I want to teach you how to find good natural light.
Knowing how to find the good light is going to really up your game in the photography world. You will start going about your photos with intention and a plan instead of hoping it will look nice. Don't get me wrong, this takes a lot of practice. I will say it is going to be so much easier and helpful though to have this knowledge and teachings about natural light first, rather than complete trial and error.
When I take outdoor photos of my clients, I always plan the sessions in the evenings.
To take that a step further, I try to always schedule sessions about 1 to 1.5 hours before sunset. This is know as the golden hour and provides wonderful, almost glowing light. There are times that the hour before sunset doesn't work well for my families, because they have really young kids, etc. In this case, I am flexible and we go somewhere that has great shade on a sunny day. Going just after sunrise is another idea, but not many families are excited about getting their family ready that early and I don't plan them. If it is cloudy, I don't worry about having shade. The clouds act as a nice filter, so we don't have to worry about harsh sunlight.
Here are my tips for shooting photos during SUNSET.
I love taking photos during the golden hour with a great sunset. When I plan on a location for these sunset sessions, I like to think of an area that has some open space to move as well as a nice barrier for the sun to sunset through. For example, trees are a great barrier for the sun setting, to peek through. In Ellensburg, we are pretty much surrounded by ridges/hills, so the sunsetting happens over the ridge first, and sometimes there will be a second barrier layer, like trees or bushes for the sun to come through. People can also be a barrier between the camera and the sun. If you don't want the sun to be right behind in a photo, then all you have to do is change your position a little.
As the sun continues to drop, I like to turn my subjects, facing towards the sun. At this part of the day, the sun's light is so soft and warming and it isn't going to give harsh shadows like it would at noon. I especially love the light that is still coming from the sun, but after the sun is not visible anymore.
Here are my tips for shooting photos in the SHADE.
Shade can be super helpful when photographing during the day or just when you want some softer light. Basically, find some shade, walk your subject(s) to that spot and have your subject facing out towards the light source. So if you choose tall trees as your light source, don't have your subject facing the trees. Have your subject facing the field, with the trees in the background.
Something to be aware of when you are taking photos in the shade is being careful of mid-day light, coming through the trees. It will cast a green color and skin tones will look funny. You also don't want to be too deep into the shade that you create shadowy photos or really underexposed photos. I like to pull my subjects out a decent amount from any walls or trees to make sure they are bright enough, but their bodies are still completely in the shade.
Here are my tips for shooting photos on a CLOUDY DAY.
Cloudy days can be great for taking photos. The clouds provide a great filter between us and the sun. You do loose some of the warmth you get from a sunny sunset, but you get pretty even light in exchange. Make sure to practice all scenarios, sunny sunset, sunny shade, and cloudy.
When shooting on a cloudy day, you still want to make sure you are facing your subjects towards the source of light. This might mean the light that is bouncing off a field, not necessarily where the sun is directly. To feel more confident, in finding that nice light, scroll down to where I teach you about my "back of the hand" trick.
Another cloudy day trick is to find a spot to position your subject that creates a tunnel. Sometimes, cloudy days can give dark circles under eyes. This is where the tunnel effect really helps. So, image walking through a dark tunnel. The closer you get to the opening, the brighter it gets. Not only is it getting brighter, but the direction the light is hitting you is coming from in front of you and not from above you. This is important, because it avoids any shadowing. Trees, archways, and other things around can create this tunnel effect. Try it out. I love the light it gives, especially when there are clouds.
Here are my tips for shooting photos INDOORS.
When I am shooting photos indoors, I am either taking photos of my family, client families, or newborn sessions, which also include family. It is super important to find the rooms in the home that get the best window light, also know as natural light. I turn off all the lights, so we don't have funky tones with the artificial light. Then mostly face subjects towards the natural light, pouring in from windows.
When you have your subjects facing towards the natural light you are creating the tunnel effect I just wrote about. This is great even light to have in your photos. Turning your subjects slightly from the window light is going to give more shadows, but in this situation, it can be part of your style or your brand, to add this moody look. Play around with it. Once I have my subject facing towards the natural light, I move all over the place, getting different angles and perspectives of what is happening.
I want to say something about finding the best light in a home. In some homes this is easy and in others it is a bit of a challenge. Don't let this discourage you. Let this be an opportunity to get creative. Maybe the best natural light is only in the kitchen. Then make photos about being in the kitchen. Even if the family doesn't want to bake, you can still have mom and dad holding kids, sitting them on the counter, sitting on the kitchen floor, petting the dog, etc. Any connection you capture will be meaningful.
When you feel more comfortable with natural light and your camera settings, you can step into trying out shooting photos with window back light. This is just another idea to feed into your creative photo style. When you take photos with the window behind, you will find the settings on your camera will change quite a bit too.
I want to share with you my little "back of the hand" trick.
Yep, it kind of sounds a little silly, but this helps the best lighting scenario jump right out. So, here are the steps. First, hold your hand straight out in front of you, with your fingers pointing up, towards the sky. Second, you are going to slowly turn in a circle in the spot you are wanting your subject to be. While you are slowly turning, you are going to be looking at the back of your hand and noticing the light changing. You will notice the change in shadows and your hand getting brighter or darker. When your had reaches the light spot. This is the direction you will have your subject face, when they are standing/sitting at that spot. That's it! Pretty simple, but super helpful!
The way you create images with light is going to help you stand out as a photographer.
The way you use light will become a part of your brand. Be creative and try different ideas. You will find the special connection you have with light and photography. This is going to highlight the way you see life and that's beautiful!
Your assignment for Lesson 3:
Alright, now that you have read about natural light, it is time to start practicing. Follow the steps below as you use this month to practice indoor photos.
- First you need to walk around your house, or other indoor location where you will be taking photos. This needs to be during the day, when there is natural light. Notice what it is like in the morning and afternoon.
- Now, plan which room(s) you want to photograph in and at what time. To keep it simple, invite your kids to play a game or have a tickle party wherever you want to take photos. Maybe before you invite your kids to come hang in the photo room, get the settings on your camera set.
- Then face your subjects towards the light and start taking photos at different angles. Maybe from above, maybe from in front. Maybe try taking photos of them while you are laying down on the ground.
- Continue to check the photos you take, to make sure your settings are right.
- Alright, this step is optional, go ahead and send me your favorite photos you took!
CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU GROW AS A PHOTOGRAPHER!!