Lighting - the most important thing to learn in photography

Week #2 Assignment: practice all of these light tips using your manual settings and then post ONE photo using one of the topics I cover by next Sunday. Catchlights, backlit, lowlight, etc. There will be lots to choose from!

Catch Lights


If you don't know what these are, they are the highlights of light reflected in the eye. In the photo here the catchlights are coming in at an angle on Caleb's eyes. I think these are so important to making your photo amazing and bringing it to life. I call them "dream eyes". Mainly because when I first started taking photos it was my main goal..I wanted to get those dreamy looking eyes in my photos and I didn't know how to do it! If your subject is facing the light indoors you will be able to see them really well. Facing away from light is what we call "dead eyes". Dark and no reflections. You will get them from artificial light as well but once you start taking photos outside you'll notice how sparkly they are from natural outdoor light. Practice getting some on your kids, they work really well for me when the light is coming in at a slight angle indoors on their face. I think the only way I got good at capturing them was by seeing how the different angles of light work when taking the photo. So my best advice is to practice and now you will be aware of "dead eyes". If they are facing completely away from the light or outdoors if its dark and gloomy and they aren't facing the sun at all you will get them. Most of our kids aren't going to perfectly sit and smile angled towards the window so its best to become familiar with where YOU are with the camera. I am almost always at a 90 degree angle from a window or in front of a window to get these amazing eyes. I would try just letting your little subjects do their thing and move around them and take photos to see how where you are is so important in photography. Tip: Remember to not let your body block the light! If your camera lens is moving in and out and not focusing...chances are your are either too close to your subject for your lens' capabilities or you are blocking the light. Move a tad and let that natural light shine on them and your camera will focus.

Light in Your Home

Light in your Home

Today I want to talk about the light in your own home where you are probably taking most of your photos right now. Our first home had my dream light situation and I didn't even know how good I had it. Our windows faced north and south so sunlight in our home was never direct was always softened by the way our house faced. So really anytime of the day was great light. Plus we had salvaged windows from a lake home so we had huge picture windows on a small home. We had 10-14 ft ceilings and even though I made the mistake of painting in dark colors it didn't matter because of all that LIGHT!

My husband got a new job in Des Moines about two years ago now and we had to move. I had two days to pick a new house and it was STRESSFUL. Long story short I was focused on the kids, neighborhood, schools, know important things like that and didn't even think about the light (which probably shouldn't be a factor but as a photographer it now drives me INSANE). So our new house faces north and south so harsh light in the morning on one side, harsh light in the afternoon on the other side. This house is SO's painted fairly dark colors, has wood trim, wood blinds...ugh, I can't wait to change it someday. Ok, so enough complaining and now I have to work with what I have right?!

So I know the morning light is coming in very harsh on one side of the house but that means mid to late morning I have great light on the other side of our house. I take photos at our table a lot because of the sliding glass door right next to it letting in the soft light (so the light coming in is from the left where the window is but the sun is on the other side of our house). We also have a bedroom upstairs that has a sizable window that faces the west so it also has great morning to mid morning light (because the sun is coming up on the other side of the house). Here is a photo I took during my ideal time at our table. Notice how smooth my blur can be at this time of day. 

My studio has better light than my home as well because the walls are painted white and work as large reflectors. If I am ever going to be photographing babies, I wear a white shirt. It helps to have those light colors to help reflect and bounce the light and with babies you are right down next to them. Even having halogen light bulbs in your home helps because it will give you true color representation in your photos rather than that yellow cast you can get from other light bulbs.

I found this blog post in a group I follow and it's very similar what I try to teach my students. They even have a little worksheet if you want to write down what rooms are good at what times. This is the same at my studio...I have to constantly think of where the sun is and work with the OTHER side. Soft light is what you want!!

EXAMPLE - dream eyes

Another quick example of a quick test shot and then adjusting to make it better. I pulled my camera out this morning outside and Miles gave me his cheesy smile and the sun is behind him but I took a photo ... dead eyes. I didn't even think about it until I checked the image (saw shadowy face and dead eyes) and then quickly went to the right of him so he was 90 degrees 

shadowy face and no light reflection in eyes

shadowy face and no light reflection in eyes

he just turned a little bit and look at the huge difference it makes! Light is now reflected in his eyes and highlighting the right side of his face

he just turned a little bit and look at the huge difference it makes! Light is now reflected in his eyes and highlighting the right side of his face