Lighting is one of the most important parts of photography – no matter how good your composition is, bad lighting can totally ruin the photo. There are ways to fix this through editing, but it’s a lot easier to have good lighting from the get-go.
I personally prefer natural lighting as I love the warmth and glow it gives to a photo, but I’m not completely opposed to things like ring lights or soft boxes. The type of lighting you need definitely depends on what you’re photographing and the kind of lighting you’re dealing with that day. I know the lighting is going to get a lot worse in the upcoming months as the days get darker, so artificial lighting is a great alternative – you can always warm up the photo in post.
Today I’ll be talking solely about portrait photography as I find these photos to get the best response on social media, but I’m totally happy to go into lighting product shots if that’s something you guys would like to read more about!
Here are my tips on how to use lighting to create the best photos.
ANGLE YOURSELF TOWARDS THE LIGHT
When taking any kind of portrait – whether it be close up or a wider angle – you want to make sure you (or your model) are finding the light. Directing your face/body towards the light will immediately make you look more radiant and add a point of interest to the photo, rather than everything being in shade.
I love playing around with how much of myself I direct towards the light – I always try to keep some shadow to add a little more drama. When using light like this, you can really have fun and get creative with it – choose to keep certain features/body parts in the shade to make other elements pop and stand out.
My favourite way to do this is just to stand at a window and keep changing positions, this is how I tend to take most of my portraits and I always find the lighting inspires me to try out different things.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Although you may want to take photos during the day when you can ensure you’ll have good lighting for a solid amount of time, I implore you to wait until around 4-6pm (depending on seasons). This is my personal favourite time to take photos, also known as golden hour.
You’ve probably heard the term ‘golden hour’ used a lot on Instagram, but if you aren’t sure what it means then allow me to explain. It’s basically the period of time where the sun is just beginning to set, casting out a ‘golden’ light which is perfect for photos. Photographers tend to love it as it gives a subtle warm glow and blurs the skin, leaving the model looking radiant and bronzed.
I really love it because it makes me look super glowy and a lot more tanned than I actually am. It also gives the photo a soft warmth – which I love – and creates a summery feel. If you have the patience, definitely wait for golden hour to take photos.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE BACKLIT
People tend to avoid taking backlit photos as they’re harder to edit, but my favourite photos are always backlit – especially if you can get it at golden hour. Not only will you most likely get a stunning lens flare, it will also create a soft, halo effect around yourself or your model.
This halo effect gives such an ethereal feel to the photo, and creates an interesting dynamic between the light and shade.
If you do plan on taking backlit photos, I’d definitely recommend taking them in a RAW format so you can easily bring back the colours in the image without losing quality.
Editing a photo like this might seem difficult, but I just use the Lightroom app (the free version, because I’m a broke student) and it works a treat.
You can use the Auto edit button if you aren’t completely confident with editing, and that will pretty much fix it for you. However, if you want to edit it yourself you can simply decrease the shadows pretty much completely and up the clarity – it might take a little extra fiddling with some of the other controls but that’s really the basics. Not so difficult after all, eh?
If you’re after very summery, warm photos then I’d definitely recommend shooting backlit – I guarantee you’ll love the end result.
CREATE LIGHT EFFECTS WITH PROPS
I love shooting directly near a window for the best natural light – especially half-turned towards it so I can get the contrast of shadow and light – but being indoors doesn’t always give me the best lighting effects. I love a good bokeh and lens flare, and one of the easiest ways to achieve those are with props.
I’ve talked about props in my photography tips posts before, but they really are essential in taking the most interesting, dynamic photos. The easiest way of achieving a bokeh effect (like the one pictured above) is to use fairy lights. You can place them directly in front of the camera for a more dreamy effect, or place them in the background for something a little more subtle.
You can really have fun with the fairy lights too, playing with different shapes and colours to create different effects.
So those are my lighting tips! I hope you guys enjoyed this post, let me know in the comments which tip you found most helpful. I’d love to see your photos if you choose to try out any of these suggestions! See you next time,