I am a HUGE lover of light and I am always observing it around me everywhere I go. I am always noticing the way it hits an object or the way it illuminates my subject. I am the crazy lady that takes my camera with me everywhere and has even had her kids play in the grocery store parking lot because the light was so good. I love to capture it in every form and at any time of day. Every image I take is inspired by light in some way, so I am going to show you my favorite ways to use outdoor light creatively.
Read more: 6 Steps to Creating a Silhouette
Backlight is when the sun or light source is behind your subject. I love using backlight to give a more magical feel to an image. I usually like to have something behind my subject to filter the light, like a building or trees.
Shooting with open sun right behind your subject can create a ton of haze (unless the sun is almost setting or has set), and while that can be pretty for an image or two, it’s usually not the look I’m going for when backlighting. I also like to overexpose a stop or two to ensure the skin is bright enough.
Read more: 8 Tips for Backlighting
Rim light illuminates and creates an outline of light around your subject. This is another form of backlight. You typically need harsher light to get this affect. I find right before or at the very beginning of golden hour works best to achieve this. I tend to underexpose a tad when I notice rim light because that will help it stand out more.
Flares are such a fun and creative way to use light! Every flare is unique and you never know what you will get. When trying to achieve a flare the best way is to get the sun partially blocked by your subject or an object in the background (trees, buildings etc)
While it’s possible to catch flares when the sun is very low, these typically aren’t as dramatic as when the sun is higher. You can achieve flares with direct sunlight (nothing behind your subject to filter), but I find the haze with direct sun to be overpowering and the flare isn’t the star of the image.
Read more: Easy Steps to Create a Starburst Photography Effect Day or Night
This is one of my most favorite ways to be creative with light. Silhouettes are best captured when the sun isn’t too high and with an open sky (no buildings, trees etc). The sun needs to be behind your subject to achieve a good silhouette. I tend to shoot mine at the very end of golden hour when the sun is low and those sunset colors are really showing. It’s even better when there are clouds.
I love adding interest to my silhouettes with props like balloons, umbrellas, sticks etc. I usually choose a wider angle for my silhouette to show off the sky. When exposing for this I always expose for the sky. This will give you a perfectly dark subject and perfectly exposed sky.
Reflections add an element of interest a photo and There are many ways to capture reflections: in a body of water, puddles, windows, bubbles etc. I usually expose for my subject and enhance the reflection with contrast and clarity in post processing to make it pop even more. Reflections can be shot at anytime of day, but I find the golden hour is best for an extraordinary reflection shot.
This is a great way to add playfulness and interest to a photo. For shadows you can have the sun in front of your subject and something behind our around your subject that the shadow will be cast on, like a wall or tree. You can also achieve shadows with backlighting, for example a kid riding a bike in the street at golden hour with the sun behind him will cast the shadow of the subject and bike on the street.
For front lit images I will usually expose for the brightest part of the image which will make that shadow stand out. For backlighting I will expose for skin and underexpose a few stops. Try using objects to make the shadow even more interesting (a toy, umbrella, bicycle).
Read more: Essential Landscape Photography Tips for Breathtaking Photos
I don’t use this technique often, but front lighting is having the sun directly on your subject and you will be shooting with the sun behind you. I typically use this method when the sun is low, usually around golden hour. Any time before usually produces harsh shadows when using natural light only. Shooting with direct light produces gorgeous rich colors that pop. It will really show off a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds.
When front lighting, Its very important to expose for your subjects skin. It’s easy to overexpose/blow the skin if you don’t do this. I usually don’t need to do much editing to these images because everything is enhanced with the direct light.
I’m a fan, sorry. I don’t think I have what it takes to remember all the great things you accomplish with light, let alone take photos. I’ve had my camera purchased the Nikon d5500 and four separate lenses. First came the book I read while waiting for the camera. Then I read about lenses from your web site and your views. Then I ordered two additional lenses you think highly of. Then came the camera body. Then came the cases for all four lenses. Then came mobilizing fear. My children are now 29 and 33 one engineer (son). He lives far away. My daughter, 29 n husband 30 are college Professors. My daughter has her P.h.d. in English. I’m disabled due to a incurable rare form of cancer. I fight with it everyday. I do this because my kids inherited it too and they can’t have kids because of it. This just happens to be a fluke I didn’t know I carried the gene. So why do I yell you this? I would like to do good things with the years ahead of me and let my children see the world through my eyes at the age I am until the inevitable. A legacy if you will. I’ve taught them all the good and I’m so proud. When they fight this disease I want them to be stronger. I want to take photos of things that move me and should move most people. However, people don’t appreciate the moments in the same mindset once you have a clue on how life can be so easy for some. I see people eprsr than me , children stronger at 12 about their fate than the parent. I have millions of snap shots in my mind. Small vignettes of the characters in this B rated movie my family was tossed into. I’ve had a few Very close calls. What am I afraid of? Carrying a camera in public and taking photos as the light hots the side of a church building causing natural illumination n shadow casting in the most dramatic vision. Yet, all I manage to do is take pictures of my dog, trying to memorize and read. I’m frozen . Photo frozen. I paint and sketch a bit all mediums. Took photography in High School. I believe my daughter is a natural with just a point n shoot. I’m just overthinking everything. I live on Eastern Long Island. Travel to Manhattan for Sloan Cancer Hospital. I carry a few pounds of if equipment n fluids making it not so easy 7 days a week 6 hours daily through a port. So the additional weight of the lense on the body is heavy too. I’m VERY small n thin. Not the thin you want to be. I’m just trying to gill my days learning. When do I get to hide behind the lense and feel like I’m not so exposed. I think my photos suck. ANY advice? Don’t worry I’m stable I just want someone to help me see this through knowing I have weight of some heavy fluids n pump to carry along. I look ridiculous not inconspicuous. Trying to put myself out there, n I’m stuck. Like having stage fright!!
Thanks for sharing your story, Lisa. Sorry to hear about your struggles. As for photography, it takes a long time to feel unstuck with your photography. And even once you feel unstuck you will probably feel stuck again. I know that is how I am. I have my ups and downs. Keep picking up your camera.Keep trying! Keep fighting :)
So happy to hear this Courtney , I get stuck a lot ..
thank u shearing ur experience