modes. Spot metering makes it possible to take a meter reading from a very precise area such as the active AF point while the centre-weighted mode bases its metering off elements in the centre of your frame.

Using the above option will help you overcome backlighting problem. Alternatively, you can use a flash to add more light on your subject and make it bright in comparison with the background.

2. Bright Overcast Skies

No doubt, this type of lighting is what macro photographers pray for because the thick cloud helps in diffusing the light so they can avoid harsh shadows on the subject. However, this situation doesn't work well in other types of photography.

If you are into landscape photography, you may found bright overcast skies quite challenging since it can be tricky to meter. It may even force your camera into underexposing the scene or blow out parts of the sky. When this happens, your image won't look good.

To solve this problem, you will need to mount a graduated neutral density filter. The ND grad lens comes with a clear half and a dark half, you can then position the dark half over the sky to allow less light into the lens. This trick will help you expose for the land without over-exposing the sky, ensuring that you capture detail in both.

Alternatively, you can use what most photographers referred to as exposure blend. This involves taking 2 or more shots with different exposures and then combining the best bits of each into a single image that has detail throughout. You can even achieve the same result with careful processing of a raw file.

3. Sunset or Sunrise

The sky may be so beautiful during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset. However, it poses a unique challenge for any photographer that wants to expose correctly. The reason for this challenge is that the sky becomes much brighter than the ground during this period and will almost result in silhouettes.

This can play into your plan at some occasion. However, in most cases, you will need to capture some detail in your foreground to ensure that your images are more natural and give the viewer some context.

You can solve this problem with ND grad filter. By using the ND grad filter, you can be able to expose for the foreground. You can as well edit a raw file selectively or simply combine two or more images taken at different exposures i.e. exposure blend.

4. High-Contrast Lighting

Depending on the type of camera you are using, you may notice that some cameras struggle more than others in a high-contrast condition. The reason for this is because they skew the exposure towards what is needed by the area under the active AF point. Nonetheless, when your AF points fall over a very part area of your scene, your camera may render some area midtone while other areas remain underexpose. Similarly, most areas of your scene will be overexposed if your AF points fall over a dark area of your scene.

The solution I will recommend for this problem is to make use of your exposure compensation tool to make corrections in the variations in brightness. Another solution you may try is to use your partial or spot metering modes to meter from a midtone area.

5. Low Light

You will probably require wide apertures and long exposure to work in a low light situation. But the problem is that any movement from your subject or the camera when you are shooting a long exposure will result in blur. In the same way, shooting at wide apertures may result in a really shallow depth of field which may seem nice in a portrait but not good in the landscape because you need a larger area of sharpness.

To overcome this problem, I will recommend that you push your ISO setting to a higher sensitivity. Doing so will make it possible for you to use faster shutter speeds and apertures that are more narrow. However, it may bring about the problem of noise and reduced saturation.

Fortunately, you may find it easy to overcome this problem since the high sensitivity performance of most sophisticated modern cameras has improved significantly in recent years. They can even allow you to shoot at ISO 3200 and 6400 with a very good result.

You can keep on increasing your ISO to know your camera's limit. For every point you move, take a test shot and check at what point the noise start getting into your image.

6. Midday Sun

When you are working in the summer months, the sun is always at its highest position during the midday and will result in harsh, short shadows which can ruin your images. For most landscape photographers, the solution is not to shoot during this period while portrait photographers will try to find some shade for their subject to pose in.

Another solution is to make use of a diffuser above your subject. This will mean getting an assistant of a third party; else you will need to invest in a remote release. Another popular solution is to use a fill-flash; this is simply a burst of light from a flashgun to fill in those shadows that are apparent in the midday sun.

7. Stage Lighting

When you are working in an event, you may notice that the stage lighting such as at live music event may seem too bright. This means you will need to push a camera's sensitivity setting up to ISO 3200 so you can use the shutter speeds fast enough to freeze the band's movements. This is a good alternative because a flash is mostly not allowed in such events.

You may also discover that the stage lighting may make it difficult for you to have control over the direction or duration of that light especially when it flashes on and off or simply moves around the stage. To deal with this problem, you will need to set your camera to its manual exposure mode and then take your shot when the main subject is well-illuminated using the recommended exposure settings. To ensure that your image is perfect, check the images on the back of the camera and histogram as well.

You can go ahead and adjust the exposure to take more shots if you feel there is a need for that. Otherwise, once you have the exposure you need, maintain it until the light hits your subject.

** NOTE ** If you want to really gain a solid understanding of light, grab the full tutorial, Fantastic Fundamental Light Skills. This one will change the way you see the world, and make you feel so much more confident that you can work with the light around you!

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