Being out and about with my family always inspires me to pull out my camera to preserve those amazing memories.
There are so many things to spark my creativity when we are away from home: fun moments and interactions, great expressions and emotions, bright colors, interesting details, different compositional elements, and of course beautiful light!
I want to capture photos that will bring us right back to that moment. I want to tell our stories.
Even though I would love to plan all our adventures during the golden hour, I’m not always able to have the most ideal light. From indoor to outdoor, cloudy to full-sun, here are nine ways to help you utilize whatever light you are in!
1. Look for the light first.
Light is so important because it adds so much energy, depth, mood, and interest. When you get to a location, ask yourself…
- What kind of light do you have?
- Which direction is it coming from?
- How is it lighting your subject?
- What is its intensity?
- Is it reflecting anywhere?
- Are there objects around that are absorbing or blocking the light?
- What mood is it creating?
Just looking at the highlights and shadows and how they are falling on your scene will help you make decisions that will improve the light you use in your image.
No matter what type of light you have on your outing, you need to try different angles based on how the light is hitting your subject. Moving will allow you to control your light, letting more or less into your lens.
You can also place yourself to use the light and wait for the moments where the subject will move into that light. Concentrate on making sure your subject or object of focus is well lit. Knowing how to use all types of light will help you know where to move.
3. Make the light part of your story.
This is harder to do mid-day or on a cloudy day but I love to shoot directly towards the light to include it in my frame. Not only does this add energy and mood but also might give you rim light, flares, or sparkly bokeh.
4. Look for directional lighting.
Light that is hitting your scene from the side is perfect for capturing details from your outing. This type of lighting gives dimension and texture to your image.
This light is best when your light and shadows are not too intense. Even on a cloudy day, you can look for buildings, trees, overhangs, or other objects to block some of the light on one side.
5. Find pockets of light.
Look at the ground to see where the light is hitting more intensely.
Because your eye is drawn to the brightest part of the image, putting your subject in those pockets of light will help them stand out. It can also add drama, framing, and depth.
These pockets of light can also be found during indoor outings. Just look for spotlights over displays in places such as museums and aquariums.
6. Search for shadows.
If you are having trouble figuring out what to do with the light, try looking at where the shadows are hitting.
You really need light and shadows to work together to make a great photograph. Shadows are what shape and draw attention to the light.
Try to use them to help tell your story but not distract from your focal point. They can add interest, depth, and dimension to your image.
7. Look for open shade.
This is especially helpful if you are battling harsh mid-day light. Make sure you are still near a light source or open space so light can hit your subject.
8. Use unusual light sources.
Don’t forget about fireworks, campfires, sparklers, flashlights, car lights, and streetlights. These types of lights are perfect for adding atmosphere and highlighting excited faces.
9. Look for indirect or reflected light.
Try to find natural reflectors to bounce light onto your subject. Sidewalks, white walls, and even shiny surfaces can help you improve your light.
For even more learning, check out my breakout “Little Adventures, Big Pictures.” Learn how to take extraordinary pictures of your everyday adventures!
I’m covering so many fun things: creatively using all kinds of light, using composition to add visual impact and depth, finding and creating opportunities to capture those captivating moments, and how to bring it all together through editing.