Recently I’ve been working with a few photographers on improving their photography technique, and I’ve noticed that generally, they all seem to believe that if they could JUST improve their equipment, they might be able to improve the quality of the images they produce. However, contrary to what most beginning photographers seem to think, GREAT images don’t actually start with camera settings at all!
Before I ever pose a couple, or adjust my camera, I spend time just looking around for one thing! Not a pretty landscape, those those are great. I look for light that is going to best flatter my subject. Like a storm-chaser, I scour locations for light that fits my three criteria. It doesn’t matter if there is NOTHING pretty about my background. Literally, if I can just find these THREE things, the images will come out great! So what are they? What will instantly remove your images from the ranks of beginner? Light will. But not just any light will do. I look for light that is NATURAL, EVEN, and ONE DIRECTIONAL. Here’s what I mean.
1. Natural Light
God did a FANTASTIC job when he invented the sun. Like, GREAT WORK. I don’t want to bore your with some of the technical things, but light from the sun has the PERFECT temperature to create natural, wonderful skin tones. What do I mean by “perfect temperture?” As an example of what I’m talking about, let’s look at the florescent light bulb. Go outside on a nice day with a piece of thick, opaque paper. Shine a florescent lamp on one side, and then compare the colors on either side of the page. The side primarily being lit by your lamp will have an orange tinge, while the other will look naturally white. By the way they are made, florescent bulbs give off an… organgy tone. This sunlight is far more flattering on skin tones, and creates much more natural looking images.
Next, you want your light to be EVEN! Although it seems natural that you should position your subjects so that the sun falls directly on your subject, it is actually MUCH more flattering to find somewhere that has more diffused light. Behind trees, under bridges, or even inside a car, it’s best to not have the sun directly contacting the skin. Why? It creates VERY harsh shadows. In essence, I want my images to be light and airy, not harsh! Not overpowering. Soft.
Using a tree to block the sun.
In the shade of a building.
We used the side of the barn where the sun wasn’t.
But, what do you do when you’re somewhere with NO cover? As I mentioned, the best light is light that isn’t DIRECTLY hitting your subject. To create this where there isn’t shade, just step around to the OPPOSITE side of your subject from the sun. This is called using “backlit” light.