According to the internet, magic and whimsy happens at golden hour. A home is not complete without huge windows that frame the gorgeous morning sun, and new babies are snuggled in hospital rooms with an angelic-like glow and white blowing curtains. But the truth is, some great moments of life happen in this lovely sensational light, but most of life, the best parts of life even, happen in less than desirable light.
In the harsh rays of noon sun, kids laugh and play and learn about bugs and boo-boos. In tiny beds after the sun goes down, over story books and prayers, lasting memories of routines and snuggles happen. And in-between those moments, we are in rooms with artificial overhead lighting with strange shades of yellow that cause all kinds of irritating shadows. But that’s life, and at the end of the day, we will remember the moments and stories, not the light.
When Mandi asked me to document her twin boys meeting her new baby when he was born, I was ecstatic…and hopeful it would happen during the day for that mentioned earlier angelic-like glow. But alas, little Luke made his appearance late in the afternoon with the two doting brothers arriving at the hospital at 8:30 PM, no sign of natural light in sight. My light loving heart was a little broken. But I remembered these photos were about more than light, they were about moment.
The collection didn’t turn out whimsy and light, it was almost better, overhead lights and all. It was real and dark, laden with shadows and warm artificial light. Their sweet story, the start of a new chapter, all captured in this less-than-perfect light.
If you are facing a less-than-perfect-light photography project, in a hospital or otherwise, that has you all stressed out, fear not! Today I’m going to share with you 3 tips to help you embrace the imperfect light so you can focus on the moments.
Crank up your ISO.
Does this tip make you cry? I have some photographer friends that hate this idea, but I’m not one to fear the ISO. For this session, my ISO stayed between 2500 and 6400 Since the twins were super active and moving around a lot, I kept my SS at 1/250 or faster, with my aperture at 2.8. Sure, if you zoom in on some of the images you might notice a slight quality degradation because of the high ISO setting, but for me, the options were high ISO or not taking the shot…and in the end, of course, capturing the story and taking the shot is my only objective.
Mind your white balance.
I hate dealing with white balance, but in these kind of scenes especially, it’s important to get it right. If adjusting in post-processing is alright with you, you can shoot in auto WB (my camera actually does pretty good in Auto) but for total control, I recommend shooting in Kelvin. You will get a uniform white balance throughout your shoot and it’s one less thing for you to fix later.
Edit with your light in mind.
I like to say my editing style is like an enhanced vintage version of real life. Is that a thing? If not, it should be :) However, as much as I like a specific set of tones and color schemes, I had to adjust that for these photos. This is also true if you are someone that likes light and airy and are faced with a dark and artificially lit hospital room. Light and airy is probably not going to work. I was SO excited to have the Baby Bella presets for Lightroom for this particular collection and LOVED Pat-a-Cake + Contrast for all of the color edits and Hushabye for all the B&W (note: using these were almost all one-click. I adjusted exposure as needed, shadows on a few, and added grain to the complete collection) They enhanced the images just enough for my liking but also worked really well with the hospital lighting.
So yes, we all would love to live in a world where light looks like it does on the wonderful world of the internet all the time, but real life just isn’t like that…it’s so much more complicated, and so much better. If you would like to see more from this session using the tips above, you can see them on my website by clicking here.
I hope these tips help set you at ease and keep you shooting, even when the light isn’t ideal!