Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lesson #1: Soft Lighting is a Girl's Best Friend!

Let's face it ... everyone looks better in the right light. The secret to looking Ahh-MAZING in your photographs is knowing and getting into the right lighting. One of the biggest challenges in learning how to take beautiful pictures is learning how to determine where to shoot your photo and from what direction.

Shooting in direct sunlight at 12 o'clock noon is the harshest lighting on any face, but especially as we age.  Bright, direct overhead sun is unforgiving as we get older casting defined shadows under eyes, illuminating fine lines in our skin and showing deep contrast in our faces. Remember too much sun is always too much sun for our skin, whether we are at the beach or taking a photograph directly underneath it.

Soft light has no direction to it and does not cast shadows. This is the kind of light you see in a cloudy day or in wide open shade. It is also the light we want to photograph ourselves in. How to tell if your light is hard or soft? One of the easiest techniques is to simply hold out a finger across your hand, slightly in front of you, to see if there is shadowing. If your shadow is dark then you have a hard lighting situation and should look for a softer shadow or no shadow at all to shoot in.

Here is a photo I took in my backyard this morning under cloudy skies. You can see that there is no shadowing under my finger and you cannot tell where the light is coming from. My lower hand is perfectly lit under the cloudy conditions which filters the sun naturally.
A few hours later when the sun came out I took the second photo in the same place. This time you can see how the sun overhead casts a dark shadow on my hand along with a shadow on my arm from the camera lens.

Soft light, moonlight, candlelight, sunlight, incandescent light, whatever your light, the quality and direction will make the difference between an OK photo and the one that you love. The characteristics of light are far reaching so get it right!

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within." ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." ~Edith Wharton

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