Learn Photography Light. Part #1

In the first lesson, we will try to understand the light nature through an experiment. The direction of light is one of the fundamental ideas of photography. Some of them are the amount, angle, temperature, and softness of light. But they will be touched in the future lessons. Today it’s all about the direction.

You will need:

  • The object — let it be a cup of tea, a slice of fruit, an egg or the single colour ball (ideally white). Use all objects one by one for a better result.
  • Table lamp, white bulb is recommended
  • Table big enough to place the lamp at a 30- 50 cm distance from the object
  • White paper to cover the table (if table is white, it’s not necessary)
  •  Camera (smartphone will do)
  • Tripod is ideal but not necessary
  • Stool and big window in the daytime for the second experiment

Note: Use an Auto White balance in both the cases.



Experiment No #1. Artificial Light

Place the object on the table. Let’s call it “stage”. Imagine that your object is located in the center of an analog watch, and your position to the object is 6 o’clock. Put the camera on a tripod, (alternatively, you may keep it in hands at the same position during the experiment). The angle of your camera is supposed to be 45 degrees to the object. Place the lamp on the left front side (approximately 50-30 cm from the object) in a “7 o’clock” position. Then switch the lamp on. Capture the image. Shift camera to “8 o’clock”, again capture the image. Shift lamp to “9 o’clock” and do it again. Keep repeating till your lamp appears at “5 o’clock”. Try to make one image with the lamp at “6 o’clock”, it will give you an idea that why the use of an inbuilt flash is never recommended by professional food photographers!
When you will see all your images, analyse the position of the shadows and how light covers the object, and how much shadow remain with every position of the lamp. The light will work with your object in almost a similar fashion most of the time. This lesson is very important because all other information will be somehow related to it.


Experiment No #2. Natural Light

Put the stool covered with a white paper about 1.5 meters away from the window. Place your object (preferably the white or single colour ball in this case) on the stool. Position your camera at an angle of 45 degrees from the object. Stand near the stool in such way that the light from the window falls on the left. Consider you are standing at “6 o’clock” position. And as your light source is not movable, you will move along with the camera. Step to “7 o’clock” and click the picture, then to “8 o’clock” and click again. (Try not to block the light when you shoot from “8, 9, 10 o’clock”). Once you clicked all the 12 pictures, see all of them together.



When you will compare all the 24 pictures, you will find the difference between an artificial and a natural light. The details the light temperature, and the softness of the light will be all different. Remember these values are like photography multiplication table for number 2. We will discuss other qualities of the light in the upcoming lessons.

P. S. Hope these experiments gave you some food for thought. Share your experience with fellow readers in comments. Cheers:)

Photo Gear. My Cameras

I would like to give a few words on my collection of photo gear. Here, is an overview with focus on the camera. Lenses will be touched later. First of all, I photograph more in the studio than outside. My gear works great in a good studio with proper light conditions. But, if you are looking for something like street or sports photography, this gear will not suit you. Food photography is still life. It rarely moves. Even if I capture chef’s portrait or restaurant interiors with people, they still do not move fast. But, even then I have something for outdoor shooting. Here is a short overview.

Travel Set

Let’s start from the set I use for traveling. While I travel, I just need a decent yet not-so-expensive set of gear, which provides me with decent photographs. I may potentially print or use those photographs in my portfolio. Or I may sell them. That mean my camera and lens have to be good but affordable.

Many Years ago, by trial-and-error method I came to this set Canon 550D (European EOS Rebel T2i) + Canon 18-200. I had Canon 450D (Canon Rebel XSi), but it didn’t have the video option, so I sold it out. I also had Canon 18-55 kit lens and Canon 75-300; both were good lenses. But it was difficult to travel with both of them, so I sold them as well. Canon 18-200, on the other hand, also has few disadvantages. Firstly, its maximum aperture is F3.5-5 which creates certain difficulties for street photography, as it requires extremely good light conditions all the time. It moves down if you shoot from top angles. Seeing the bright side, it’s very versatile, focusing relatively good while in decent light conditions, and you need not change it all the time.
But sometimes as food photographer you need this shallow depth of field and f5 is definitely not up for it. For such cases, I got Canon 50mm F1.8. This prime lens is very affordable and creates amazing depth of field with lovely bokeh. The dark side of it is that it creates chromatic aberrations, which may reduce chances of photographs to be sold. But if you use it for yourself it will not disturb you.

Studio Set

For professional work, I use Canon Mark ll and sometimes Canon 60 D. Full frame camera such as Mark ll or Mark lll creates tremendous advantages for photographers who shoot for commercial purpose. The sensor of the camera is big and provides more details. Usage of the lenses is also quite different. For example, full open Canon 17-40 will give you really open angles while on crop sensor cameras 17-40 will be equal to 28-64. And my favorite lens Tokina 100mm macro will be equal to 160mm on the crop sensor.  Using both cameras during the shoot give a lot of freedom. By the way, when I making videos of the backstage of the photo shoot, I use my camera and lens from the travel set.

In conclusion

New photographers often ask which camera to buy? They don’t realize that a camera is less important than the lens. The photographer’s creative mind is so much more important than any gear 🙂 But when I have to answer this question I always recommend to put attention on lenses. It’s better to invest on an expensive lens than on an expensive camera. Remember that many lenses will not work with full frames. So think twice if you plan to buy full-frame in future.

Yes and THAT question…. Canon or Nikon? 🙂 The answer is simple. If you will start to build your lens collection with Nikon, fewer are the chances that you will shift to Canon later, and opposite. Both brands are equally good and are developing fast. Photo gear is a serious investment, so plan it wisely.