We all can use more drama in our lives, right? Especially at home. Who doesn’t like drama at home?
What?!? Am I alone here??
Wait, I think you misunderstood.
I meant dramatic light. You know, darks and lights intersecting with a gorgeous subject placed just so. Just the thought makes me want to grab my camera (and my unwilling kids).
That kind of drama is always good…at least when we’re speaking photographically. All the other kinds, eh, let’s leave it to the Real Housewives. They are the experts.
I undertook a 365 project this year (highly recommend one!) and photographing my kids in the same house, the same rooms, day after day started to bore me. I wanted to stretch, to change things up, to create beautiful images in my home (and translate that to my client’s homes). Once I started looking for the light, as opposed to looking for the moments, things changed and my images changed.
I am going to write out a list of the best places in and around your home to find that dramatic light. The light that, hopefully, translates to stunning and amazing images that no one will believe you shot in your dirty crowded garage. (Seriously, garage light is the best…see?).
1. Window Light
Well, duh. Of course everyone knows that windows are awesome to shoot near. But, try something different. Try shooting just in the light of the window. Put the actual window out of frame. Turn all the lights off in the room and close the door. Expose for the light on their face. Place your subject where the light falls on the floor. Have them look out the window. Get the catchlights in their eyes. Have them turn, get those deep, dramatic shadows across their face (sometimes they’re good!).
Another way to use window light is at night. Place your subject outside, turn the lights on in the house and let the soft window light fall on their face or try to just blow out the light of a window and then use your subject as a darker area of focus.
2. Computer/TV Light
We all know our kids love the computer. This is not a hard shot to get. This shot below was my kids watching “funny cat videos” on YouTube and it was, by far, the easiest shot I’ve gotten of the two of them in months! Get your subjects in a dark room, turn up the brightness on the computer and wait for that cat to fall in the toilet. Again, expose for the light on their faces.
3. Garage Light
The garage is the valhalla of dramatic light. Open one door, see where the light stops and the shadows start. Place your subject just in the light or just in the darks. Switch it up, place them half and half. Have fun with it.
Does your garage have windows? Lucky you! I shot 50% of my 365 in my garage. This is how I shoot…shut all the doors, open the blinds on one window and place your subject in that light. Don’t actually shoot the window. All you want is that awesome, directional light. That’s the beauty of the garage; it is almost like having a studio with directional studio lights but instead of moving the lights you move your subjects or open another window. I have all my props, a ladder, a fan in my garage. It is my dirty, oil smelling studio.
4. Anywhere Light and Dark Come Together
Look for the light in your home. Check the bottom of the stairs. The bathroom? Anywhere you have lights and darks it is going to make for some dramatic light.
Alright, now you know how to find the light and how to shoot in it….let’s talk editing.
I am a huge fan of blacks and whites in everything but especially with dramatic light. My advice here is to not be afraid of black blacks! I bring the blacks way up when I edit (I am a Lightroom girl). Then I use the heal tool to erase anything that is distracting among the blacks.
Thank you Kate for this incredible and inspirational tutorial! What is your favorite dramatic photo? We’d love to see it! You can post it in the comments below or link us up.
Kate T Parker, Georgia
CMU Instructor | CMpro
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Kate is a photographer living in Atlanta, GA, shooting it all…families, fine art, commercial, and weddings. Her two girls, husband and loyal golden retriever along with daily boxing classes keep her sane, centered and laughing. Her fine art work focuses on her family and specifically her two girls and their friends. Her work has been shown at Mason Murer Gallery, Detroit Center for Fine Art Photography, 1650 Gallery, Panopticon Gallery, The Darkroom Gallery, The Center For Fine Art Photography among others.