Back in the days of film most photographers would use lights to solve lighting problems. Adding light via artificial lights was called additive lighting. Many photographers still use lights. And a skilled photographer can get stunning results with effective use of lights.
I like to use subtractive lighting when it’s appropriate. Taking away the natural light when it’s creating problems. Here’s an example of how that works. Notice in the following image there is a bright highlight at the foot of the door cast by the sun coming through the overhead skylight.
I decided that this was a distraction from the overall composition. In the second frame you see my assistant, Ken, holding a card to cut the light.
The third image below shows the result of blending the first two images to remove the hot spot. Sometimes these hot spots can add to the composition, so I don’t have a hard rule for dealing with them. The same technique can be used to remove reflections on artwork or related reflective surfaces.
I like to work with natural light, since it tends to creates a sense of drama and a sense of depth, and it helps show off design elements, particularly lighting that might not read as well with artificial light.
A number of years ago I was discussing photography with the creative director of a winery. She told me that their top bottle photographer was an expert at telling the wineries story in the reflections in the wine bottle. It could be a reflection of the vineyards in the background, or some other aspect of the winery.
Since then I’ve always looked for ways to use reflective surfaces to help tell a story relating to the photo. It could be using the bathroom mirror to show the shower, or some similar situation. Here’s a good example of how that can work. In this case the reflective surface is a TV screen. In today’s home there are no shortage of TV screens, most of which photograph as black holes with annoying reflections. When I set up the camera for this image, the TV screen was angled to show a stack of boxes onone side of the room; not very interesting. We angled the screen a bit, and voila, we were able to bring more of the outside greenery into the room.
One of the things that leads to a successful photo shoot is being able to solve problems on location. Besides our cameras the next item in our arsenal that gets the most use is a red mop bucket full of cleaning supplies: glass cleaner, towels, Goof Off and a variety of other items. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve reached for that bucket on a photo shoot.
On Tuesday evening though we had a situation that we hadn’t anticipated. We were scheduled to shoot a sun room addition with a fire pit. We checked ahead and confirmed that the fire pit was working. When it came time to turn the fire on we discovered that the propane tank was empty. To save the shoot I was able to pull the propane tank off my pop-up camper and use it to fuel the fire pit.