{Mentor Mondays} Let's talk lighting!

I am SO excited to kick off this series! I've taken down all your questions and designed this series entirely to fit your developing photography needs. I LOVE your feedback, so as you have additional questions please let me know. 

I'm going to start off with tips that everybody can incorporate immediately, easily, and affordably, regardless their equipment. That's right! If you so much as have a camera on your cell phone, you can start snapping better pictures TODAY. The further along in this series we go, the more technical we'll get. So DSLR owners, sit tight. We'll be talking aperture, shutter speed, and ISO before you know it. 

Without further ado....

Let's talk lighting!

The first rule you need to learn is that light is directional. This means that wherever you are, there is probably one main light source, and it is only hitting your subject from ONE angle.

"Who is that handsome guy?? OH RIGHT - that's my husband. I snapped this over brunch on a mini-getaway to Baltimore last year.

"Who is that handsome guy?? OH RIGHT - that's my husband. I snapped this over brunch on a mini-getaway to Baltimore last year.

In this case, the dominant light source is the sun shining through the booth windows to Daniel's left.  This sunlight was unmatched by the interior lights of the restaurant, and the result is a heavy shadow cast on one side of his face.

"Ok... 'light is directional'... so what??"

Where there is light, there are shadows! If I was going for a moody artistic photo above, I'd have nailed the dramatic lighting. But, like most of you, I just took a picture of somebody I love to remember a trip away from home. When I saw it later I thought: "Boo! Why would I want to stare into one pretty blue eye when God gave him two?"

The everyday picture-taker is just like old-me sitting in the booth in Baltimore: totally unaware of their light source, and how the shadows it casts on your subject may be horribly unflattering. Flip through some of your recent photos. Are you making any of these common lighting errors??

  • Does your subject have "raccoon eyes"? Your dominant light source is coming from directly above, casting a dark shadow over the eyes.
  • Is your subject giving you the "squint-and-grimace"? Your dominant light source is shining directly into your subjects' eyes!
  • Is your subject "two-faced"? Your dominant light source is hitting your subject from the side, brightly lighting one side of their face, and hiding the other in a dark shadow.
My photo albums are filled with pictures like this. How about yours??

My photo albums are filled with pictures like this. How about yours??

"I'm convinced! Light is directional, and can cast really unflattering shadows. What is the fix??"

Photographers often use a technique called "back lighting" - and, you guessed it, it means you place your subject's back to the light! Easy peasy, right??

Why yes, that little chubster IS my even-balder baby Kaelyn!

Why yes, that little chubster IS my even-balder baby Kaelyn!

See the difference? Not only is there a heavy shadow on Kaelyn's face and arms in the left photo, but her tu-tu is so bright that you can't see all the detail! That's a lose-lose. So I slipped over where the light was to her back, and voi-la! The result is an evenly-lit portrait of my little nugget.  

But don't just take my word for it! Let Liz show you just how soft and even a backlit photo looks. Yowza!

Back lighting is most easily accomplished early and late in the day, when the sun sits low in the sky. The photography community calls these the "golden hours" for picture-taking (more on that next week). BUT, since most of us can't limit our family memories to these few hours each day, consider these tips for successful mid-day photos:

  • Find shade! Shelter yourself from the harsh rays, even if you have to hide under a tree to do it.
  • Force the flash! (Turn it "on" - not on "auto") If you can't avoid the shadows, you can "fill" them instead!

Always be aware of your light source. If it's creating unflattering shadows on your subject, move! 

Now, go forth and conquer! Try your hand at a backlit photo today :) Then share them on my facebook page so I can see your progress! 

I'll see you back here next week for more lighting tips!