What Light is Best For Photos?

September 30, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

You know how when you buy a garden plant, it has a plastic spear in it with a picture that shows the type of light the plant needs?  It is one of these icons:

Like the plant, your camera could come with one of these icons (well not really but please play along).  So which one would it be?   This IS a quiz so please choose your answer!

While you think about it, let me share a brief story:  I was once a bridesmaid for a friend who, on her wedding day, woke up to (GASP!) cloudy skies.  She was really sad that it would not be sunny for her photos.  The photographer consoled her that the photos would be BETTER with the overcast skies we had.  She was not convinced unfortunately. Fortunately, she did smile for the photos because they turned out spectacularly!! 

Back to the quiz, the correct answer is... well, you guessed it! It's (C)!  But not really.  It's actually a trick question and the answer can be any one of the three but it is EASIEST to take NICE photos in either (B) partial sun or (C) shade.  In the case you are taking photos in full sun, I scrounged up a few old photos to illustrate the best way to go about it.

 

Above is a pretty typical photo that a parent might take of their child. Here the kid (my son) is in full sun and you can see that the light is at his back.  In fact, it's a little bit to his side, as there is highlight along the right side of his face and you see the shadow diagonal to his body.  If you need to take a photo in full sun, this is the best way to go about it. Place the child with the sun behind - or behind and at an angle for a little highlight.  Otherwise, you end up with an image that might resemble this:

Here, they're looking straight into the sun and not only that, the sun is casting shadows onto their faces, causing the undesirable dappled light situation, making their features look odd.  Plus, they're squinting!  Not the best situation.

 

Best of all, however, is to find a location that is completely shaded from the full sun.  No super bright highlights, no dappled light on faces.  This is called "open shade".  In this last photo you can see that with this open shade, the left side of his face gets a little added light from the nearby sun, which looks nice!

As we pull out our phones to take quick photos in the sun, it's not always possible to find shade or to turn your kid around. But when possible, following these simple tips can really make a difference!

 


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