Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light.
Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography. -George Eastman
You ever notice how certain images or films have this magical quality to them that makes you feel giddy with excitement? It more than likely has to do with light. Lighting is one, if not the most important, aspect of an image. And most photographers will agree that there is a certain type of lighting that is the most favorite. It creates instant magic, sparks and electricity. Here’s a short blog post on how to get your images to magically pop.
Let’s Talk About Golden Light
Golden light is soft, warm, electrical and occurs twice a day. You don’t need Photoshop or a filter and it’s available wherever the sun is. The lighting isn’t harsh like during the afternoon, meaning no need to squint, and its warm in temperature (think reds and oranges) making people’s skin tones look prettier and more flattering, as opposed to the blue tones that occur during the afternoon. Also, shadows are loooong and more dimensional during this hour, making the image more interesting to look at!
It doesn’t matter the location of your session when it comes to golden hour light, but the timing is imperative. Depending on where you live, you typically have 60-90 minutes of gorgeous, dimensional light before the sun dips down below the horizon. You can use a calculator online like this one here or simply schedule your photoshoot an hour before sunset. If you live in a city or surrounded by mountains, plan on your session being 30 minutes before golden hour as the sun dips behind skyscrapers earlier than if you live in a rural area, surrounded by fields and flat land.
- Clouds – give yourself some buffer time if you have clouds, as the tend to show up right at the horizon.
- Keep an eye out for how the light is shifting in your area and take note of how long it lasts, before it gets too dark to shoot.
4 Ways to Use Light
My favorite light, and the most magical and glowy to look at. Back light is a creative tool to add layers of interest and instant warmth. This is my go-to and I love catching some sun flare and using the low, golden light to rim the person’s hair – it creates this magical, warm glow around them!
A totally safe option. Flat light is safe to create stunning, evenly lit images, no matter where the sunlight is coming from. It’s also so beautiful for skin tones, and it really makes the eyes pop.
After golden hour, when the sun has dipped fairly close to the horizon and those minutes right before it gets dark. Directional light creates three-dimensional images. When the sun dips beyond the horizon, have your clients face that light – you’ll get so much depth and interesting shadows. It’s also an easy trick to add emotion and moodiness.
Most photographers avoid full-sun. It’s what we’re taught from the very beginning, but I don’t like to play by the rules when it comes to working creatively. Don’t be afraid of full sun. It’s contrasty, warm and interesting, and it’s also simple and easy to shoot! Although my least favorite light of the four, I recommend not being afraid of direct light, despite its ability to capture harsh shadows. I often close down my aperture when shooting in direct light.
I hope these tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years can bring some help to you, whether you’re shooting for fun on your travels or a professional photographer working in the field! Understanding and mastering light is truly the key to unlocking stunning photography.