Learn more about the E-Course Lessons

Lesson type

Below is an actual lesson from the Photocraft 100 Lesson E-Course. Video is included where complex set ups need to be demonstrated, and sometimes a big assignment is set for you to master a technique. In total there are 100 lessons containing 3 different lesson types: Text + Image, Text + Video, Assignment.

Lesson Length

Lessons vary in length but this lesson below is typical of most lessons on the course. Around 5 minutes is required to read/watch the lesson, and 30 minutes is recommended for completing the assignment within the lesson. Students who spend 30-60 minutes practicing the theory of the lesson and posting their assignment photos or findings for tutor feedback gain so much more from the course and prove to become great photographers!

Lesson aim

Each lesson contains a technique or theory and is usually published alongside 2 or 3 other lessons of a similar theme at one time, the aim being that in one session of visiting the course the student will gain a thorough understanding of the theme of the day. A lesson contains information and a fun assignment for the student to go ahead and complete. The combined lessons from the day give the student plenty of optional assignment work to do which can be completed at leisure, there are no deadlines for assignments. Students are encouraged to share their practice photos, discuss their ideas and ask for feedback from the tutor and other students in the online course chat room.

Lesson publishing

Once published, a lesson remains live until the end of the course period. It takes 6 weeks for all lessons to become live after which they remain live for a further 18 weeks until the classroom closes. The lessons flow in order and should be completed in the order that they are published, but the student can tune in at any time to catch up.

Sample Lesson

Lesson 27: How to read the light in a photo

Shortly we will find the perfect light in your home or office to use for taking still life photographs, but before we do this we need to master the art of reading light, so pop the kettle on, grab some magazines or cookery books and take a seat!

Aiming for a natural look

As I mentioned previously, on-camera direct flash causes a generally undesirable effect for bloggers, makers & sellers of lovely things. The narrow beam of direct light will cause harsh shadows and highlights and light pointed directly at the subject from the front will eliminate any beautiful texture and form in the item/s you are photographing.

See how different the dried flower looks with direct flash (left) and with no flash (right). The shot on the right (despite just being a quick snap) already has a sense of place, just by using natural lighting. It also enhances the texture and displays more accurate colour.

Flash on off 1200

Without knowing you can already read the light in these two photos. Notice how the natural window has allowed light through the petals and highlighted the edge in this close up of the above shot…

flash off detail 600

In contrast to the flash version below where detail and form is lost…

Flash detail 600

If your camera has a built in flash, try it for yourself. Grab a bowl of fruit, flowers or any textured subject that you have to hand. Position it close enough to a window that it can be lit by the window light then take one photo with the flash on, and another with the flash off.

Now you know what is going on in these photos you could probably read the light in another photo and know the lighting used, it’s really quite easy. Now you can read light, you just need to learn how to read the finer details.

The clues are hiding in the shadows

Shadows are where you will find the answers to the lighting riddles in each photo you see. You can tell a lot about how a photo was taken from the shadows, or lack of them.

Light coming from one side will create shadows of different length depending on the angle of the light source. When the light is lower (top of doodle) the shadows will appear longer, similar to how they do late evening when the sun is low and you see beautiful long shadows from trees.

shadow lengthWhen the light source is higher (bottom of doodle) the shadows will appear shorter. On a sunny day take a look at how the shadows change outside at different times of day.

Of course when you add equal light from the opposite side, those shadows will be eliminated altogether, similar to when you use direct flash from the front.

no shadowsWhile uneven lighting will show the texture and shape of an item better than completely even or direct front lighting will, lighting from one side only can create a dark side to your image.

We need a good balance and the majority of my time working on location is spent balancing light to make the scene look clear yet natural. I will teach you how to do this, bouncing a small amount of the light back into the shadowed areas as and when the shadows appear too harsh for your taste to give a good balance. We will look at how you can do this in upcoming lessons with home-made reflectors and different lighting techniques.

To know how to improve lighting, you first need to be able to read the light in a scene. This takes practice but you will soon pick it up!

PC courses coffee time

Now it’s your turn to master the art of reading light, by now your cup of creative brew should be ready and you can study some photos, any photos of still life with some shadows in them, cookery books are great for this task.

Why not find some photos that you would love to be able to recreate? just studying them closely like this will help you get your photos closer to those you dream of creating. I can help you to get your photos looking just as good, if not better! Don’t forget you can also post a photo in the chat room and ask me how you would re create the lighting in it, I’m there every day to advise you.

So let’s see if you can figure out from which direction the light falls. The shadows will give you the vital clues as to the source, angle, intensity and size of the light.
Find 5-10 photos that you love and see if you can draw a doodle that shows where you think the light source might be if viewed from above and from the front.

blur-from-above

Here’s an example of my doodles, you can see I’m much better with a camera than a pencil! but you can draw it however you wish, your doodles are just for your own notes.
lighting doodleThe shadows in the image are not very long, which is why the view from the front shows the light source to be quite high up. If the light had been lower, the shadows would appear longer.

There are shadows at the back of the soaps but not at the front, which suggests the light source was positioned on the south side of the soaps as shown in my doodle.

The shadows are soft and this suggests a large diffused light source.

This exercise will make you look at all photos in a whole new, erm… light!

Always studying photos in this way, questioning the light source, size and direction, will give you a solid understanding of lighting and improve your own lighting skills no end. If you want to become a great photographer this is the key. It’s like chefs trying new recipes or writers reading more books, you need to study your art.

Do share your doodles with others in the chat room! Simply snap a photo of them next to the book/magazine photo, I will also add some photos for you to guess at the lighting set ups.

Once you are happy that you have taken some time to read and guess at lighting scenarios, then I’ll see you back here for the next lesson but don’t miss out practicing this vital stage, it is key for the success of your own photos going forward.

If you enjoyed reading this lesson and completing the mini assignment then you will love the other 99 lessons in our e-course! Work along with a group of friends and share your adventures with each other and your tutor in the exclusive student chat rooms.

The flower photos were captured with an entry level SLR camera perfect for beginners: Canon EOS 100D