Light, Camera, and Scale: Griffin Lamb's Tips on Shooting Dramatic Scenes

Griffin Lamb @griffinlamb shares his tips to light and scale in capturing dramatic scenes. Understanding fog, light on the horizon, shade in the foreground, and temperature.

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In the attempt to compose photographs with an emphasis on scale, one thing that is often overlooked is lighting—a mistake that must be corrected, for light and scale are inextricably linked to one another. Even on overcast days, whether illuminating an object in the foreground or in the distance, the ways in which light interacts with a scene brings greater depth.

One of my favorite aspects about light is how it can dramatically change the same scene. The soft light of overcast days evoke mystery and mood whereas the golden light of a sunset brings about a joyful vibrance. No matter the weather, how light interacts with the scenes we encounter.

Under The Temperature Of Light

Playing With Fog

Fog is inherently mysterious—concealing certain aspects of a scene entirely or partially while leaving other parts of a scene in full view to the onlooker. If you’re lucky enough to encounter fog while out shooting, be adaptable—capturing the same scene at different times as the fog rolls through it.

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Under Playing With Fog

Because of the diffused lighting that fog creates, worry less about the exposure of the image (for it is already properly exposed) and instead focus on how to draw viewers into your composition. Utilizing paths, roads, or other types of vanishing points will create a depth that interacts beautifully with the fog within the scene, bringing about a sense of mystery.

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Light On The Horizon

When the sun is rising or setting over the horizon, place objects like trees in front of the sun, forcing the light to weave from the background into the foreground. While this inherently creates more depth in your composition, it will also add a glow to your image that only a sunset or sunrise can provide.

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This requires improvisation—often times adjusting your framing of an image until the sunlight bursts from the background and into the foreground. This phenomenon is sometimes called “rays” by photographers, as the light often bursts through objects in the foreground in a singular beam of light.

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Shade In The Foreground

It is not often that an entire image (foreground/background) is exposed perfectly by the light. To add depth to an image, I will often focus on the background of an image where the light is particularly fascinating, leaving the foreground of the image darker than the rest of the image. In post-processing, I then selectively increase the shadows of the foreground, creating an image in which the whole image is in clarity despite the focus still being on the light in the background.

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The Temperature Of Light

It is easy to forget that light carries with it a temperature—with “colder” light appearing more blue and “warmer” light appearing more yellow. When post-processing, tinkering with the temperature of an image can drastically transform the feeling that an image evokes in the viewer.

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