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Flat, diffused lighting, overcast days...
Old 04-08-2005, 10:56 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Can someone help me with the definition of "flat lighting" and maybe post an example or two?

My interpretation of it is when there are no defining shadows. For example, on a bright overcast day the light is omnidirectional which removes most of the shadows.

I usually hear flat lighting described negatively, but I often hear that overcast days are some of the best for photography. Is this a contradiction or am I misunderstanding everything as usual.
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Re: Flat, diffused lighting, overcast days...
Old 04-08-2005, 11:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Hmmm. At a recent workshop I attended, instructed by Dave Blecman, he defined flat lighting as lighting that originates from the camera such as on camera flash or ringflash. This is slightly different from even lighting that you often see in glamour photography. I tend to agree with him on this distinction.Examples (sorry one is a huge pic):

Flat light bounced off the ceiling:


Even lighting from two softboxes and a rim light:
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Re: Flat, diffused lighting, overcast days...
Old 04-08-2005, 12:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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The flat lighting in your examples is very complimentary to the models. It also resembles what I see on overcast days.

On another critique site, I often see negative critiques like, "its nice, but the lighting is flat." I just couldn't figure out why flat lighting was considered a no-no on that site...

Perhaps the critics on that site just have a favorite catch-phrase: its nice, but the lighting is flat
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Re: Flat, diffused lighting, overcast days...
Old 04-08-2005, 12:45 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Low contrast lighting or lighting which provides little or no shadowing.

On camera flash directly above the lens would be considered flat lighting as well.

Two lights at the same ratio to the given subject would be considered flat lighting

Flat lighting does not necessarily mean light from a cloudy day, alone.


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Re: Flat, diffused lighting, overcast days...
Old 04-08-2005, 04:23 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Flat lighting usually takes away from the shape of the subject. You know that what you are shooting a picture of has shape, form and contours to it, but the flat lighting tends to loose much of these things.
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Good and bad ..
Old 04-08-2005, 09:41 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think there is good "flat" lighting and bad. So it depends on which you are talking about. A bright overcast day gives you in effect a giant softbox where you will have very soft lighting (the shadows will be very diffused). This can contribute to a soft romantic look. This is where a black reflector can sometimes be useful to subtract light from one side of the face or form and give a variation to the shadow. But you'll see a lot of "flat" shots that turn out to be poor shots because the contrast is shot and I fell that often that is what many mean when they say the photo is "flat".

Cheers,
rfs

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Re: Flat, diffused lighting, overcast days...
Old 04-09-2005, 01:41 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Flat lighting is simply lighting without shadow or with minimal shadow. Shadow defines the shape of an image and gives it dimension, so though it can occasionally work, flat lighting is usually not an ingredient of a quality photo.

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