A couple of weeks ago my daughter and two of her friends wanted me to do some photos of them. I was thrilled to do it. They are 13 and any chance I have to take photos of my daughter, I will jump at! One friend came home with us after school and the other friend was supposed to meet at our home at 4:00. But then 4:00 turned into 5:00.
The girls spent way too long getting ready so we had to scratch our original plan of taking photos at one of my favorite locations twenty minutes from my house. So I settled on a location about 10 minutes from the house, knowing we were quickly losing light. By the time we made it out of the house, not even that location would work.
So we drove down the street about a mile, I looked out the window and saw gorgeous light coming off from the west and we pulled into an empty parking lot. All I needed was open light and enough of it to get some photos of these girls after all the getting ready they did!
Here’s one of the first photos I took-this was taken at about 7:00 p.m., with the sun directly behind her. The sunset time on this night was about 8:05 p.m.
Is this the time of day I normally take photos? No. Personally, my favorite time of day is about 2-3 hours before sunset. The light that is coming in during that time of day is perfect. The sun is low enough in the sky at that time that it doesn’t create harsh shadows, it doesn’t cause any glare and it generally creates a very flattering light to fall on skin.
The reason I’m sharing this little story with you is because light changes quickly. It’s important to know where your light is and how quickly it will go down or change. Just because your favorite location looks great at 6:00 p.m., doesn’t mean it will look the same at 4:00 p.m. And it definitely won’t look the same at 10:00 a.m.
1. Clients are always surprised when I face the sun behind them. Yes, behind them. I am a fan of backlit images. That basically means that the subject is being lit from the back. In order to do this properly, you have to know how to expose properly. You will want to make sure you are exposing for the skin when creating a backlit image. And I must add, that the only way to create an awesome backlit image is to be shooting in manual. If you aren’t doing that, start. And then learn to shoot backlit images!
2. Photographing in open shade can help make sure you have the right amount of light and that you don’t have any harsh light coming in on your subject. If I find a spot I want to shoot in, I run my hand through the air to see where the sun will hit. The sun will hit my hand in places I can’t see with my eyes. The open shade may look good, but running my hand through helps prevent any hot spots of light from falling on my clients. I avoid patchy shade because this produces patches of light on your subject rather than giving you an evenly lit photo.
3. If harsh light falls on your subject, turn them! So often I see photos where if the subject had just been turned a little bit, the light would have fallen on them differently and produced a much more pleasing photo. This often happens when the light is coming from the side. You’ll see that half of their face is now lit up while the other half is in shadows. Generally, the lit up part will be blown out and it’s so difficult to try and save. So why not just move your subject so the light isn’t falling on them and BAM…no fuss in editing now!
Understanding light really is what makes a photograph worth looking at. It’s what makes your photos stand out from others. Without a light source, there wouldn’t be photographs, so make time to understand the one thing all photos have in common…light.
BRIDE WITH BRIDESMAIDS-TAKEN WITH SUN BEHIND THEM AND LIGHT BEING FILTERED IN BETWEEN LEAVES ON THE TREE. MADE FOR PERFECT LIGHTING CONDITIONS. 90 MINUTES BEFORE SUNSET.
TAKEN DURING NOONDAY SUN. NOT MY FAVORITE TIME OF DAY FOR LIGHTING. THERE WASN’T ANYTHING TO FILTER THE LIGHTS COMING IN. I HAD TO BE SURE HE WAS FACING THE RIGHT WAY OR HE WOULD HAVE HAD HOT SPOTS OF LIGHT ALL OVER HIS FACE.
TAKEN 4 HOURS BEFORE SUNSET. SHE WAS TURNED TO THAT HER LEFT SIDE IS FACING TOWARDS THE LIGHT, BUT THE LIGHT WAS BEING FILTERED THROUGHT THE TREES AND THE TRUCK NEAR HER FACE WAS HELPING TO BLOCK THE SUN FROM BEING HARSH ON HER FACE.
Amy Phipps is the photographer behind On the Phippside Photography, located in Stockton, California. Amy has been married for 21 years and has 4 children. When she’s not trying to decide between which of her 43 black shirts to wear, you can probably find her sipping on a Dr. Pepper and walking around any day of the year in flip flops.
Visit her website.