Every now and then I receive comments on Instagram about how someone loves the brightness of my photos. Some even ask me what filters I use to achieve that kind of brightness. I rarely ever use filters. If I do, it’s to achieve a particular mood but that doesn’t really apply to book photography.
As much as possible, I try to set up my frames such that they require as little editing as possible. Sometimes I still have trouble getting the right exposure, especially if the light keeps changing. When that happens, I at least aim to hit a reasonable range, then increase or decrease it accordingly when I post-process my photos since I shoot in RAW.
How to Achieve Bright Photos
Anyway, the point of this post is, how can you achieve bright photos? The answer is fairly simple. Take photos near a bright light source and bounce the light. What does bounce the light mean? It basically means that you use a neutral surface on the side on which the light casts a shadow to fill the darker spots with reflected light. (For a more in-depth look at the set-up, you can refer to Georgie’s post.)
On the left, I placed the book on a white background and left it at that. On the right, you can see that I propped up white boards to form a wall off which the light from the window could bounce. It’s a make-shift set-up that anyone can emulate. My approach is so low-tech, I used a paper clip to secure the upper corner.
If all you want to do is take a quick snapshot of your book and get on with actually reading it, you might wonder if this extra effort is worth it. I decided to let photos speak for themselves.
I took photos of the same book with and without bouncing light. The camera settings were the same and I took them in quick succession, so that the lighting condition would be identical. I also post-processed the photos with the identical settings, so that the difference would be evident.
The photo where I made the extra effort to bounce the light came out a lot brighter and the shadow of the book is very soft. Without the set-up, the photo came out darker and the shadow is a lot more pronounced.
In the second photo, I could liberally increase the contrast between the white and the black on the book cover. In the first photo, I couldn’t bring out the contrast without defining the shadow that the book cast on the white background.
Since I love bright colours that pop and tend to amp up the contrast between white and black for greater definition, I think it’s well worth spending an extra minute to set up. No amount of post-processing or application of filters will bear quite the same level of brightness.