Soft even light. Soft even light. Soft even light from head to toe.
This is the mantra of the photography classes I have taken. I believe it, because I think it flatters a person, and I am a people-entered photographer. Rather, I am a subject-centred photographer. The background is less important to me, and it’s not a big deal if it’s a little blown-out. (Although with film, sometimes you do get the best of both worlds.)
Here is my lighting philosophy. What kind of light I look for; where I can find it; and what that means for your photographs. Plus, why I’m learning to love shadows and uneven light.
What Is the Best Light?
We’ve established that great light (at least around here) is soft and even. No harsh glares. No facing the sun to squint into the oblivion.
Where can we find soft, even light? Anywhere there is shade. My trick? I’ll pull you to where the shade and the sun meet. Promise, the effect is really pretty.
Another great way to get even light is to shoot on a cloudy day. Even light is everywhere.
The most magical time to photograph can be the famed golden hours — sunset and sunrise. There can be beautiful effects during these windows two-ish hours from sunrise or before sunset.
When to Schedule Portraits — or Any Photos
On a regular day, meaning sun, it’s good to stick by the golden hour rule. Up to two and a half hours post-sunrise, or before sunset. Do note that this is often best practiced in an open space — a field, a beach, plain. Otherwise, meeting earlier is better if there are many tall buildings/trees to block the light.
For the cloudy days, almost any time works, and early afternoon is great. At sunset and sunrise, the clouds darken the landscape a little too much. So for those who are not early birds…clouds are your jam!
When Dappled Light Is Good
I’ve recently been learning the power of uneven light. Often, I’ll employ it in personal projects. Uneven light and shadows can add dimensions to the story I want to tell, especially if there is a theme. (For example, this series I did on a friend saying goodbye to her apartment. The uneven light, to me, represented a longing for what she was leaving, and the unknown of what was next.)
When we meet, I’m not just here to take “pretty pictures.” I’m here to record the time we spent together. Light is such an important part of that story. The abundance or lack of it. The way it dappled on you like rain, or flooded in like waves on a shore.
While most of the photographs you’ll receive have that soft, even, lovely light, don’t be surprised if the shadows make it into a few images, too.