Kyrstin T asks: I was wondering how you achieve your photos to look so great, with the proper use of sunlight in the background but yet it doesn’t seem to catch your face and create a glare.
Hi everyone! I’m kicking off the ASK ALINA SERIES today with a photography tutorial inspired by an email from fab reader Kyrstin T. As you may already know, most of our photos are taken in natural light and specifically in direct sunlight. We love working with sunlight and the mood it creates in our photos. For us, understanding how to work with sunlight has been key to improving the quality of our photos over time. While it does help to have professional gear, achieving proper lighting is the first and most important step in our photography. Here are four best practices we follow and try to master to achieve the desired results in our photos. We hope they’ll help you in your own photography too.
1. Best Time To Take Photos
Whether we’re taking photos in direct sunlight or in the shade, our best photos are usually the ones taken during the golden hour. This is when the sun is the lowest in the sky, thus creating the perfect conditions to capture well-lit, soft beautiful photos. The golden hour changes by the season and location. To find the golden hour where you live, visit golden-hour.com. The following is approximately when we generally take our photos: Summer 6pm, Fall 3:30 pm, Winter 2:30 pm and Spring 4 pm.
2. Avoid Unwanted Shadows
In order for your face to be evenly lit without any unwanted shadows, try either facing away from the sun or be in the shade when your photos are taken. Sometimes the sun might come down at an odd angle from where you are, which may be difficult to avoid having any sunlight on your face. In situations like this I usually turn my face away from the sun or use my hand, hair or an accessory to deflect any unwanted light. See the example below.
3. Use Buildings & Windows To Enhance Lighting
In the fall and winter the sun sets 10 minutes earlier every week, which means we constantly have to race against time if we don’t buffer enough time. When the sun starts setting and there is not a lot of light left to work with, we will try to compensate by taking photos near a light wall or window. These objects act as a light reflector and it’s quite effective. Of course, you may choose to use a professional light reflector but we find it cumbersome to handle unless you have an assistant, so we never really use one.
4. Add A Slight Haze
We love a touch of haze as it creates a soft romantic mood in our photos; however, getting that perfect amount of haze without sacrificing clarity is very hard. The haziness you see in the photos is the result of the lens taking in too much sunlight. The best way minimize the haze is to change the angle you’re shooting. Sometimes just moving half an inch left or right can make a BIG difference. There is no magic step here even if you have the best camera and lens. You just have to practice until you get it right. :)
After taking photos for a year now, we feel like there is still a lot to learn! If you’re a photographer or a blogger who has experience with photography, I’d love to get your thoughts and feedback. While we follow these best practices, we know from experience that the final quality of any photo (clarity, color, etc..) is also dependent on the grade of the camera, its settings, the lens and editing techniques. Having said that, achieving good lighting from the very start will significantly reduce the amount time you’ll need to edit the photos.
If you find these tips helpful or have questions, shoot me a message or comment below. If your question is picked, I’ll answer it in our next tutorial post. For reference, our camera is a Canon 6D and lens is EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. Our photos are edited in Lightroom.
Thanks to Deb Shops for providing wardrobe for this post.