We're all so busy that we mostly walk around all day in our daily lives and are usually oblivious to the light that is all around us. We are usually only concerned with light when it's too dark, and then we just flip a switch! However, if you are a photographer, light is a vital part of everything you do. Without a mastery of it, images can be very bad. You know this from shooting with your iPhone camera. Half the time we look bad simply because we are unaware of how the light is hitting us, what type of light we are being lit with (there are several different colors of light- florescent being the least flattering), or the angle in which it is sculpting or shadowing us.
When clients enter my studio they often ask what the 10 foot tall boards that are painted a variety of colors are for. I'm fairly certain they think I'm crazy when I ask them to stand in front of a window and then encase them in them! The most common purpose however is simply to serve as GIANT reflectors. In photography when you control light, you can create magic, and it's most special when shooting into what is know as "the backlight". When you see a shot such as this one where the subject appears to be floating in the heavens:
...it's because the photographer has carefully planned the lighting to be "just so" to create that ethereal glow. Here's the magic behind how it happens. The two polystyrene boards you see below have been affixed with feet, and then painted white. The model is being hit from all sides by light bouncing around all the white surfaces. Think of it this way, in the summer you wear white when you either don't want to get a sunburn or want to stay cooler because the sun is reflected away from it. Conversely black absorbs it. So the magic is simply proving the right environment in which to make it happen, and of course owning and understanding the settings that make the subject look as though she was exiting a cloud. No worries though, I know exactly what to do and maybe now so do you!
Model in instructional shot: Candace Rice, Hair & Makeup Candace Rice + a bit of Photoshop. Photographer: Tammy Zurak~ Z Photog Studio