Photo Tip of the Day – 31 May 2011

Look into the light.

That’s Photography 101, right? Sometimes, you don’t realize how basic and powerful a tip is until you put it to use.

It happened to me this weekend, in photographing my daughter and a couple of her friends. We were inside, in a room with a nice picture window bringing in a good amount of light. Two things I noticed:

1. The kids’ faces were a couple of stops brighter when next to the window than when five feet away. Somewhere, there’s an inverse square law that accounts for that.

2. Second, when they’re looking up at the window, not only do the shadows disappear from under their eyebrows, but the colors in their eyes light up.

The whole weekend was a culmination of light for me. It was a year ago that I started seeing light and not just pictures. I can’t claim that I can see black and white images in my mind, perfectly converted from the color in front of me. But I can see the hot spots and the dappled light and the rim light and more. This weekend, I worked hard at using that, positioning people between me and the sun later in the day to get the rim light in their hair and shoulders. I tried to keep them in open shade, then overexposing by up to two stops to bring the light on them up while not blowing anything out.

It’s something I plan on working on a lot this summer — not just getting a cute picture, but positioning myself to get the best light on it. It made my pictures this weekend twice as good as I would have otherwise gotten.

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