Learn to Embrace the Sun

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Going back to the early days, just after mastering the manual mode, I remember being totally intimidated by open light. I spent the better part of my first year or so “in the shade” and too scared to try shooting anywhere else. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? One of the most important elements in photography is light, yet I was afraid of it.

An early “in the shade” image.
Learn to embrace the sun

The more I learned and looked around at other photographer’s work, I realized that my photos felt a bit flat, or like they were lacking something.

It was light.

Once I realized that, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone, the shade, and have my children step into the light.

WOW, what a difference it made. I finally felt like my photos had the dimension they were previously lacking and so much more visual interest.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1. Look for the light
Way back, I was taught that you should shoot at sunrise or sunset to get the best light. Now don’t get me wrong, that golden light sure is GORGEOUS, but with a busy schedule and limited time behind the camera, sunrise and sunset are not always optimal. There is great light at any time of day; you just need to learn to look for it. Some of my favorite places to go include downtown areas where tall buildings will subtly diffuse the light, tree lined walking paths, and open fields. Experiment if you have to. You might surprise yourself and you will definitely learn from your mistakes.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

2. Understand how to position your subject
One last thing that is important to understand is how to position your subject to get the best results and avoid harsh shadows and glaring light.

I will admit, when I first got out there, I felt a little unsure how to best position my subjects so the lighting worked with me, instead of against me. Honestly this is why I clung to the shade for so long.

Have you ever used or heard of the circle test?

I did this quite often on location, especially in an open field where the sun might be pretty high in the sky. I would have my daughter stand up and I would tell her to slowly turn in a circle.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

As she did this, I was paying close attention to the way the light fell on her face. As soon as she stopped squinting, the shadows across her face disappeared, and I could see a hint of reflection in her eyes, I knew that was the direction I wanted to her to face. Also note when you find the right position based on the circle test, if you look at the ground you will see that the shadows are typically in front or to the side of your subject.

So if you are early on in your photography journey and feel intimidated by open light, I highly encourage you to step out of the shade and give it a try! I guarantee you will be hooked and become a lover of light, just like me. Shooting in the shade will be a distant memory.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Lisa FureyLisa Furey – Guest Post
I am a mom to 3, a full time corporate exec, and a part time natural light photographer living in Northeastern PA. I fell in love with photography in 2009 as we were awaiting the adoption of our 3rd child. The last 5 years have been an incredible journey that has allowed me to look at the world in an entirely different “light”. Trying to find the perfect balance to fulfill all of my daily responsibilities, yet continue to pursue my dreams, passions, and creative outlets definitely has its challenges, but I can’t imagine my life any other way.
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Creative Lighting Tips: Using Natural Reflectors in Your Home

Creative Lighting Tips-Using natural reflectors

It is no secret that I love dramatic lighting. And I love shooting indoors, especially during the winter months. But as the winter drags on, I feel the need to get a little creative to keep all of my pictures from looking the same. One of my favorite things to do is to play with lighting.

Lighting is the most important factor to me when I am pulling together and idea for an image.

If the lighting is boring, there are very few cases I can think of when just a pure moment, or expression, or captured emotion, made a wow! image for me. Would I ditch those images capturing amazing emotion (with so so lighting)? With my mommy goggles on, no way! Absolutely not! (I would never throw away those precious images)…but, mommy goggles off, nope, not a chance of adding it to my portfolio. And whether you are in business or not, building a collection of images that you can be proud of, where the technical aspects of photography and emotive aspects come together, should be important to you! Roses Hot Spot-61_CIUAN

 Nikon 105mm f/2.8G  |  ISO 500  f/5.6  1/80 (little slow there)

 Today, I am going to talk about using natural reflectors to light your subject and how you can use it along with the inverse square law.

A reflector is a tool that you use to bounce light back onto your subject. I have this one from Photovision . They are usually white, but you can also get silver/gold to cool/warm your image. So a natural reflector is something that is already there reflecting light. There is nothing extra to put into place, it just happens to be there in nature, in or in this case, your home.

It can be the hardwood floor, carpet, couch, the wall, white bedspread, or a white baseboard or door. Basically, anything that light is hitting and bouncing off of can be used as a natural reflector. Lighter colors work best as darker colors absorb more of the light and are less reflective. Because I love dramatic lighting so much, I’m going to talk about what I call “hot spots” and using those as natural reflectors.

Roses Hot Spot-47_CIUAN In photography, I can think of two ways that the term “hot spot” can be used.

Hot Spot:
1. A blown out area. An area in an image where one, two, or all three of the channels are blown, where there is decreased or total lack of detail in highlights. When all three channels are blown, it will be a bright white area in the image.

2. An area on a surface where direct light is shining in through a window. Hot spots provide areas of intense bright light streaming through a window or doorway. This is the type of “hot spot” we will be discussing today.

When a subject is placed near a hot spot, the light bouncing onto the subject will be brighter than background areas making it and optimal spot to apply the inverse square law to light and photography. In the upcoming photos, notice how the ISO is typically pretty low for indoor shooting.

Roses Hot Spot-20-Edit_CIUAN I always like to include a nerdy tidbit for those like me who like to know the technicals behind why we do what we do and why it works…so those cool photographers who don’t care, skip to the next paragraph. For those nerds like me, keep reading!

Wikipedia defines the inverse square law (when applied to photography)  as “the inverse-square law is used to determine the “fall off” or the difference in illumination on a subject as it moves closer to or further from the light source”. Simply put, that just means that the subject is most illuminated when closer to the light source (duh!) but as the distance away from the light source is doubled, you get a quarter of the intensity or amount of light.

So, what will you see in camera? The the background will appear much darker the farther away from the light source. The brighter the light source, the greater the fall off. This is the “how” behind images with really dark backgrounds that appear almost black. And because the way a camera “sees” isn’t as advanced as the way the human eye can see (the camera can’t record the dynamic range that the eye can see), often, this effect is exaggerated with a camera. Roses Hot Spot-18_CIUAN

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G | ISO 250 f/1.4 1/1000

In the following image, the hot spots brighten the shadows a bit on the subject. The main light is the window light (indirect), the hot spot reflect light back into the shadows so that the rest of the image isn’t completely in shadow, but a few details are still maintained, even while blurred.Roses Hot Spot-13_CIUAN

Nikon 35mm f/1.4G | ISO 250 f/1.8  1/640

Now on to the basics.

1. Spend a little time looking around your home for hot spots and think of what kind of story you want to tell.
Do you want drama? Then this tutorial is for you. You can use either the actual hot spot, by placing your subject near it (like I did with the, um dead, roses)!! Or look for where the hot spot is bouncing the light. My youngest is standing in the reflected or bounced spot of light.Bray Office LInes EOD-6-2CIUAN

Bray Office LInes EOD-6_CIUAN2

 Nikon 35mm 1.4G  |  ISO 200  f/2  1/500

2.Place your subject near a hot spot, or for a really dramatic look, you can place your subject in the hot spot.
In the hot spot will provide some really dramatic lighting with some major light fall off. The back ground will more than likely be completely black. Some might describe this as “bad” lighting..or say “don’t place your subject in direct light”… but I think it is all about how you use your lighting. It’s a choice depending on what mood you want for your image.

Take note of the darker rooms. To the eye in real life, they don’t appear this way, but in camera, depending on what area you want to expose for, this is an example of the inverse square rule I mentioned above. I exposed for the brightest area of his face in this image.

Bray Lollipop-60-Edit_CIUAN Bray Lollipop-65_CIUAN

 Lensbaby Sweet 35mm Composer Pro  |  ISO 2000 f/???  1/500 (aperture doesn’t show in camera data with Lensbaby)

3. Watch your hot spots throughout the day.
Like all light, they will move around. Lots of opportunities to seize!

Notice again the inverse square rule in action below.

Sannie Hot Spot-26-Edit_CIUAN

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G | ISO 500  f/3.5  1/320

 The following images, Sanford (our little Frenchie) is in the same spot. The differences are how I changed my position or turned him to face a different direction. I played with different exposures. I used underexposer for more drama in the silhouette. I opened or closed the door more to manipulate the light that was bouncing off of the doorframe and white door. Think about the light you have and how you can manipulate it for different looks.

Sannie Hot Spot-34-Edit_CIUAN

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G | ISO 500  f/3.5  1/80

Sannie Hot Spot-33_CIUAN

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G | ISO 500 f/3.5 1/200

Great example of inverse square rule:

Sannie Hot Spot-32-Edit_CIUAN

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G | ISO 500 f/3.5 1/320

Sannie Hot Spot-36-Edit_CIUAN

 Nikon 50mm f/1.4D | ISO 500  f/3.5  1/80

And here is a person in the same spot, if you would rather see a person rather than a dog!

Bray Hot Spot Door-17-Edit_CIUANBray Hot Spot Door-25-Edit_CIUAN

 Nikon 105mm f/2.8G | ISO 200  f/2.8  1/250 (both images)

4. Get creative! Anything goes!
I don’t mind the hot spots showing in my images. In some images, it is more of a distracting element and I may crop or clone it out, in others, the lines of the hot spot can be used to lead the viewer. Below, I like the lines in the image. The light is reflected back onto Sanford making his face brighter. It isn’t for everyone, but I’m just putting it out there that it’s okay to have “blown” areas sometimes, as long as it adds to your story.

Sannie Hot Spot-9-Edit_CIUAN

Nikon 35mm 1.4G  |  ISO 250  f/1.4  1/1000

EOD Lines Day 1-10-Edit_CIUAN

Nikon 35mm 1.4G  |  ISO 200  f/2  1/8000

One more pullback:

Bray Dusty Crophopper-33_CIUAN Bray Dusty Crophopper-43-Edit_CIUAN

Nikon 35mm 1.4G  |  ISO  800  f/2  1/1000

Check out Melissa’s post about how to edit an image using dramatic lighting.

Hopefully, if anything, this post has given you some ideas about using unconventional light in your photography. Now, go take a tour of your home and find some new spots to shoot in! Feel free to ask questions in the comment section!

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Behind the Scenes: Sleeping

Every since sharing my Project 365 photos, I get questions on how I capture certain ones. I thought it would be fun to do some posts describing how I capture a particular photo. Short, sweet, and to the point. So keep an eye on my Project 365. Let me know if there are any other photos you would like to know about the behind the scenes. We can't help but want to capture our sweet sleeping children. Sometimes, it is the only time they are still enough to capture. Behind the Scenes: 1. Turn ...continue reading

Behind the Scenes: Sleeping

Low Light Photography Tips

Low Light Photography Tips

It's Fall! And for those of us in the U.S. that means shorter days and less light as the nights lengthen. There are several ways to approach this new lighting situation of the fall and winter months...avoid shooting in the evening, break out the flash, or....embrace it! I'm not going to let low light get me down. I don't have an external flash, and I refuse to use the pop up, so, I choose to embrace it! I hope that after reading today's tutorial, you will too! Low light photography is so ...continue reading

8 Tips for Backlighting

8 Tips for Backlighting

Shooting into the light is my favorite. I receive emails all the time from people asking what the trick is to backlighting. Most often people say their images are dark or they can't focus into the light, don't know how to find the light or have no clue how to position their subject. While this takes lots of practice & requires different settings/set ups for different lighting situations, here are some general tips. I hope this helps some of you! 8 Tips for Backlighting 1. Spot Meter. ...continue reading