You have your outfit ready, and you have the perfect location to shoot your content, but suddenly it got cloudy, or it got very dark, or it caused harsh shadows in your face/subject. You start to feel annoyed or confused as to why the lighting is so uneven. I’ve been there, and it can be super frustrating!
One of the most important lessons you should know about photography is understanding the lighting and its effects on subjects. Is the illumination: harsh, blinding, soft, diffused, dim, or radiant? These are questions you need to ask yourself before taking a picture!
In my college years, nearly all of my assignments were to take photographs of objects or models in different lighting. As the months passed, you begin to train your eye and develop an aesthetic you’d like in illumination. Now, I have the experience to give you five insightful tips on finding good lighting wherever you go. From now on, finding good lighting will be a piece of cake.
Aim for Golden Hours (sunrise or sunset)
You can never go wrong with the golden hour. “Golden hour” is a term visual creators use to identify the hours of sunrise and sunset. It’s all about waiting for that perfect moment! Whether it’s early in the morning or late in the evening, the sun will cast orange tones across the sky. The benefits of taking pictures at the golden hour are: the lighting tends to be softer, our skin tones look warmer, and can enhance a nice glow to the subject (could be you, model, or product).
This is why many creators tend to wake up very early in the morning to produce photoshoots. It makes total sense now! I suggest doing your content shoot before 10 am and after 3 pm. Always verify the weather app to see what hour the sun rises or sets in your area.
Search for Indirect Light – Windows
Indirect light is another word for diffused lighting. The term means that the light source is not shining directly to the subject, but rather, spreads the light everywhere, thus providing soft illumination. The perfect example of indirect light is by searching for a window.
If you need to make a shoot or take pictures indoors, your best choice is to be near a window. One of the biggest perks of having a shoot indoors is that the lighting is soft at any hour. It could be sunny, cloudy, or rainy, and you can still manage to get diffused illumination near a lattice or window. During my indoor shoots, I’m less than 6 feet away from the light source (which is the window).
Use Your Hands to Guide You
How do we know if we’re taking pictures with good lighting? This is where your hands come in – wait for it – handy. It’s the perfect exercise if you’re starting to learn about lighting from different angles. Extend one hand in front of you and move around in a circle. Notice how different angles can cause shadows to certain parts of your hand. If the lighting on your hand is shady, chances are you are facing against the light source. If you don’t have any shadows on your hand, it’s an excellent lighting spot. However, it’s up to your preference if you like to have obscurations on yourself, model, or subject. It all depends on your aesthetic and style of shooting.
This exercise applies if you’re indoors or on a cloudy day. Next time you’re shooting, let your hands guide you –literally. It will save you a lot of headaches!
Cloudy Days are Your Best Friend
Sunny days can be excellent to capture vibrant colors, but it can produce dramatic harsh lighting around your face. Most of the time, you or the model will have trouble keeping their eyes open due to the blinding illumination the sun emits. It’s totally normal! But how can we improve this? If you are taking a picture or doing a photoshoot outdoors and it starts to get cloudy, don’t frown upon it. Clouds act as a light modifier and will diffuse those hard shadows that can cause on sunny days. Thus, producing an even and soft lighting to your subject (or to yourself). If you see that the sun is too bright for your pictures, wait for a cloud to pass by.
Find Bright Walls
One of my biggest secrets to taking pictures with even lighting is placing my subjects near a bright wall. If you’re doing a photo session or taking a selfie outdoors but don’t have a light modifier (reflector) with you, white walls can act as a reflector and bounces of lighting to the subject. It’s convenient when you don’t have a 5-in-1 reflector and need to improvise on-the-go. In the photos above, you’ll notice a slight difference in terms of shadows. The shutter speed and aperture are the same! The main key is where you put your model/subject. It makes the lighting more even to the face or subject.
The more you do these exercises and practice each technique, the quicker you can determine which area on your location has bright lighting. You’ll be an expert in no time!
As a content creator, I guarantee you that these techniques will save you a lot of time in photoshoots. Plus, it makes it easier to plan out an outdoor/indoor shoot at your desired hour. Whether it rains or shines, you’re now prepared to find lighting wherever you go.