Learn With Me: Photography Week 3

beginner's photography guide to lightWeek 3 of my photography lessons already! I’ve taken on board the beginner’s tips, played around with perspectives, so now it’s all about understanding light, thanks to Sarah from A Party Of Seven...

As a mummy you want to always see your kids in the right light!! Well as a photographer you want to do that too! 🙂 Here are some clues to finding out the best way to help you see the light.

1. Catchlights!

One of the easiest ways to find out where the light is, is to look in their eyes! Sounds like the start to a song right? But the eyes are not only reflectors of the soul, they are also reflectors of light! Look into their eyes. Do they twinkle, can you see the image of the light source in them? These tiny reflections are called catchlights. If you take a photo and look at your sons eyes and they are a gorgeous bright blue then chances are that you are in some sweet light..or maybe you have some shots when their eyes look dark or dull (or squinting) then your lighting needs to be adjusted.

In studio lighting the traditional formula for where the catchlights should appear is at 10.oo and 2.00 position. But in natural light things are bit more forgivable. Try to steer away from bang on in the centre of the eyes that can be a bit creepy!

Large or nearby light sources such as the open sky or a window will give flattering catchlights. Whereas smaller or distant light such as the lamp across the room or the flash from your camera make for a less attractive pinlight.


2. What’s behind you?

It is important to check out what is around you. We all have those images with the lampost coming out of the head right? But its not just to see if there are any offending items that will comically add themselves to your picture..but also to see how you light source is going to effect your subject. Is there a large hedge behind you? Or if you are inside is there a boldly coloured wall?

Chances are the hedge may block out the light falling onto your subject evenly, making the eyes of your little person dull and dark. Or that bright coloured wall may reflect all its light onto you little one making them a little orange Lorax like. So whats the best thing to have behind you? Ideally open space which gives the light available the best chance. If that isnt possible try to keep neutral colours or bright white at your back so it reflects well onto your subject. A white wall perhaps or building?


3 Where is the light?

Inside: pull back your curtains and have a look at how much light you have coming in. Be sure to pull them back to get a clear picture of the illumination you really have available. Chances are there is more than you think. Beware of awnings a large trees or tall buildings that might restrict the amount of light is coming to a certain window. Use the one that have a free and clear view of the outside world

Outside: If you can get your little one to sit still try this..walk around them.full circle and take note of how the light changes on their face. Carry on chatting to them so that they turn their faces and you can check for catchlights. You will soon discover which light is the most flattering!

4. Find direction

Outdoors on a sunny day you will really notice the direction the light is coming from if you do the circle experiment. Your little subject will go from wide eyes , to squinting, to stark contrast down their face. To truly grasp the concept of light and how it relates to your photos you must pay attention to its direction. I have a little game i play when im watching the TV or something and i try to guess which direction the light is coming from in a scene or an image! Try it, it will really get you thinking ‘light’

5. Front lighting

Taking photos with the light behind you is one of the most common bits of advice given to start out camera users, I would tell my kids to do it. By putting the light behind you and in front of your subject generally the best chance you have to get the correct exposure from your camera. This works very well if it is a bright overcast day and you are not having to worry about the sun blasting into someones face and making them squint!


6. Sidelighting.

As the name implies sidelighting references a light source sauce that comes from the side. This can easily be achieved by placing your subject at a 45° angle to the window. Notice the distinction between highlights and shadows area of the face. When you are outdoors you might notice this when the light has more of a directional quality about it. Like during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset!

This type of lighting is tough if you are dealing with wriggly toddlers who wont stay still. Front lighting gives you more options for lots of movement. But if you child moves to much on sidelighting then you might loose them to the shadow entirely. Good rule of thumb is to check the catchlights..can you see them in both eyes, if not then they need to move a little more toward the light. It is a tricky type of lighting but there is no secret as to why it is a favourite of professional photographers. It adds dimension and texture to your image, making for a totally captivating shot!


7. Backlighting

Have you ever taken one of those images that looks like your kid actually has a halo? Backlighting can create that effect. It is was it says, when your subject is being lit from behind. Backlighting helps to separate your little star from the background, especially when your background has a dark or medium tone to it.
Backlighting can be very difficult to use . If your light is very bright then you run this risk of loosing the top of your subjects head into the light, giving no difference between your subject and the background. this happens particularly if your subject has fair hair. The easiest way to ensure that you can do this effectively is aim for the golden hours (this is the term photographers use for when the sun is at its softest and sweetest light) Usually sunrise and sunset. It is important to remember though that as you have such a strong source coming from behind, you need to illuminate your subjects face as well, using a simple reflector to bring some of that delicious light back into your subject means that you can boost those lovely eyes of your star! If you dont do this chances are your subjects face will be very dark!


8. Silhouettes

One way to get a lot of drama into you shot is shoot for a silhouette of your subject. This is often something people do my accident on auto settings! 😉 You want to expose for the sky and thus leaving your subject really under-exposed or blackened out into a silhouette. With silhouettes you need to forget a little about how your light is hitting the subject and focus on exposing for the sky. This works really well with big spaces, large sky or a dramatic sunset. It is also a really good way to photography the sun well.

One thing to note is that if you are shooting on auto you camera will launch the fill in flash to shed some light, so you need to disable it.


Why don’t you try and get out there and have a go at looking where the light is coming from and trying from!

Sarah is a wife to one, mama to five, part time baby nurse in the NHS, an aspiring photographer and writer. Getting a kick out of helping people to understand that they take the picture not the camera! 

Always trying to find ways to get more hours in the day! Generally to be found running on empty! If you bring tea and cake we are going to get along well! 

Thank you so much, Sarah! This is an area that I’m vaguely aware of, but don’t think about much, unless I can clearly see shadows over objects etc., that I don’t want there. You do now have me thinking about it all of the time with every shot I’ve taken since reading this, and there have been a few!

My next post, which I’ll add to the linky, will be an experimentation with light. I’ve also continued to take a few photos of my garden, and they’ll be on the blog tomorrow. If you’re learning with me, or just have some lovely shots you fancy showing off, join in…

Linky opens every Wednesday morning until the following Tuesday.

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7 thoughts on “Learn With Me: Photography Week 3”

  1. Pingback: The Delights of a Tent!

  2. Couldn’t see the photos on my email yesterday. Some great information here. I always try and NEVER use a flash indoors either as you never seem to get a great photo with a flash in any condition, I’ve found. Plus I’m usually trying to photograph my dog and a flash messes his eyes up !!

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