The number 1 shooting mistake I made as a beginner? Let me start off with a short little story.
When I was first starting out in the photography world, I was a lost puppy. Lighting was so difficult for me, and it really effected the quality of my images. Some days, I would take photos that would look like a ghost drew on them with a neon marker, and other times they will be as black as night. My frustration was beginning to rise, but giving up wasn’t an option because in my heart, I knew this was what I was meant to do. Photography was meant for me.
So, I continued to practice and take photos of basically every thing that moved and had legs. One day, I snapped a photo towards a shaded wall and quickly realized that shade was my number one friend. I shot everything under the shade! It didn’t matter where I was, my number one priority was to find shade, put my subject in it, and begin my session.
“I shot everything in shade! It didn’t matter where I was, my number one priority was to find shade”
I got super EXCITED when there was a cloudy day because it meant I could deliver a great gallery. I booked sessions when I knew it would rain, because, hello! Clouds were my best friends and I didn’t have to worry about overexposing on my subject. I did this for a long time, and for some reason, I still wasn’t happy with my work. Something about the images I was producing weren’t satisfying my artistic brain. I knew that I wanted to create beautiful and airy photographs and I was beginning to doubt myself. Why wasn’t my work light and airy when I knew that shade was the answer to all my problems?
Well, I was wrong, guys! Not until a few years down the road, I realized that not all shade was created equal. I was looking at this all wrong. Shade was my only answer because the truth is, I didn’t know what to do in natural lighting situations. Confident was not in my vocabulary. I didn’t trust my ability to produce pretty images if there wasn’t a single could in the sky.
I love my client! and I am still proud of how much I have grown and so thankful for the opportunity they gave me to photograph their lovely families! I only wish I would have known back then what I know now about natural light, so I could have served them even better!
I constantly had them walking around looking for shade. My feet would hurt and their feet would too. I took almost 3 hours on a shoot and I could just tell how DONE they were before I was even finished. “Just a little more and we are almost done” I would repeat to them.
“I only wish I would have known back then what I know now about natural light”
When it was time for me to edit their gallery, it was a nightmare. It took me hours – not even exaggerating – HOURS per photo, and with a full-time job, school and a little one running around the house, it was so exhausting and sneak peeks didn’t come back to the clients until a whole week and a half later.. YIKES.
My clients still loved me and referred me to their friends and family, but now, my sessions take half the time with double the amount of images. The sneak peeks get delivered to them right away, and my editing time was cut down by 90%.. all thanks to knowing how to work with natural light and knowing where to place my clients in those situations.
Now, I’m sharing with you the top 3 things I look for during a session and mistakes to avoid so you don’t take as much time as I did and you can finally be proud of the images you produce straight out of the camera!
1.) EVEN LIGHT
This is one that I struggled with the most because I didn’t know what even lighting was or how beneficial. What the heck is it? well, when your subject and the area around them are even from head to toe, with no blotches of light or super bright background, that’s even lighting. Sometimes even super dark shades in the background can make your subjects appear way to bright because your camera cannot double expose for both the dark background and the bright subject at the same time, it has to pick one.
You know when the sun is hitting through a tree and you stand under it and get those spots of light on your shirt that looks like you’ve entered a glitter party? That’s what you need to avoid! All your subjects in the photo, including the background, should be pretty much all under the same light or else it will look like a cell phone photo. That photo on the left (below)? I took it with the same camera I used for the photo on the right.. Yeah, trust me, it makes a HUGE difference.
2.) DIFFUSED LIGHT BACKGROUNDS
This is a big one. If you want to have that dreamy glow in the back of your images, finding “diffused light” should be your goal. A diffused background happens when the sun is behind the subject but covered by a tree or a cloud. If the day is really cloudy, instead of putting my clients where the sun is behind them, I actually place them facing the diffused sun but, I’ll tell you about that later.
With the photo in the middle, the sun was actually above the frame (not in it) and behind the leaves of the tree. This created a creamy and dreamy effect on the image without taking away any contrast.. If I were to put the sun in my frame, it would look like the image on the right. I think this photo is still gorgeous, but I had to add a lot of contrast back in because it was super washed out.
3.) OTHER LIGHT SOURCE
This is why I say that even if your subject is in shade, it could still ruin your images. Why? because shade can cause dark circles under your subject’s eyes and it could take hours to even out the skin – and who wants circle under their eyes in the first place? When I took this image of my cousin (left) we were under a grove of trees and in front of her… more trees. She didn’t have any second light source shinning on her or illuminating in front on her. An example of this would be if right in front of her was an opening so she can see the sky which would act as a reflector.
Can you believe I took the image on the right at the same location? This was a few steps above the grove and yes, it was in the shade but right behind me was an opening and the blue sky was visible. In some cases, even a situation on the right could still be a “no go” spot if the ground was a weird color like blue or green. Everything around you reflects light, so if sweet little Lilia was sitting under a blue mat, she would have blue shadows casting under her nose and neck and editing that out would also be a pain. I stick soft tones such as concrete, beige rocks, sidewalks, all the tans; pretty much anything that’s in shades of white or light brown and in one color.
Now, I want you to get to work! Go out and shoot! Practice with a friend or a pet and implement these strategies and you will see amazing results. I know that depending on shade alone was the number one shooting mistake I made as a beginner when I first started photography and I don’t want you to make that mistake either..
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Also, if you have any before and afters’, share them with me on Instagram or send me an email! I’d love to see how my tips are serving you!
If you have any other questions, write them below and I will blog about them 🙂
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