Lighting | Summer Photo Challenge08.13.12

Lighting…this is what it is all about.  Recording light.  It is probably the lesson that I should have started with but wanted you to begin by looking at what was in your photo and how you were going to compose first.  So now we are going to look at lighting a subject (using natural light).  Of course this is a huge subject and there are so many factors that affect lighting – from time of day (colour and intensity), to weather/available shade to direction of the light.  I am mostly going to focus on direction of light for this post and am only going to talk about the sun as I am not a fan of pop-up flash.

Front lighting

Front lighting seems the most obvious way for people to pose themselves when they are outside.  Unfortunately this will typically result in unattractive shadows under the eyes (producing a tired look to the eyes)if the sun is too high, flat lighting if the sun is lower (showing no form to the face and still tired eyes as depicted here) and it will also cause your subject to squint (as shown here).


Side lighting

Side lighting can be gorgeous depending on the angle and mood of the photo that you are looking for.  It will typically produce a more dramatic look as the light moves more towards the side of the head but it can create shadows and in turn, depth to your images.  Highlighting the contours of the face.  You will need to watch the way the shadows fall across your subject’s face and particularly the eyes.  You still typically want to maintain catch lights (the light reflecting back in the eyes – the twinkle) in both eyes unless you are going for an extremely dramatic look.  I am using this picture to show more of the shadowing and contouring.


Here you will see that the light from the window is hitting at about 30-45 degrees to the baby to give some depth to his face but maintain the catch lights in his eyes.

TOT12011 A119

Back lighting

Often photographers will turn their subjects away from the sun.  This helps to eliminate squinting and distracting shadows.  It can be tricky though so that you do not get too much lens flare (unless that is what you are going for) and you want to get the correct exposure on your subject’s face without completely blowing out the background (another lesson).  Back lighting does add nice rim lighting to your subjects hair and shoulders – making them appear angelic:).  It can also be used very effectively for silhouettes.



If you must shoot mid day in the harshest light and you do not want to worry about how the light is hitting the subject too much, try to place them in the shade.


I hope that this helps.  Please feel free to ask questions if I have not explained something clearly.

Have fun playing with light!

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