September 25, 2013
A few days ago, I received the following message from one of my Facebook Page fans.
Hey Jill! I just wanted to compliment you on your photography! All of your images are just beautiful! I was curious how you get such perfect lighting? Do you use speed lights or reflectors, or just get super lucky with available light? Keep up the beautiful work.
First of all, thank you so much to the wonderful person that wrote me this message. Putting my work out there for the whole world to see is a bit frightening sometimes. My work is an extension of me… it’s who i am, it’s what I love, and more often than not, it’s a challenge every single day to share it with people who might judge, criticize, or put me down. So to hear appreciation and compliments from people I didn’t even know follow my work makes sharing my passion with you worth the risk.
Now to answer your question… no, I don’t just get super lucky with the available light 🙂 To be honest, I’ve been in some pretty horribly lit situations and have had to make the best of what I had. It’s something that I have gotten better at over the years… after going to seminars at WPPI, watching creativeLIVE sessions, talking to other industry professionals, and studying what the best of the best do to make it work. And it is still something I constantly struggle with and am trying to improve on.
Being a photographer doesn’t just mean having a fancy camera and putting people in front of a pretty background and pressing the shutter. It involves composition, knowing where your light source is, knowing where to put your subjects in relation to that light, how to properly expose, how to correct that lighting, if necessary, in post-processing, etc. So, in a nutshell… I can’t give you just one answer. Yes, sometimes I use an external flash. Sometimes, I don’t. Sometimes I use a reflector, sometimes I don’t need one. Sometimes I use a tree to block the light and get some shade. It’s all about reading the situation and going with it… and it’s definitely something that is still a work in progress and I’m learning new things about lighting every single day.
Without getting into too much detail and boring all of you to death, I want to share two of the most helpful tips that I’ve learned over the past few years that help combat some common lighting issues. I am in no way saying these are the absolute only answers and I’m sure other photographers have their own way of dealing with these things, but this is just how I work…
1. Harsh, direct sunlight: Put your subjects between you and the light source and use it as backlight. It sounds so simple. But I remember hearing this for the first time at a WPPI seminar and it was like a light bulb went off in my brain. As a matter of fact, it went off in the brain of the person next to me too because we both looked at each other and sighed, “Ahhhhhh…” If you face your subjects towards the sunlight, which is a common way of handling it, everyone in the photo will have squinty eyes… so putting them between you and the sun gives them that blowy, heavenly look that I love so much.
2. Shooting indoors (if you’re primarily a natural light photographer): While some may turn to using artificial lighting indoors, if possible, I like to stick to natural light. Find it where you can… windows, doorways, skylights. Step outside and face your subjects towards you to get the light. Or face your subjects 45 degrees to the window for a softer light on their face. Or use it to create a silhouette. Practice makes perfect so the only way to really see what you like is to go out and do it.
And of course… there are always those days where you just get the absolute perfect lighting and couldn’t love your job more. Thanks for the question and if anyone else has more, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂 Hope this helps!