Photography Tips


Apolline running after her shadow under the sun. Nikon D750 ISO100 1/3200s with 85 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.8

Apolline running after her shadow under the winter sun. Nikon D750 ISO100 1/3200s with 85 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.8

For beginners, a good photography starts with a good subject. While progressing, the quality of light becomes a priority over subject, as any of them can deliver a great result as soon a moody lighting is falling on it.
Franc Peret

In my Essential Photography Classes, I very quickly emphasize the importance of light to my students who solely focus on camera settings and the subject itself.

Commercial photo shoot are done in studio to get the best result out of the subject.
TV commercial lighting set up involves much more equipment, time and budget than the shooting part.

I am always repeating this back to basic motto: “without good light, there is no good picture”
The word “Photography” literally (from its Greek origin) means: “painting with light”.

Working with light means also working with shadow and everything in between. Nikon D750 ISO100 1/60s with 24-120 mm f/4 @ 90 mm f/11.
My little one looking at the main door bathed by soft natural light shaping her face with a bright line. Lumix GM5 ISO200 1/160s with 45 mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

It is the reason why, big budget advertisement, movies and important visual production are spending most of the money on lighting equipment, specialist and crew.
It is also the reason why studio shooting are making a difference compare to natural light session (for portrait, products and fashion).

Reflective tools under sunlight. Nikon D750 ISO100 1/1000s with 24 mm f/2 @ f/2
Graphical Shanghai airport. Nikon D90 ISO 200 1/60s with 18-140 mmf/3.5-5.6 @ 18 mm f/8

Also, memorable landscape photography are always shot at the best time of the year and the best hours of the day.


Of course, with newer camera able to shoot at very high ISO (higher than ISO 6400), this original idea seems outdated.

Meeting new friends. Lumix GM5 ISO1250 1/30s with 25 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4
Marc the gardener in winter light. Lumix GM5 ISO400 1/15s with 25 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

And some geeks are spending their time to challenge their vision and their equipment capacity by shooting subjects in “no light” situation such as a jumping black dog in a tunnel at night.

Apolline, her mother and a stray cat. Lumix GM5 ISO100 1/640s with 25 mm f/1.4 @ f/2
Summer in France. Lumix GM5 ISO100 1/160s with 20 mm f/1.7 @ f/4

With this search of camera efficiency in low light, subject is not important anymore, only pixel peeping and noise hunting on screen seems to bring satisfaction.

Cinemascope framing for this outdoor portrait: During a sunny day, keeping the subject face under shadow deliver a softer and more pleasing look. Nikon D750 ISO100 1/640s with 85 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

However, this kind of practice is not related to photography anymore and I am calling it “ISOgraphy”.

Light is all you need

Therefore, whatever camera you are using, a better lighting will always bring the best improvement in your photography.

An old bed frame became a art piece in my garage, before It goes away in a garbage truck. Nikon D750 ISO140 1/160s with 24-120 mm f/4 @ 92 mm f/5
A plastic bottle on a table in my home.Thanks to the light, anything can become attractive.
Lumix G85 ISO 200 (to preseve details) 1/8s (G85 has a great internal stabilizer) with 100-300 mm f/4-5.6 @ 125mm f/9 (to get enough depth of field)

I am so used to search for light (or building up lighting for film making and studio work) that my emotional response to any subject (even my little daughter) is linked to the quality of light falling on them.

My little one is cute, and even cuter under great lighting, her eyes turned to the sky.
Nikon D750 ISO100 1/320s with 90 mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8

Somehow, anything under good lighting is a subject to me and my feeling and creativity is building up the shot.

Quality of light?

When I am speaking about lighting, there is sometime a misunderstanding among my students.
While I am considering quality, they are considering brightness only.

Blowing dandelion seeds… Mid day under blue sky is not offering the best lighting, better to avoid strong shadows on face by choosing your point of view according sun’s position. Nikon D5500 ISO100 1/3200s with 50 mm f/1.8 @ f/2

A good quality of light is shaping the subject (3D feel), bringing a mood (hard or soft), displaying vivid or pastel colors, offering a strong B&W type of contrast or a smooth transition between bright and dark area.

Vintage Suitcase in market. Direct sunlight emphasize colors. details and texture. Nikon D750 ISO200 1/125s with 24-120 mm f/4 @ f/11
On action shot, best is to wait for your subject to cross the light you had detected. Nikon D5500 ISO400 1/1000s with 18-140 mm f/5.6 @ 140 mm f/5.6

As soon as you are starting to be sensitive to light, it is a never ending experience as it is spreading such a wide panel of beauty and there is nothing more enjoyable in life than to see beauty everyday.

Hard light with sharp shadows under winter sunlight. Nikon D750 ISO100 1/3200s with 85 mm f/1.4 @ f/1.8

No need to be trained to find good lighting, it can be anywhere, anytime (for close up shots) and you just need to open your eyes and to concentrate on the way light is falling on things and people around you.
And whatever is bath under a great light will become your subject…

Former photo journalist, Film maker and ELC Shanghai Photography teacher, Franc Peret is teaching Essential Photography Classes, Advanced Photography Workshop and Film Making Classes in Shanghai, for the last 11 years.
If you wish to contact Franc, just drop an email to

When you are used to see a landscape, it changes drastically according the sky scenario. Nikon D5500 ISO100 1/2000s with 18-140 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18 mm f/5.6
Even in a darker area, you need different sources of light for shaping the scenery. Lumix GM5 ISO400 1/25s with 20 mm f/1.7 @ f/2.8