Use a Marble to Find Good Available Light

Steve 21 has an interesting trick for finding good available light: he places a marble in his hand to simulate what the light would look like on a human face:

Just hold a fist in front of you (like holding a telescope), tuck the marble just under your forefinger, and there you have it – the same lighting an eye would get.

And since you know you want the catchlights to be up at 1 to 2 o’clock, or up high at 12 o’clock, simply turn about until you see the catchlights you want.

The neat thing is that the curves and wrinkles of your hand show you the amount of contrast and backlight.

Black marbles: the latest must-have item in any beginning photographer’s camera bag.

A Trick to Finding Good Available Light []

Image credits: Photographs by Steve 21

  • Peter Neill

    Brings a new meaning to loosing ones marbles :) Love this though!

  • Sarah P.H.

    This is great, I’ll totally have to try it the next time I’m trying to get a good shot of someone’s face.

  • 3point9

    Great tip!

  • Tran-Shawn Yu

    very clever!

  • Meelis Veeremets

    Excellent idea!

  • Dtaylor

    Excellent Idea! I plan to use this in my next portraiture unit teaching.

  • Mary Siani

    Great idea!  I’m off to buy a black marble!

  • Ashley Pomeroy

    I just carry around a miniature human head, covered in grease – it has the same effect and I can talk to it when I get bored.

  • Misou

    I’ve actually considered carrying a full mannequin around when I need to practice.

  • Anonymous

    how about looking at the person’s face and eyes?   Unless of course you setting up lights with no one there ….

  • Skylark

    Good point…

  • Faith Michele

     Right, not always practical to have the person there. (Such as when scouting for a place to do bridal portraits before the wedding, or during the wedding day when you can’t “borrow” the bride away from what she’s doing for a lighting test.) Great idea, by the way!

  • K_icarus57

    Studio Photography 101.  Don’t need marbles for people, just pay attention to the ambient light reflecting off a person’s iris.