GOOD LIGHT VS. BAD LIGHT
We all know that good light makes for better photos, and bad light makes a photographer’s life more difficult. But how often do we get a chance to actually make the comparison? Well recently I had an opportunity at my Butterfly House workshop. I took this stick insect at about 1.50pm on a sunny afternoon.
This photo is probably as well-exposed as it could be in the circumstances. The problem is the high level of contrast in the light. There are highlights and inconvenient shadows all over the subject; even worse, the background is so full of patchy light that it becomes a major distraction and spoils any potential the photo may have had.
I shot the same subject again at about 3.15pm, when the sun was much lower in the winter sky and filtered through nearby trees, creating a much softer sunlight effect.
With less contrast, the subject stands out much better. The photo is now much more about colour than it is about contrast. When you remove those highlights and shadows, the warm colours of the stick insect stand out much more effectively against the background. So this is almost the exact same opportunity, made much better simply by shooting in better light.
You could apply this same principle to almost any natural-light subject, from landscapes to wildlife to portraits. And as I said at the start, we all know this as a general rule of photography. Yet time and time again we see pictures taken by impatient photographers that are ‘just OK.’ Many of those photos could have been GREAT if the photographer had just waited for better light. It’s not a small difference…it can be the difference between a snapshot and a work of art.