I love my studio so much. All the years I’ve shot in a studio it’s been wonderful to have the consistency of the space. From the actual props we used to the lighting, it’s always consistent. Shooting outdoors is a whole different story. As much as you can bring reflectors and can plan for the best time of day to shoot, you will inevitably not be able to always control your light.
So how do I choose the light I am going to shoot in when shooting outdoors?
When you’re on location you’re just working with what you have available to you. Trust me when I tell you, nature doesn’t always give you what you need to create the images you envision in your mind. It’s up to you to be creative and to understand where to best place your subject for the different light available to you.
A couple notes on outdoor lighting…
Sometimes all you have to work with is harsh light. When I have harsh light to work with I find it’s important to place my subjects just right to avoid squinting or harsh shadows. You either avoid the harsh light (finding some shade) or you should fully embrace it. Don’t half ass it or ‘try to make it work’... If you’re going for harsh light, go all out.
The best light is an overcast sky. An overcast sky, filled with wither fluffy clouds covering the sun or the dramatic clouds signaling a rain storm, make everything soft and even. This style of lighting is really perfect for editing with presets. It really is the easiest and safest way to shoot knowing you don’t have to worry about squinty eyes, shadows or where the light is hitting your subject.
My favorite kind of light is, and i’m sure you could guess it because all photographers love it… golden hour. The warm golden tones are simply gorgeous for capturing your subject and always make for lovely images no matter what.
So how do I decide which light to actually shoot in?
For me, it really depends on the mood I am going for. When I’m at a session I look for variety and different lighting situations to see which will best bring my vision to life. Trees will give me shadows and more dappled light when the sun is still high which can give a real dreamy feel to the images you are creating.
I also look for open shade. If this term is unfamiliar to you, open shade is when your subject stands fully in the shade looking towards you. You will be in the sun. It’s the perfect way to keep your subject free of harsh shadows.
If my subject has the availability, I’ll always pick golden hour. Golden hour gives a dreamy feel and I just love how the soft light hits hair and skin makes it all seem to glow. It has an ethereal effect and makes everything look like it could be a fairytale.
The blue hour, which is the hour right after sunset, is perfect for moody tones. If the look you and your subject are going for is more moody and dramatic then this light will work best.
The most important part of all is to learn how to work with all of these different kind of light situations so you can be prepared no matter what the day brings your way. Being prepared is the best way to bring a vision to life, even if it’s not what you originally anticipated. Becoming skilled with your camera and understanding the benefits and tricks to working with each lighting situation is going to make you a stronger photographer for your clients.