We know that light is an extremely important element in photography. It often can make or break an image. It’s of course not the only important factor for making a good image. There are many elements that go into it. However we have all captured a moment where we accidentally underexposed or overexposed the image, and sometimes there’s no way of saving it.
Natural light is fascinating to me. It’s ever changing and never constant. As photographers we must often be ready for the light to change at any moment. I love studying light throughout my home and discovering new areas I might have overlooked that produce great light.
As the seasons change, so does the light within your home. During the winter months here in Michigan, the light is often soft and rarely harsh. Days are shorter and I’m typically photographing in low light situations which tend to be my favorite.
In regards to low light, I always try to place my subject as close to the light source as possible. I find the stronger my highlights are in a low light situation, the better. Therefore by placing my subject near the light source it adds more contrast. I also intentionally underexpose some of my images, but only by a little bit. I prefer to underexpose an image more in post processing versus in camera because I feel I have more control on how I want the image to look. In low light situations don’t be afraid of a higher ISO either. In the winter my ISO is usually at 1600 if not higher.
Another form of light that I’m drawn to is side light. An easy way to achieve this indoors is by placing your subject near a single light source like a window. I love this type of light because like low light, it’s often dramatic with deep shadows and bright highlights. I love to experiment with this type of light in different rooms throughout my house depending on the time of day. For instance in the morning during the summer the sun filters partially through the trees in our backyard into our dining room. The light is often harsh and bright, but when I meter off the highlights on my subjects skin for proper exposure you can see the dramatic effect that is achieved. In my dining room in the afternoon the sun is on the other side of my house and the light is much softer at this point.
When it comes to outdoor light it’s no secret that golden hour is favored. I prefer to shoot during the golden hour in the morning and evening, if possible. Although in the summer months that can be challenging due to longer days and the difficulties of trying to keep little children up. I’m drawn to backlight the most during these times. I love when I’m able to achieve golden haze in my images.
I rarely shoot with a lens hood because I prefer to have both flare and haze in my images during the golden hour. One way to achieve golden haze is not only photographing your subject during the golden hour, but also find something to partially block the sun. I have a meadow behind my home with a treeline. I will often take my boys out in the meadow to play and position the sun at their backs, making slight adjustments to my position so that the sun is just barely peaking over the treeline. I also make sure to keep the sun at the very edge of my frame so that there isn’t too much haze. If you don’t have a treeline to block the sun you could also use your hand.
One of my photography goals over the past couple years is to push myself to experiment with a variety of light, and to find light in the most unexpected places. I try to study the lighting situation before snapping away (if I have time, because we all know that with little kids that can be challenging). Once I take a photo, if I don’t like how the light looks I’ll often try and change my position or move my subject. It’s a never ending experiment and a constant learning experience.