Light in Photography: Part I

So, lately I’ve been getting a lot of “if I had your camera” or “wow, your camera can make even me look good”. I started hearing this so much in fact, that it determined me to start a series of posts on the technical aspects of photography. You see, all though it may seem like it, I’ve never told my camera: “you have a session today… good luck!” and then waited for it to come back with the pictures :). There is a lot of thought put into each picture and a lot of things have to go right for it to “wow”. I’m still learning and I’m so excited to keep growing but, I’ve decided to share a few things that I’ve learned along the way with all of you.

I realized that a lot of you are interested in photography and want to make your pictures have a “wow” factor. So, whether you’re an amateur photographer, have a love for photography or just getting to know your camera, you can follow along and learn some of the things that make a photograph great.

I’m starting with light. Why? Photography is light, without it you wouldn’t have a picture. There are flashes, reflectors, soft-boxes, umbrellas, there’s on camera and off camera lighting… you can write a book on all the different techniques for lighting a subject. And each one gives you an entirely different look. I will be talking about natural light. The sun can either make or brake a picture. It can over expose, it can create drama and of course it can lighten up any picture.

These two pictures of my son show different ways the sun can affect your subject.  The first is around noon in full daylight, the second is at the same time except in the shade.

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In the first picture you can see that there are a lot of bright spots and shadows (under his eyes and nose).. the picture is over exposed by the bright mid day sun. This is the reason you will never hear a photographer schedule a session at noon. So, what do you do if you have an outdoor wedding at noon and you need to get a few portraits? You use shade. This is very basic, but it is so very important. The second picture is taken in the same place in the shade. All the dark shadows are gone, he’s evenly lit and he became the focus of the picture.

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The sun was pretty high during this shoot… causing problems like shadows and over exposure. For this reason, I used the wall to block out all that extra light. In the first picture I let the light hit my lens, causing that ray of light and a washed out look. In the second picture I angled the camera out of the light and there you have it, a perfectly lit Jessica.

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These pictures where taken at sunset. In the first, the sun was write behind Michelle and Liviu and it was pointing straight at my lens. This caused the washout background, darker subjects and the golden hues of the sunset to beam in my lens. In the second picture the sun stayed in the same place but this time I used Michelle to block out most of the sun. This kept her nice and bright with the sun lighting up parts of her hair for an extra glow.

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The sun was pretty high up for this one as well, but it wasn’t right on top of us (which is all that mattered). I put Ema and Catalin in front of the sun and by having them forehead to forehead I created a light barrier so there would be no shadows on their faces. With the sun behind them it created a little bit of a rim around their head and outlined this beautiful couple.

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I chose this as the last image because it will lead into the next blog. This was taken around sunset, I angled the camera toward the bright sky and I set my camera to underexpose the picture, causing my subjects (Ema and Catalin) to be completely underexposed and the bright sky to stay that way. Now that we’ve covered how the sun can effect your pictures, it’s important to learn how the camera uses light. In the next post I will go over this. In the meantime questions are welcome! If any are posted, I will choose at least one and answer it in my next post ;). Happy clicking!

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