Fun fact: My absolute favorite place to shoot during March mornings is at the top of the main stairs using the tiny window in my laundry room.
In April mornings, the kitchen. May mornings, the living room. June mornings, the back porch.
And don’t even get me started on evenings.
Most photographers know that winter light is scarce and that spring will bring with it a whole new slew of light-soaked shooting opportunities. But for those of us who love to document life at home, the arrival of spring light is so much more nuanced than: no light/ light.
I’d love to show you how to keep a room-by-room light journal, not just of a single day, but over months – preferably over an entire year. Once you start to notice the sun’s slow journey across the sky, you will see brand new shooting opportunities open up all over your house.
You can organize your journal in any way that makes the most sense for you, but the important thing to remember is that it’s more complex than just the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. As the year wears on, the rising sun will shine into your eastern windows at all different angles, intensities, and directions. It’s quite an exciting thing to watch unfold.
Be sure that your journal is long term (over months, not just a day or a week) and gives you the opportunity to observe the light in all different rooms of your home. And in my home at least, March is the perfect time to begin a journal! Because of my geographical location, it’s the start of spring and the return of the light.
Here is my light journal for March:
You’ll notice that while I do make note of where the light is soft, I mostly am concerned with where the light shines in most strongly. I love soft, diffused light. But if I know where my dramatic, strong light is entering, I also always know where I can go to find soft light. (At the opposite end of the house, of course!)
Therefore, questions I think about are:
- Where do patches of hard light fall on the wall and floors?
- What is the angle of the light?
- What direction is the light entering the window?
- Is there potential for reflected light?
Reflected light happens when light bounces off of a light or neutral surface and back into the subject’s face so that he or she is able to enjoy the benefits of being both backlit and evenly front lit with catch lights in the eyes. Take, for example, the first picture below where the light is bouncing off of the cereal box and back to my son’s face and the second picture, where the strong morning light is bouncing off of the white counter top and lighting up my younger son.
In March, the light entering my home is fierce and almost perpendicular in angle. It allows for all kinds of amazing opportunities for rim light and lens flares. But just for comparison’s sake, here is my May Light Journal:
As you can see by reading my notes, there is some truly magical light to be found in May. But it is a little more angled and therefore, more subtle.
When I was just beginning my photography journey, I missed a lot of opportunities for interesting light because I had a very fixed mindset. I thought, this is what the sun is like in my home in the summer, and this is what it’s like in the winter. I had no idea how much change four weeks could bring and so I didn’t continue searching.
Don’t let that happen to you!
Grab a journal, a pen, and your camera and keep your eyes and mind wide open to all the possibilities. You never know what you’ll uncover if you stay curious!
“To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” – Mary Oliver