Great light is the key to great pictures. If you don’t have or can’t create the conditions of great light, then you can’t take great pictures. Period.
Since it’s so important, the subject of this post is just light.
Whether you have a point-and-shoot or DSLR, to find great light for your shots indoors or outdoors you must do these things:
Seek out soft natural light.
Natural light is interesting.
It’s expressive and, sometimes, dramatic.
To shoot great pictures of your kids, you want good natural light, or light that actually comes from the sun, the real sun that shines in the sky.
Good light, the kind that creates beautiful shadows and is most “true” to life, is in most abundance early in the morning (30 minutes before sunrise) or late in the evening (sunset).
Of course, if you can’t do these times or close to these times, just try to make it your goal to seek out or create (see below) good soft light.
This rule applies to shooting outdoors or indoors.
When it comes to shooting indoors, the key is knowing your light. Do a walk-through of your house at different times of the day. Notice which rooms are brightest and darkest and at which times of the day. Again, you’ll want to look for soft light when taking your pictures and, if shooting indoors, be as close to your light source as possible (i.e., near the window, near the open door, etc.)
Create soft natural light.
If your rooms are too bright, consider using a sheer curtain to soften some of the light. You can also use a white poster board or reflector or diffuser to fill in shadows created by the harsh light. Okay, so I keep saying harsh light without really explaining what it is or what it looks like. Look at this picture:
It’s cute, right? Or, that she’s holding two dolls I placed in the shot is cute, right? I really like this picture of Annah for what it represents. It was shot the day our power went out. It was 100 degrees out and BURNING up inside so we came outside to wash our car/spray ourselves with the water hose. This is not a good photographic shot, however, because of all the distracting unnatural shadows that are cast on her face by the sun. The light in this picture is way too harsh.
If you’re shooting outside at midday or when the sun is at its highest point, you will get harsh light. To fix this, you’ll need to seek out open shade.
These following two pictures of Annah within minutes of the above shot. The sun was still BEAMING! But, unlike the previous shot, there aren’t any unnatural shadows. Why? Or how? Well, I salvaged the shots by shooting her in the shade of our open garage.
You should do the same when shooting when the sun is at its highest point. You should find shaded areas like leafy trees or tall buildings or open garages. 🙂
Be open to bad weather.
Just because it’s cloudy out doesn’t mean that you can’t take great pictures. Clouds in this instance act like a natural filter. If there is less light available, and you’re shooting indoors, bump up your ISO.
That’s it! Now start shooting in natural light! Go on! Do it! Do it!