Lighting Is Key :: Digital Photo Secrets

Lighting Is Key

by David Peterson 4 comments

Lighting can make a serious difference to your photos.

The most recent example is this photo from subscriber Kilian Hofmann. Kilian entered a Curves competition with the following image:

Now this image is outstanding in a number of ways. Kilian took the extra time needed to wait for just the right lighting and mood to take the shot. And the process of doing that, he turned what was a rather ordinary photo into a masterpiece that won the competition (Congratulations Kilian!)

How did he do this?

Kilian was kind enough to send me the other photos he took that day.

Although these are good images, none look as good as the winner.

I asked Kilian how he took the image. He said "This picture has been taken with my Nikon D50, without tripod, at the end of the day (17.45 local time). There was a magnificient sunset, and the sunbeams and the light reflecting in this rather impressive metallic structure catched my eye."

There are two things that set the winning image apart from a 'normal' image like the others he took.

No Distractions

Kilian has cleverly cropped the image to a square format. Removing the excess sky that appears in his other landscape shot helps focus our eye on the sculpture. Also, there are no other distractions like posts or people as in the other images. "The angle I choose was the best one concerning the background (no disturbing elements at all) and the sunset behind, showing the entire sculpture"


This I think is the most important. While the other portrait images he took show some good light and shadow, it's the setting sun that creates the wonderful orange, yellow and blue backdrop that allows the sculpture to stand out.

So how do you find great lighting like this? Look around! Also, it pays to have your camera close with you all the time. As Kilian explains: "I most often have my camera with me when going out for a walk. The 'come back another time' is too hazardous, since the weather conditions and the light are never the same here, and missed opportunities mostly remain missed ones."

Things don't always go to plan

"Here an example: Near to my home is a crossroad. For months now I try to take a picture including the 3 elementary colours yellow (the pedestrian crossing), red (the stop light) and blue (blue spots incorporated in the asphalt) by rainy weather (for the gleam). I succeeded one evening, but due to a bad manipulation of my camera, the pictures unfortunately were useless. Rain is not missing here, but of course, the 3 following days we didn't have any rain. Unfortunately the blue spots can't be seen anymore!!! Due to the vibrations of the thousands of cars passing by, they have fallen off and wait repair!"

Kilian is not a pro either... "I still consider myself an amateur. I'm retired since september 2005, and when I left, my firm offered me a voucher, allowing me to buy a camera and a PC with Photoshop. Since, photography became my new hobby, and I spend now hours and hours by learning as much as I can, and this also with the help of your free tutorials."

So don't be afraid to keep looking for different ways to take your photographs. Make them more interesting by using angles, light and Depth of Field. And don't be afraid to enter competitions either - you never know what you might win!

P.S. This was Kilian's first ever competition! "I never before entered a competition, the April competition is the really first one and I'm especially proud being the winner of it. This gift certificate will allow me to buy the Nikon Zoom-Nikor 55-200 mm lens. It's up to me now to take all the birds (among other animals) I never could take at distance before." Well Done Kilian and make sure you show us some of the images you take with your new lens!

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  1. Jacob says:

    I'd be awesome if there was a site that had all the photo contests in the world and you wouldn't have to search for them lol... photo wise love how the blue and orange are 50/50 and break the photo up.

  2. Max says:

    An inspiring photo and cogratulations
    Yes so many times I have missed a good photo because it isnt with me

  3. Roy says:

    I was just wondering after reading his notes, what camera and lens did Kilian use for his winning photo and congratulations to a first price and his FIRST competition too.
    Kind regards Roy.

  4. Bockereyer says:

    I good eye, patience and a little luck is all you need to make great pictures.

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