How To Find The Light

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

As photographers, we’re all light seekers. For us, it’s all about finding the quality of light. What are you drawn to? What makes you tick? Me and Suzi have talked before that light almost becomes another character in a photo. The delicate thread that weaves through an image to create an emotional connection to the viewer. So how do you start really seeing the light? On our last retreat, we talked about what’s helped us see it, but I think this should really be how we FEEL it. How does it make you feel when you see backlit grass bending in the early evening breeze, or the spot on the stairs illuminated in the morning through the bannister? Maybe it’s how you feel when you see the shadow of leaves on the trunk of the old oak tree dancing in the dappled light.

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If me and Suzi had a choice, we would probably choose to shoot our family portraits in the golden hours permanently. Those times just after sunrise, or just before sunset. Of course it’s not always practical, but give it a try if you can, you will really see a difference. Are you drawn into delicate light, all dreamy and ethereal? This will more than likely be BACKLIGHT. Gossamer threads and subtle golden tones.

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The sun will be behind your subject. Using light in this way, you can achieve that beautiful rim light too that really helps to create depth in your images. You may want to try a silhouette of your subject, if not, over expose for your subject. You might find it a bit harder to focus, so we often manually focus when we’re using backlight.

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

Sometimes we’ll battle with the harsh overhead sunlight that midday can bring. Living in the Pennies though, we do often come across those dull overcast days, and we don’t mind shooting in these at all. EVEN or DIFFUSED light doesn’t have to be flat. You might want to think about the location you’re shooting in so depth comes from the positioning of your subject.

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If it's absolutely bucketing down, it’s probably not going to be too much fun for anyone, but try getting out just after the rain – the light can be lovely. Catchlight in your subject’s eyes can really make your images pop. Windows to the soul.

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

I've always been drawn to the dark, but a dark that's shattered by a pop of light, whether from a window, a gap in the trees, or a sunny spot on a staircase. Especially with shoots in a family home, I look for this type of light. FRONT LIGHT can be very dramatic, contrasty and like a theatre spotlight. I love finding this light, and more often than not, it’s spilling onto the stairs. I have a whole series of these ‘kids on the steps’ shots!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

Using it outdoors can give such a strong feeling to an image too, just be careful not to have your subject squinting into the light.

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SIDE LIGHT from a window can provide lots of atmosphere in a shot. It's best to turn off interior lights indoors. We love the way the light hits one side of the subject’s face and then drifts into shadow. It gives a cinematic quality, a moment suspended. It's the light that really makes me tick. Suzi always knows when I've found it as I'll take a sharp intake of breath!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

If you’re interested in this type of light too, maybe just have a Google at some of those Dutch Masters, and look how they created such feeling in their paintings. Those subtle contrasts and shadows, and how they managed to capture the beauty in the everyday in such a striking way. To me, they are the ultimate light seekers. I love its constant pull. It can really help to reflect a tender moment,

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Here’s an easy exercise if you want to find YOUR light. Pick out your favourite photos from your Insta feed, look at Pinterest, or photos you are drawn to in magazines, and look for the signature light. Print them out and put them in front of you if you can. How does it make you FEEL when you look at the collection?

When you’re next on a walk, or even just doing things round the house, just see how the light falls at different times of the day. As the sun is getting lower in the sky this season, the quality of light changes. Warm and golden, drawn out shadows, it’s a great time to get out and experiment!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

What I love about photography is just by using your feet around your subject, and using all the different angles of light, you can get so many different feelings in quite a short space of time.

We do talk about light a lot on our retreats as we feel so strongly about the way you use light can really help consistency in your work. We still have early bird places available for our next Capturing Childhood on the 30th and 31st March 2019. Over the weekend, we go a lot deeper into how we can use light to reflect emotion, through exercises and practicals. If you’d like more information, here’s the link to our retreat page.

If you think this post it could help anyone, please do share. And if you’d like to ask us anything about light, how to use it, how we use it, just let us know. And most of all, happy light seeking!

Sarah Mason Photography Yorkshire Portraits Family Photographer

Great Uncle Harry

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I’ve been really drawn to documenting rural life ever since I picked my first camera up. When I loaded my first roll of 35 mm film into my old Minolta on Boxing Day 1981, I looked out of my bedroom window and watched the sheep in the field behind our house. It was a Christmas card scene with powdery snow on the ground, and the outlines of the big oak tree were framed with a thin layer of white dust. I took my camera out as the afternoon light was fading, and took my first picture on my first camera. I know this photo is at Mum and Dad’s house somewhere, and writing this is making me want to find it!

And now in our commercial work, we’re enjoying working with companies who are based, and work in and with the countryside. This comes from a love of rural life that is an intrinsic part of both me and Suzi. We both have families who have or who are still farming. I’ve been wanting to take photos of my Great Uncle Harry on his farm for a while. I remember going to visit him and my Great Aunty Nora during school holidays. It always seemed such a treat to travel around the farm in their Land Rover, hanging on for dear life in the back as we were jostled over fields and bumpy farm tracks!

I took a trip over to his farm a couple of weeks to see Harry and my cousin Nicholas. We sat at the kitchen table with endless cups of tea, enjoyed a roast dinner cooked in the Aga, and looked at old photos whilst we chatted about farming life and family. I loved taking these photos, it was good to spend some time with Harry and Nicholas.

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This is a little half pint bottle my uncle used to have for the milk the dairy farm produced. This was before the days of pasteurisation.

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This was the perfect day to ease me back into shooting again after taking off time to be with Olive and Suzi. I learnt so much, including the difference between straw and hay which I feel really embarrassed about! I heard family anecdotes I’d never heard before, and realised how much I want to document my own family’s life. I’m heading back soon to make a film with Harry and record some of those stories. It was good to spend a day with him.

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Our Photo Shoot

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Last week, Angela (a.k.a. Angela Fenwick Photography), sent us a link to a slideshow of our photo shoot we had with her a couple of weeks ago. We've loved her warm, emotive newborn shoots for a while. Although me and Suze are documenting life with Olive in our own photographs, having this shoot really cemented how we feel about family photography. These images are here for us now to look at, frame, print, thumb through, But in the future, they'll be Olive's to enjoy, and although strange to think about at the moment, then they'll become an heirloom to any family she may have too. These photos are so much more than the paper they'll be printed on. The thought of being on the other side of the camera made us feel pretty vulnerable in the run up to the shoot. Would we look too tired? Would we be really self conscious? I even worried about letting go of control on the shoot and just letting Angela do her amazing work. But do you know, when we were in it, these things didn't enter our thoughts. For those 2 hours we just had time for each other. Time might be flying by, but we're so grateful for that afternoon, and for the moments held in these images.

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