You can have the most wonderful models and the loveliest set up, but if you don’t photograph them in a place where sunlight can pass through, they will look artificial, less human, less beautiful. Light is the most important factor in this equation. Always have been. You probably knew this, you most likely have heard it many many times, but if you don’t get to use this thing you know, you don’t know photography, because that’s what makes it photography.
Go on. Shoot something in complete darkness. It is not going to work, not if you have your focus on auto mode. You can cheat and use manual focus, a high ISO and a slow shutter speed, but you will get pictures with a lot of grain in them, or unclear, too soft and blurry for your audience to get the message they’re conveying. And that can be okay. That can be art too. But that’s the obscure and vague extreme of photography. Plus, you have to know the rules before you can properly break them. So, light! How do we take photos of people using light?
Early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Middle of the day is not working in your favour because the sun is up on the sky, perpendicularly casting strong light on us and consequently, strong shadows. We don’t want strong shadows. Nobody does. It makes us look old and wrinkled; and makes us look like raccoons, because of the angle the light makes.
Now, I’ve shot this about an hour before sunset, in the beautiful backyard of a house.
There was no direct sunlight and that was pretty nice. All the amateurs hunt sunny days to go out and take photos of sunny things. That’s wrong.
Best photos are the ones taken on cloudy days, when the light is filtered through the clouds and it is soft and creamy and makes the colours feel that way too. Helps the textures in the photograph and builds up a tender atmosphere. So, basically, this yard was perfect because we had plenty of light but no real sunlight and we could play around in a state of haze.
Look how pretty.
Details are important too. We decided for a dark shade of lipstick to achieve a contrast to all the softness of the décor. The dress fits the greenery and goes with her blonde hair and all works together in a beautiful blend. See how her hair is lightened on the right side and her left knee makes her dress fold beautifully in the perfect amount of light? How there’s shade below?
See all that? Make your model face the direction you feel that gets the light it needs. Half measures are good here. Half shaded, half lit, makes people look like they’re painted. Use the environment to reflect all that light, too. It’s always a mix. Between light and scenery and subject. If you manage these three, you’re safe.
Look, another painting on the wall.
Make light your friend. It’s going to take you places.