Motivated Light in Photography

The concept of using motivated light has to do with including a light source in the scene as part of the story, but also does the job of illuminating the subject. It’s a concept that’s more commonly associated with cinematography. However, you can still apply the same principle to photography and end up with excellent results. In this video, photographer Gavin Hoey from Adorama shows three different examples of how you can use motivated light for taking portraits:

“Motivated light is simply a light that’s in your scene, but you’ve increased its ability to light your scene.”

Light sources like lanterns or a window are common examples that can be included as a part of the story. However, they come with challenges of their own. For instance, the lantern may not be bright enough to light the subject and create a mood. And the light from the window can appear scattered, which in turn kills the mood. As Hoey demonstrates in the video, the trick is to motivate those light sources by using a speedlight or flash. This gives you greater control over the lighting process while allowing you to set the mood you want.

While using motivated light, be sure to pay attention to the direction in which you’re placing any additional lights. You’ll want the fill lights to be in the same direction as the motivated light. Otherwise, it will look completely unnatural and wrong. Also, you can use light grids and gels as accessories to help you control the light direction and mood.

Be sure watch the entire video to see how you can use motivated light to elevate your portrait photography skills.

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