4 Tips to Perfect Lighting

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How to Let Light In

Let’s talk about lighting.  I love backlit shooting.  Not sure what that is?  That’s when you have the sun behind your subject and you are shooting towards the sun.  It creates a very sun drenched photo, but you have complete control over the amount of sun that comes into your camera and the artistic effect it can have on your photos.   No matter which way you shoot with the sun, it’s key that you understand the importance of light and its’ role in how your photos turn out.  Here are some tips on shooting backlit images and tips to have control over light.

1.      If you are shooting during a time of day that the sun is literally right behind your subject’s head, your camera will have a very difficult time latching onto a focus point.  Even if you are toggling your focus points and telling the camera where to focus, all that extra light will make it next to impossible to actually stick to that spot.  So I do one simple trick to be sure I can focus and have all the light my heart desires:  I hold my camera with my right hand, aim it where I want to shoot, use my left hand as a shield to my camera’s sensor so that it tricks the camera into thinking all that sun isn’t really there and then I BBF (Back Button Focus), move my hand however much I want to let in more or less light, and then take the picture.  It might sound complicated, I’m pretty sure I look weird every time I do it, but it works and does wonders!  The best part about it is that this method puts me in complete control.  This technique was used here.  I wanted some of that light, but not all of it.

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 2.      Again, assuming the sun is directly behind your subject, simply have your subject move their head very slowly so that they are blocking the majority of the harsh light.  That way, all you are left with is the light coming from the sun without the full extent of light it has to offer.

 3.      Whenever you are ready to shoot a subject outdoors, it’s important to see where the light falls.  You may be in open shade, but you still need to pay attention to which way your subject is facing the sun and where the shadows fall.  This is the easiest mistake to fix.  Simply turn your subject.  That’s it.  A slight turn can remove any hot spots (those super bright light spots on your subject) or shadows.  Sometimes the mistake is made that if you are in open shade, your picture will be perfect.  But too often we only look for open shade by looking at the ground.  I like to use my hand and run it through the air at about the same height as my clients so see if any sun falls on my hands.  If sun falls on my hand, I know I need to pick a different spot, or turn until I find a spot that has even light.  The LAST thing you want is to have a subject whose face is halfway in shadows and halfway in sun.  That doesn’t flatter anyone.  I promise. 

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 4.      Photograph your subjects from their level.  That way you’re sure to get in the light that is behind them.  If they are sitting, kneeling or your subject is a child, the light you see with your eyes won’t be captured with your camera unless you move your body.  When I photographed the girl in this photo below, I knelt down so that the gorgeous light behind her would be able to come in.  Otherwise, all I would have captured was a huge green lawn.  I’ll take light over lawn any day!

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Those are my top 4 tips on how to shoot in the sun and what you can do to always make sure the sun is going to flatter whoever you are shooting!  Don’t forget, the best way to understand any of these techniques if they are new to you is to practice.  Again and again and again. 

Amy PhippsComment