When the Light is Just Right & When it’s Not

This week I want to show you the difference between environmental portraits taken in the strong middle-of-the-day light, and the soft, warm, early morning and late afternoon light.

Can you tell which I like more? The warm light of early morning and late afternoon is flattering, creating beautiful portraits with rich, saturated colors. Midday light is stronger, harsher, and, if you know how to work with it, bold and daring.

Every style has its place, and you choose the light to get the impact you want. Want warm, flattering, and inviting? Go for evening light. Want high-impact style? Use the bright sun of midday, but use it carefully. Posing and composition are key to this style. Get that wrong and it can be a disaster, use it right and you have that bold style that fashion magazines love.

With the road image of Meghan I took at our Seniors Ignite event, we didn’t have a choice in time of the session so we had to create the high fashion look using the sun. I used a big silver reflector and aimed it to reflect the sun and fill in the shadows. Then I posed Meghan so her eyes were not toward us which would have created that raccoon look, with dark shadows under the eyes.

20140224_forde_m_18y-546 (1)Later in the portrait session I posed her in front of this abandoned airplane and balanced the bright sunlight with the 6′ silver reflector.

The strong light, used well and balanced with careful posing and a reflector, creates strong images. This is great for fashion magazines and many of my seniors models love it too! But for family and children, I really prefer to use soft morning and afternoon light. It creates such a warm, loving atmosphere where I can capture beautiful expressions without having to fight the sun.

Lesson Learned

So, thinking about having your family portrait created at noon? Don’t do it!! Even 4pm can be too early if you are out in the open. At this time of day beginner photographers often want to pose you with the sun right behind you, but this will just wash out the background and look overexposed.

This high-impact bright-sun style is an effect where the main star of the picture is often the sun. If used correctly you can get a nice image, but doesn’t usually create that timeless, centerpiece image you’ll want to hang in your living room for years.

Instead, have your portrait session a little later in the day, in the soft golden light that is flattering and saturates colors. In this light you and your family will be the star of the portraits, not the bright sun.

These are my 7 grandchildren and Tammy created this masterpiece as only Tammy can. Thank you, Tammy, for this beautiful timeless memory of these beautiful children. Sally Boyd – Ocala, Fl

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