Use of three-point lighting adds more dimensions to your imaging, colors explode and you are able to remove shadows as you paint your picture with light. When you shoot with one or two light sources, you often get shadows. When you shoot with three light sources, you can use the third as a fill light softening shadows and adding to any scene. I like to have a model or buddy provide the extra light source. Start watching videos, movies or images and figure out where the light is in the image.
If you decide to take on the challenge of three-point lighting to give depth to your images or video, discuss with your buddy before getting in the water. Before diving, take a few minutes to explain hand signals you will use with your buddy to make them move the light up or down so there is no confusion. If they are using their light as the fill light, their light needs to be a little farther away from the subject than the main lights on the camera if you have three of the same lights. If you are mixing and matching powers of light you will have to experiment with your settings. If your buddy is going to be posing with the light in your scene, you want to discuss how you want them to move in your scene and how you want them to position the light in relation to your camera lens.
The creative possibilities are endless. You can turn off your lights and have only the third light illuminating the subject. You can do top lighting or back-lighting. Although these techniques may sound advanced it is easy if you experiment in a pool before you go into the open water. You can get excellent results once you understand the concepts and see the lights in action.
You can use three lights of the same color temperature or you can mix and match the color temperatures by putting gels over the light sources. By doing this, you are the artistic director. I have a few lights I like to use and will pick and choose which effect I want to convey depending on time of day and the subject. Often at night the third light can round up animals for the camera in ways that bright lights off the camera would only scare the animal. Not all lights are created the same. There is a significant difference in the photo lights and the video lights and you want to choose your light source for what types of images you want to capture.
For night diving, I never leave the dock without a red light. You can capture amazing images by using the red light as a constant light and firing your strobes to capture the scene. Photo lights differ from video lights because of the angle of light coming out of the light head whether it is spot or flood mode. Shooting macro is easier than wide angle because you can get away with less power. You usually are 3-12 inches away from your subject with your camera. Wide angle becomes more challenging as people often try to shoot scenes from too far away. I have a general rule for wide angle, I shoot within a fins reach to an arms length away or closer to my subjects.
Being able to “paint our scenes” with light adds a dimension today that was not possible just a few years ago. Whether you are shooting with a compact point and shoot or a DSLR system, you can apply these techniques to improve your shooting immediately. You don’t have to be great to get started, but you do have to get started to be great! So what are you waiting for? Get some lights and start designing your next dive by experimenting and discovering how you will become a painter of light.
Annie Crawley is a featured ambassador for Light and Motion who pens a column on their facebook page each Tuesday called “Ask Annie”