24 September 2013

Photographer tip: Using natural light.

Whoa. I wrote this post a LONG time ago (like... last year), and I completely forgot about it. It was just sitting in drafts and I happened upon it. So, might as well publish it now, right?!

This post is all about achieving a great shot, straight out of camera (SOOC). There are a million settings on your camera, and photography accessories that can help you do this, but in my opinion, understanding how to use the natural light around you is THE most important aspect of photography. And the best part? Understanding different lighting situations enhances your pictures, and it will cut down on your editing time so much! I dunno about you, but my time is limited, and the fewer hours I have to spend trying to lighten and brighten a photo in Photoshop, the better.

So when it comes to light, the best time to shoot is during the "golden hour" which is an hour or two before sunset. An example of this is the photo above, this was in the evening and I got lots of golden, creamy light. Seriously yummy. But regardless of when you shoot, the general rule of thumb is to always have your light source in FRONT of your subject. If the light source is behind them, you will have trouble capturing any light in their eyes and you'll also have trouble focusing and capturing detail. One thing to note: Be weary of putting your subject in the direct sunlight. Squinty eyes and harsh shadows are hard to work with. Obviously, there are occassions you might want to play around with the sunlight. But for the most part, if you're trying to get a clean, crisp, well lit photo -- make sure that you have a significant amount of light but keep them out of the sun. Try to find a nice, bright, shady area. Or if you're inside, put them right beside a big window.

Here is an example of what not to do with lighting:

This would have been a completely different photo, if she was turned the other way, toward the light source (i.e. the bright sky). Sure, I could try to save this photo with lots and lots of fill light and selective dodging & burning. But would it be worth it? Personally, I don't think so. Chances are that when I was done editing and trying to make correct the exposure, it would just look overly processed. This photo should be thrown out.

Here are some examples of properly exposed photos SOOC:
This was shot right in the middle of the day, when the sun was the brightest. My camera was on manual mode so I had complete control over my settings and the exposure triangle (shutter speed, ISO & aperture), I used my meter and my histogram. But first and foremost, this picture turned out properly exposed SOOC because of where the light was in relation to my subject.  This was taken in the middle of the day so there was light everywhere and we were in an open abandoned building. What you can't see, is behind me, there is a BIG open wall that was allowing lots of light to flood onto her face. If she was facing the other way, could I have achieved this shot? No. It would have been {possibly} salvageable, because there was definitely light coming in from all directions, but the darkest part of the building was behind her. And that is where I want it.

Make sense?

Editing time: Less than 5 minutes! All I had to do was a little sharpening and quick color popping and that's it! Oh, and for fun I converted it to B&W. :)

Here are a couple of other examples of a properly exposed photo SOOC:
 I had her in the doorway so that she wouldn't be washed out with TOO much light, but I still had her facing outward toward the light source.

This was taken out in the open, but in the shade. There was buildings completely surrounding us. So the sun was blocked out... perfect!

Once you get familiar with different lighting situations, it becomes so easy to achieve a perfectly exposed image straight out of camera! Just practice, and you'll get the hang of it!

Do you have any questions about photography & lighting? I'd love to try and help!


Jessica Orlowicz said...

Do you use a reflector in these photos? What lens are you using?

Mandy@ a sorta fairytale said...

Jessica, I was not using a reflector in these shots, I hardly ever use one. Though, they do come in handy sometimes :). Also, I was using my 50mm f/1.4 lens!!

Sarah @ It's a Vol said...

I struggle so much with lighting. It's hard with a toddler (as I am sure you know) because sometimes you get that perfect smile or facial expression but the lighting is terrible because it just happens to be the way they are facing. Womp womp. I usually try to take my little girl out to the town square (we live in small town, USA) around ten am when the sun is bright but the square is shaded -- this gives me a lot of natural light but very few harsh shadows. Anyway. Long comment.

I really popped by to say that we chose your Pillsbury Mini Pizzas to feature on this week's Life Created. You should link this tutorial up too! :)

Sarah @ It's a Vol said...

Should probably include a link too, huh? goo.gl/ZPGIDY

Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com] said...

I have a great question! I'm currently editing harvest pics of my boys. Every harvest I take pics of them in the wheat fields. There is no shade, we're out in the open...where should they be/where should I be? It's so hard to avoid squinting, shadows on their faces, or my camera straight into the sun. Any tips are appreciated!!

Tabet said...

Great post! :)


Liz Luscomb said...

Great tips! I love that you provide plenty of example photos. :)

I have a question or possible suggestion for a future post: manual focus vs. auto focus. Do you have tips on manual focus? I have a hard time using manual focus (the few times I've tried it) , but sometimes my auto focus is not capturing the sharpness I'm looking for...make sense??

Okay, thanks again for the great photography tips!

Mandy@ a sorta fairytale said...

I would suggest going out in the field right after sunrise, or before sunset! That way you can avoid the harsh light, and get those soft & creamy shots. But if you can't, then I'd suggest a reflector, that way you can light up their faces a little better. Although, kids don't tend to like the reflectors that much ;-)

Mandy@ a sorta fairytale said...

Liz, I don't use manual focus very much just because I mainly shoot kids and it's impossible to get them to hold still! The only thing I suggest with manual focus, is a tripod to keep it steady. But again, you will run into issues if your subjects are moving around a lot. lol.

Ariel @ Dreams To Do said...

Thank you for this! Keep the photog posts coming girl! I'm having so much fun playing around with photography but I still have a ton to learn!

Jannatul Rahamoni said...

Thanks for the tips

Anonymous said...

If the subjects are facing the light what about squinting eyes?

Mandy@ a sorta fairytale said...

That is such a good question!! That is why I usually try to find a shaded area. That way, the sun isn't directly in their eyes, but their face is still really well lit!

Bitz said...

I am still learning about photography and the problem I have all of the time is the shine that turns up on faces. I don't have an assistant to help with filtering so, what is a good way to make it so it's much better. Is there a certain time to do the pictures where the sun isn't so much on top of them? Or is there something else I can learn?