Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Technique Tuesday: How Deep Is Your Light?

Good Afternoon Everybody,

I hope everyone had a great weekend.  We arrived back home on Saturday evening safe and sound from our trip to NYC.  What a great time we had seeing a few of the sights and helping my daughter, Elizabeth, get moved into her new apartment. I remarked to LaDawn just how friendly everyone was that we met during our visit. The entire week was a really nice experience.

LaDawn w-book But the highlight of the week - LaDawn's shameless promotion of my new wedding book. Here is the story. She wanted to be in the cheering crowd near Rockefeller Center Thursday morning as they filmed the Today Show and see if she could get "noticed". 

Well, she didn't get noticed, but the girl next to her did.  The girl next to her was selected for the Plaza Ambush Makeover segment of the show that aired later that morning.  What can I say, LaDawn did a great job of product placement for my book. The whole thing was a hoot.  You can catch 12 seconds of the adventure by hitting the PLAY button below. (Just give it a second or two to load.)

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

If your interested, you can catch the entire Plaza Ambush Makeover right here.

OK, enough fun and giggles - time to get on with this week's edition of Technique Tuesday.  Here we go...

How Deep Is Your Light?

Today's tutorial discusses one of the most misunderstood concepts in photography.  Today's topic is on Depth of Light and how to use it to your lighting advantage. 

Most of the time when photographers are out on a wedding, many are just shooting away with no regard as to just how the light is "falling" on the scene.  Then they look at their results and are disappointed in what they see.  Many times their results could be improved significantly by just understanding the Depth of Light concept.

Simple stated, the Depth of Light concept says that the further your source light is from the subject and background, the softer the light fall off on the scene.  Ever notice that when you are shooting close up reception dance candids, the background goes really dark?  That's because the light, from your on-camera flash in many cases, is much closer to the subjects than the background.  The inverse square law says that light falls off inversely with the "square" of the distance.

Now take a look at your group photographs at church. Notice the background seems more illuminated?  That's because of the depth of light concept coming into play. I might be making this a bit more complicated than it really is.  Why not hit the PLAY button below for the rest of the story.

Update: I hadn’t  mentioned it in the recorded part of the tutorial, but remember, if you move your light source away from the subject  to even out the light, you definitely need to increase the flash output, increase ISO, or open up the aperture the appropriate amount to compensate for the greater distance the flash is from the subject. Also remember, I shoot my of-camera flash in manual mode so I just kicked it up to 1/2 power at my 20-25 foot distance.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  Things are shaping up around here for a fairly busy week so I've got to get back to my real job. 

I'll see ya' tomorrow… same time… same station… -David


  1. Wow, thanks for that tutorial David, these are just invaluable nuggets of information.
    I have one question, do you increase the power of the flash when you move further back?

  2. David, Very interesting but.... By being further away, would you need to increase the flash output to stile get the proper exposure on the subject?
    Thanks, Dave

  3. David,
    great tutorial (as always).
    Unless I missed it, did you have to change camera and/or flash settings when you backed the light up?

  4. Ha. That was awesome... LaDawn and The Today Show. What a beautiful plug. Brian F.

  5. This was a great tutorial, but, how do you balance this information with the mantra of "better light comes from bigger, closer light sources"? Do you just not worry about the bigger light source recommendation when trying to improve background light ratios? Thanks!! Joel

  6. Thanks David....your tutorials are the greatest!!!

  7. David,

    I always love to watch your tutorials and since you're an iPad owner yourself, I would much appreciate if. You support a link to eg a YouTube movie within you're blogpost. This way me and other iPad users can watch your terrific movies on this device.

  8. The depth of light video was awesome! Thank you!

  9. Very cool video! You always have the ability to make things easily understandable. I think the video in conjunction with the photos really illustrates the point well.

  10. Could you please slow down the speed of your speech? The delivery was too fast to both listen & understand.

    A similar question that was asked eariler on "How deep is your light?" by Joel H: does moving a back small umbrellas not turn them nearly the same as bare flash?

    Thanks much.

  11. This is an excellent tutorial, David. I remember attending a Captured by the Light seminar of yours in Indy a couple of years ago and I immediately implemented what I learned on my next wedding. I want to commend you on the clarity and practicality of your tutorials. I usually have an "Aha!" moment - the concepts are so simple but seemingly had eluded me until you pointed them out. Thanks. -Stuart