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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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,
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!
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!