Lighting Conditions: Part 1

disposable camera lightingIn this portion we’re going to be covering lighting for film photography. Personally it took me quite a while to get a feel for lighting, particularly with disposable film cameras because to me, Singapore only has 2 extremes, either really bright or really dark. Rarely are we blessed with cloudy weather.

not enough lighting in photo

(Photo A)

I want to start things off proper by putting this out here. Photo A depicts my first ever roll of film. Literally 2/3 of my roll cannot be seen and believe me, I was CRUSHED. Anyways long story short, I don’t want you guys who are just starting out in film to face this because who knows how this might affect you. You might give up and I don’t want that to happen, hence this guide! I’m laying out all my mistakes and what led up to them to ensure you guys don’t follow in the same foot steps.

Problem #1: Not enough lighting

I would say that this is the MOST COMMON MISTAKE, but it’s the one that’s the easiest to fix. Backstory to my first roll; we were at a bar and being the complete novice that I was, I figured that the bar’s dingy lighting sufficed. How wrong I was. It turns out that even if you think the area’s well-lit, your thoughts will not reflect in your photos.

(Photo B)

I took Photo B with my phone’s camera. Now you’re sitting there thinking; in this situation, why would you need a flash? It’s pretty well-lit isn’t it? Well guess again buckaroo. I’ve tried taking photos without flash in areas with brighter lights than this (See F10000017 in Photo A) and it still came out pretty nasty.

Solution #1: Use the flash, Luke

For beginners, USE THE FLASH if you’re not in natural sunlight, especially if you’re indoors. It won’t hurt using flash indoors because you’d rather get an overexposed photo than a blurry one right?

There are also certain types of factors to look out for, especially if you’re taking a photo indoors. This overlaps with Problem #2, so I’ll discuss this further in Solution #2.

Problem #2: I used the flash, but it’s still blurry

cave lighting

(Photo C)

natural lighting outdoors

(Photo D)

Both Photos C and D were taken at the Ba Ho Waterfalls in Vietnam. C was taken in a cave I found, and D was taken while I was walking back. The only difference would be where the light source was coming from.

For Photo C, there wasn’t any light sources in the cave. The only light source was coming from behind me, where the sun was shining. I thought that the problem would be solved if I just used the flash, and I was actually half right.

Solution #2: Light’s a constant, everything else is a variable

The solution to Photo C to me became obvious. I remember I was standing outside of the cave because I didn’t want to go in and get wet and I decided to risk it and take the photo from outside. But due to the distance, only the front part (if you notice Photo C, the rock on the bottom right of the photo is actually lit up from the flash) of the photo was lighted up. Actually, I personally feel like there’s some physics involved. See, how film works is that it captures the light photons and imprints it on the film itself as negatives. So when you take a photo, the light may not reflect of your subject’s surface as fast as your shutter speed. Hence, by the time the light photons reach your camera your shutter may already be closed. This’ll result in the blurriness you see.

Distance is definitely a factor if your light source is wonky. You’ve always gotta keep distance in mind because the shorter the distance, the less time required for the light photons to reach the camera.

As a side note, the sun wasn’t exactly blazing, so the photo came out with a very soft and dreamy touch to it. If you want a more clear and defined photo (i.e. Photo G), you might want to wait for when the sun is really beating down and take the photo from a certain direction. (We’ll discuss directions in Solution #3.)

Lighting indoors club grainy

(Photo E)

Also, as mentioned in the first solution, factors to look out for when you’re taking photos indoors. Take a look at Photo E. This was a photo I took in the back alley of a club, so it was an open area with just one wall, the background. My plan was to capture the girl together with the background so I stood approximately 3½ – 4½ meters back. It was late at night so naturally you’d want to use a flash but it still came out blurry. Why?

Same explanation about the light photons and the solution to this would either be to:

a) Go much closer to your subject so that you focus more on your target and less on the background

b) Take your photos in an area which is more enclosed, if you want to have the background inside

Problem #3: Didn’t use flash, there was natural lighting but it’s still blurry

harsh lighting bright streaks

(Photo F)

temple lighting blue skies

(Photo G)

Believe it or not, both Photos F and G are of the same temple. The only difference is the direction of which I shot from. For Photo F, I took it whilst facing the sun directly. For Photo G, if you notice the shadows the sun is actually on my left (if we’re looking at the photo from a 2-D point of view, as you see it), so it lights up the temples really nicely.

Solution #3: Don’t stare directly at the sun!

cloudy day film shot

(Photo H)

For starters, you might not want to take a photo of your subject whilst facing the sun directly, unless of course your subject is actually just the sun, as seen in Photo H below.

Normally, if you have a subject you wanna take photos of, you have to make that your focus. The sun’s pretty good at taking away that wonderful shot because it’s just so bright, so you have to play around with it. As long as you’re not directly pointing your camera at the sun while you shoot your subject, I’m quite confident that you’re photo WILL turn out wonderful.

That’s about all the problems I’ve faced up till now with regards to disposable cameras. Please do feel free to drop me a message if there are other problems you guys might’ve faced! Thanks for reading.



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