SIDE LIGHT discussion of 6 Jan 2010 (Comments & Corrections, PLEASE!)

topic: SIDE LIGHT (Painters, see below)
Produce striking art, photos, greeting cards, portraits etc., that grab the eye! And really stand out from other work!

Natural side light on white orchids.
Olympus E500

goals: Be able to recreate effects regularly, as wanted, on different days.
Learn the best angles for your pics. (In your area.)
Learn to look through the view finder as a way to frame pics after much, much bracketing. (And knowing your area.)
Realize that new seasons, new locations, different sky scapes take more bracketing and study..
Bring Magic Light photography up from lucky snapshots to a professional, semipro rate shots with at least 90% successful photo rate.
Learn to use your tripod with only one leg down for quick turning movement. (Careful not to tip it even slightly. Very useful trick. More later.)
Learn something about light that you didn’t know (or didn’t know you knew) before.
Leave others wondering what makes your art so astonishingly different!

We’re all familiar with ‘blink-um’ front light at its worst, and rear or back light which makes silhouettes at its worst or best, but sidelight is almost always benign and interesting. This can be achieved both indoors and out— at night, place your indoor light (or yourself) so that the light shines on the side of something, with the other lights turned way down off or down. Suddenly this object can become a half-hidden, mysterious and intriguing object, instead of the common, ho-hum thing you always see it as. It’s great light for bouquets, portraits of people and animals, toys— just about anything. It adds dynamics- strong darks and lights in the same pic. Mirrors are often used to reflect bits of light onto different sides of things. (It’s fun to do, too. Try it with portraits! No Practical on it though.)

Thank you, Mike!

Outdoors, side-light can happen
A. on a cloudy day, with thick, dark clouds down near the horizon even without the sun shining under them.
The ground will reflect light back up to the clouds: light then bounces between the clouds and the earth with the dark clouds absorbing some
parts of each wavelength, taking “static” or “noise” out of the picture.
The air will be sparkling clean, too, in the after-storm side light. (MESS loves this lighting effect. It’s its own type of enchanting, magical light.
when you turn the side of the camera to the sun.
B. This lighting brings out interesting shadows and highlights you can only see with side-lighting, such as ripples, definition in the human form or rock,
mountain formations, clouds and trees,. plants. This make dynamic light, and photos shot at about 45 degrees to the light are eye-grabbing.
But this is only Magic or Enchanted Light when it has morning or evening characteristics, and the camera is turned more or less than 45 degrees to the sun.


1. Go out when the sun is close to the horizon. If you think of a clock, the sun should appear to be between 4:00 and 7:00 on the dial.

2. Set your camera to take 3 or 5 shots in a fast row (ing) [Even some pocket-cameras have the feature. If not turn, stop, shoot, turn, stop, shoot.]

3. Turn on the microphone and tell yourself that you’re going to take the next (x=number) of pics as you turn right or left. Tell yourself what time it is on your watch, too, as well as the month/season, and why you’re taking the bracketed pics..

4. Get ready to hold the camera by hand (or on a one-legged tripod) and twist your trunk from dead-on 45 degrees toward 90 degrees (toward or away from the sun. You’ll do this 4 times, twice on either side toward the sun, and twice on either side away from it. Talk to yourself about what you notice and what you do.

Chances are, you’ll find a couple, at least, of amazing, dramatic photos of the light and how it ‘sets off’ the objects you’ve photographed.

5. Post a few works to this discussion- it will stay up forever, add anything you’ve noticed as you took your pictures, and add a couple of the best to “MESS”: Tell what you like about the pics you post or put here, or what you noticed. Or what you don’t like- put them here if you’d rather.

Repeat the steps of “1st Practical” on an after- or before-storm day. Any time of day when a storm has left dark grey or black clouds to play with the light.

Portraiture in natural Side Light
(Model: Wooly)
Casio Exilim 12.1mp compact camera


goals: the same as above

Thank you, “Lynda Robinson”:

1. READ the information above: We’re studying light, not photography or painting.

Take your camera or your favorite photographer and do all the bracketing exercises above.

Plan ahead: make a simple ‘map’ of the area you’ll be using for your study with just the main points, no shadows, etc. Make several copies.
Draw in the sun and the direction of the light on-site, using just a circle for the sun (even if you can’t see it) and the direction of the light by line & arrow.

4. Use your hands or fingers to make a square or a tunnel to look at your area through. Note the colors and shadows that you see RIGHT NOW on your map.
The light will move and change in a fraction of a second, so be crazy-fast. Do this in all 4 angles with the sun around 4:00 to 7:00 (not the time, but the angle. Make your watch to act like a kind of compass or protractor, if you know that trick.

*5. Are you “cheating” to use a camera?
The “Old Masters” used cameras, believe it or not. Camera is a term for “a room”. They’d build themselves a little room somewhere in front of what they wanted to interpret onto canvas, with a side-door and roof to keep light out, then drill a tiny (pinhole) into the ‘front”. Focus and size would be “fixed” by putting stuff in front of the back wall, then the canvas would be tacked up to be painted. They never went out to paint except in the hours that had the light they wanted. The only “hole” in this system was that the pinhole, being a true (if glass-less) lens turned everything upside down!
Not knowing that multiple prisms would right the image, they happily guzzled wine and painted what they saw hanging upside down in front of them.
It was almost like paint by number. And they never went out to paint except in the hours that had the light they wanted.*

Imagine the Impressionists hanging around Paris, painting all those fuzzy, beautiful, upside-down images: Exact copies of what their lens focused or not) brought them. *Try it: making your own room-sized box camera! It’s really crazy-fun!! And authentic! And hard to tear yourself away from. Set a timer or a clock and leave when the light changes, or you’ll stay all day with your left half of morning light, your mid-part of noon light, and your right half of evening light!

CHALENGES for SIDE LIGHT (Good Jan 2010)

So, enjoy!!
Dayonda Stribing
® 02 Jan 2009

Hi Dayonda!

Well I don’t know that you need me! I have read through the above, and firstly can’t really comment on the photography section as I use a small digital camera which has got every setting you would want on it, and then you can crop etc on the computer later. So you are the expert there.

As for the second section for Artists, I usually use my camera using an artistic eye to capture a scene, rather like I do a painting. And I take photos of scenes that I have painted ‘plein air’ to refer to when I get to my studio to finish the painting. Then, about the ‘camera lucida’, I have read about its use by the old masters. It is truly fascinating, and puts my mind to rest as to whether use of the camera these days is ‘cheating’ or not! David Hockney, you may have heard of (English artist) has written about their use with the masters, and also has examples of artists who used them, and those who didn’t! The ones who did use them got the perspective and the folds of dresses etc perfectly. He also writes about their modern interpretation (googling him and camera lucida will get you more info if you want it). And you can buy them I understand.


NOTE: If you want to see something other than my cat pictures, please let me know if I may pick through your Gallery for illustrative art, or if you have one you’re sure I’ll be able to use let me know. After all, what’s a discussion on art knowledge without art in it? !!

And so is Proof-reading, which I simply can’t do my own work!
® 06 Jan 2010
Do not quote me without direct, express permission from me, please!
Dayonda Stribling
® 07 Jan 2010

SIDE LIGHT discussion of 6 Jan 2010 (Comments & Corrections, PLEASE!)


Joined March 2008

  • Artist
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Artist's Description

Learning to turn yourself and/or your camera about 45 degrees away from the sun can really make your art and painting stand out!

A Discussion on the effects and use of light on the object from about 45 degrees, with Practicals 9and at date presented, Jan 2010) Challenges for practice and fun!
I’m an artist: Am I cheating when I use a camera and then paint from the photo?
I say, not at all. A huge but simple pin-hole type “camera” that the artist stood or sat inside was how many Old Masters did their masterpieces!

Artwork Comments

  • robpixaday
  • Dayonda
  • seena
  • KazM
  • KazM
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