If there’s one thing that I am glad that photography has taught me, it has to be how to read light.
Light is the thing that changes everything in your photos!
When you are booking a wedding or portrait photographer this is the number one thing to think about for when you schedule your portrait session.
Here’s a quick guide to how different light affects photos.
I ADORE the morning for photos. The light is soft, colours are muted, the air is still after a night of rest. Morning photos are atmospheric and low contrast. They are soft and reflective. You can also get some beautiful directional light in the mornin if you’re quick, as the sun rises so quickly in Australia!
As the day warms up, if there is no cloud cover, colours gradually grow brighter, stronger, harsher. Shadows deepen. Contrast is high. Colours can appear super saturated, green, especially, can really stand out. It’s no secret that full sun is the most difficult light to photograph in. There is no directional light for dramatic flare and shadows and bright spots on faces really do not show up well on camera. The best thing to do is to move into full shade if you can.
These photos were all taken in full sun, seeking shelter under shade:
These photos were in full sun, you can really see the strength of the colours here! I find, in this situation, that a more sculptural approach to photography works well. Shadows accentuate shapes. Not such a good thing for faces, but it can really highlight the body or structures in the landscape. If you are photographing faces have your subject turn away from the light if you can (if the sun is not full overhead) so that you can at least get even tones over the face.
And here you can see the difference very clearly between a photo taken in full sun (first pic) and the one taken once the bridesmaid took one step back into the shade of the haybales. Such a huge difference! Of course these have been edited to deepen the shadow at the back and really make her pop, but you can see the difference between the evenness of colour in the second (shaded) photo and the shadowy, high contrast colour in the sun-lit photo (where you can see that the sun is to her right), and the only difference is one step backwards!
Cloudy days are some of my favourite days to photograph in. The light is even, there is no sharp contrast, shadows are almost non-existent. Colour is vibrant but not overpowering.
This is when I book most portrait sessions, this is because, whether the day has been cloudy or sunny, you can pretty much work around any conditions (excepting really wet or windy) in the late afternoon. Similar to morning the colours are more subdued and you can get nice directional lighting, but there is a slight difference in light quality, I think it has something to do with air ions and the quantity present at different times during the day – just a guess! ;)
Here are a good deal of my afternoon portraits. The key characteristics here are muted colours, even tones (in spite of some being quite dark due to the late hour) and directional light in some cases.
When it’s Dark
This is a really fun light to photograph in. It’s so easy to focus on interesting details or to frame your subject using surrounding darkness. I love to use lamps or lights to cast unusual shadows or bring focus in ways you wouldn’t normally.
That’s a quick summary of many different lighting situations. I hope you’ve found this helpful. If anything it’s cause to have a little fun with your photography!