Finding great light when capturing your child in pictures makes all the difference between a good and bad photo. If your kids are often blurry, you most likely don’t have enough light to freeze the action. If you pop the flash, your child’s skin will look washed out leaving a five o’clock shadow on her face. Does that mean we are doomed with fall and winter upon us? Do we need summer sunsets to get great lighting in our photos? Even more so, do you need expensive camera equipment to capture great results? Not at all. In my new book, Your Child in Pictures
(the follow up from Your Baby in Pictures), I share hundreds of photo tips on how to capture magical photos of your child ages one to ten. Regardless of whether you are indoors, outdoors, dealing with cloudy days or harsh sun, you learn the tricks that I use all the time! Here are eight of my favorite tips for finding great light when capturing your child in pictures. A little something to get you started! *Adapted in part from Your Child in Pictures.
Do a Walk-Through 1 of 9
Become intimately aware of when and where the best light shows up in your home. Walk through your house and notice which rooms are brighter than others. Do this several times throughout the day, even taking pictures of each room to see how the light changes... Which rooms are brighter, and when are they at their peak of sun? Are some rooms too bright? A sheer curtain can be used to soften harsh light, acting as a perfect diffuser.
BEFORE Example: Opt for Parking Lots Versus the Park 2 of 9
Think twice when taking photos at the park. As in this BEFORE photo, you can see how grass absorbs light, making the image darker, and even creates shadows on faces. Check out the next photo to see how we fixed the lighting with pavement!
AFTER Example: Opt for Parking Lot Versus the Park 3 of 9
In this AFTER example, we moved mom and child to the driveway. You can see how concrete (such as sidewalks and driveways) bounces a more flattering light onto your child's face, often filling shadows that can show up in the grass. Beginning photo lovers flock to the park for their photo shoots. Try a university campus or a wide open parking lot. I promise, you will LOVE the photo results (especially in the darker winter months!).
The Light in Your Child’s Eyes 4 of 9
Photographers often refer to a term called "catchlight". They are talking about the little white light that is in the middle of your child's eye, giving the eyes more depth. But how do you capture this? Easy-peasy! Have your child face the window light to create "catchlight" in his eyes. Window light reflecting into your child's eye is how the magic happens. Next time your feeling cabin fever, try this technique. It doesn't take much window light at all, the child just needs to face the window. For the full photo recipe to walk you through capturing a portrait just like this, check out Chapter 5 in Your Child in Pictures!
Don’t Let Cloudy Skies Get You Down 5 of 9
Having been raised in the Pacific Northwest, cloudy skies are on the menu almost every day of the year. But they are GREAT for taking photos because the clouds become a natural filter, like the sheer curtain over your window. On cloudy days, there are no shadows and no bright light causing your child to squint, so you are all set!
Notice Colors of Light 6 of 9
Part of finding great light is noticing how the color of light changes throughout the day, especially the dynamic range in color during sunrise and sunset. In fact, check out this time lapse video that Brian and I did of the sunrise in Egypt. In less than a minute, you can see how the color of light changes with the sunrise. As your awareness grows, you become more intentional about what time of day or evening you are taking pictures of your child. This photo was taken right after sunset while in Thailand. The ten to fifteen minutes before and after sunsets can often produce the most amazing colors in the sky.
Bathtubs are Gold for Great Light 7 of 9
I remember finding this darling flower girl, hiding in the bathtub. I wanted the story of this photo to show how small she was and how huge the tub was. So I sat on the floor and shot straight on at her eye level. You can see that the bathroom is somewhat dark, but bathtubs are gold for great light. The window light spills into the white tub and reflects light on her face. Whenever I get the chance, I LOVE to check out my client's bathtubs for great lighting that they may not have considered.
Absence of Light, Defines Light 8 of 9
Sometimes finding great light is all about the absence of light. Silhouettes are a wonderful way to play with this concept. Position yourself to have a wide open background that is made up of sky or water. Then consider framing your child, along with other objects like trees, bushes, islands, even bubbles, that become like cutouts — accentuating the beautiful light even more. Notice how I framed this photo so the trees branches and leaves are just poking in the top right hand corner while the silhouette of bushes across the bottom added more shape and definition to the sunset. For a step-by-step guide to capturing a stunning silhouette, check out the photo recipe "Flying Cherub Silhouette" in Your Baby in Pictures.
Shoot into the Light 9 of 9
There was some concern with this photo of Blaze being the cover for the book. After all, his hair is a bit messy :) And yet, the golden sunset light was to much for the critics to pass up. (Blaze's messy hair and orange sunset won out! And can I just say how happy I am about it! I know I'm not the only mom who loved her little boy's hair being long and even messy.) Next time you have a gorgeous sunset taking place, shoot into the sunset. If your subject becomes a silhouette, tap on your subject to brighten their face. If you have a DSLR, turn your camera to Manual mode. Set your ISO to 400, pick the lowest f-stop you can for a buttery, blurry background, and then roll your shutter speed dial while taking test photos until you have the degree of light on your child's face that you want. Meanwhile, let the sunset be your glorious backdrop!
Your Child in Pictures is hot off the press! Find more tips for finding great light, as well as forty photo recipes to capture the different developmental stages of your child from one to ten years old!
*To see more videos with fun photo tips, see my Disney Junior show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh
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