Photography: All About That Light

I was looking through some old photos the other day when I found the perfect example of how to illustrate how bad and good lighting can effect your photos. By that I mean natural light, the sun.

The basic rules of shooting in the sun are as follows:

  • Do not shoot in “direct” bright sunlight.
  • Find a large shady spot and make sure the bright direct light is not hitting your background or anyplace you can see through that camera lens.
  • Once you find a good shaded spot, face your subject towards the light.
  • If shooting indoors find pretty window light and have your subject face the window.
  • Make sure that window light is not harsh direct sunlight.
  • Sheer or white curtains are a great filter, cream is even better.

Have you ever wondered why so many people take selfies in the car?
I am going to tell you the secret, it’s because its perfectly filtered light. The car roof prevents any direct light from hitting you, and the front window acts like one giant window, and the closer you are the softer the light is. Our heads are pretty close to the front of the car when we are in the drivers seat.

Not all selfies in the car turn out good because sometimes the sun is low and creates wacky light, but the majority of the day when that sun is high in the sky, you wind up with the perfect light

Lets examine the scene. 5 years ago or so I had just finished knitting a test knit for an idea for my future knitting book “Just Like Me Knits”. It was the very first pattern I knit for the book  I had purchased two rosemary plants at the store and was going to plant them, when my toddler stole them and ran around with them. It was pretty out and she was in a good mood so I snagged my camera and put the hat on her. I wasn’t intending to get a shot for a book or magazine, I just wanted a good photo because I was so excited about the hat to show my editor, so these are personal photos but they illustrate the concept of light well as I chased her  around my front yard in Georgia.

Here is my beautiful little cherub in front of our house. The light is crazy harsh, making deep shadows on her face. I’m not going to get anything good in this light. She’s hella cute though. Those baby thighs and bandaids! My mom heart can’t stand how cute it is. The hat fits perfectly, but I can’t get distracted, the light stinks.

Oh look a very large area of shade! Filtered light and its pretty, though all that green being so close to her face will probably cast her skin a little green. The bigger problem is, there is still bright light in the background, so even if I went to the right corner of this frame and placed her in front of the fence there would still be bright stuff in the back of the photo looking all wacky.

I could have moved her over to the right of this photo and then I could have turned towards her, there is a brick side of the house there. I could have put my BACK to that bright stuff on the left, and her face would have glowed. But she’s probably about 1.5 years old here, and well some models can’t be told what to do.

Psst, please ignore the stitches looking sloppy I had not blocked it yet!

Oh my goodness that little pumpkin wandered over to my old car from art school that was the color of fancy mustard. Which totally looks amazing with that burnt gold in the brim of the hat. It’s a cute photo but a car doesn’t really work, and there is a patch of bright light top left. If you look VERY carefully you will notice the top of the hat is kind of bright, thats because she’s facing the wrong way. She needs to face that bright light behind her, like facing a window. This isn’t a bad photo, but the light is still not where we want it.

I’m the one holding the camera, and I am going to literally turn completely around 360 degrees and get her to go behind me in the shadows and face that light.

Wow! Look at that, fantastic. A nice neutral background, and the yarn on that hat is showing all kinds of depth in this light. It’s perfect, the model however is not cooperating! Directly to my right is a white garage door, where she plunks herself down with her sister, the plants and some milk.

GIRL, I could die from cuteness overload. That face. But more importantly look at that light.  Who knew I had such an amazing spot, in front of a garage door! If she was a more cooperative model I would have placed her a couple of feet in front of it, creating a gap between her and the door. Then the door would have blurred a bit when the focus was on her and it would have been even better, but she’s a top price model and I can’t be picky about what I get. Cookies and milk are expensive.

Remember this spot? In the above photo she is actually FACING this spot, she’s facing all that amazing bright light, but she’s in the shadow of the house. That light was still there when I took the photo, it never went away. 


2 Comment

  1. I cannot wait to hear your lecture at the Atlanta Knitting Guild about this topic on April 6, 2017!

  2. Genevieve Edwards says:

    This was fun to read, and very helpful!

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