Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The use of light in a photograph can be the deciding factor 
of whether that picture will be spectacular or terrible.

I didn't plan on writing a blog post today, simply because I'm totally bogged down with emails and editing, but since the topic has come up many times within the last few weeks, I decided to explain myself.

When scheduling outdoor sessions, you will notice I offer up the most inconvenient times: normally early, early morning or late evenings (when kids are typically the crabbiest, right?).  This is not because they are the best, most convenient times for me (have any of you SEEN me at 7 o'clock in the morning?!);  the times I offer you are, hands-down, the times you will receive the best images.

Sunlight at (or just after) sunrise and just before sunset is the most aesthetically-pleasing.  Next time you're driving around sunset time, take note of how everything just starts to warm and glow; everything looks beautiful.

Because the sun  is very low on the horizon, it illuminates the whole sky, giving photographers one, big, soft (key word) light to use.  Any time in between sunrise & sunset, that big, bright star (the sun) dominates the light situation.  When that light is coming from above or is too high in the sky, it casts deep, unsightly shadows under the nose and underneath the eyes.  It also has the tendency to "blow out" the top of heads, or make it look as if the top of the head is missing because there is so much light.  Finally, I think it goes without saying that people squint when the sun's in the eyes.

I will sacrifice a snapshot of my cute kid for the sake of this blog post:

Do you see what I mean?  Harsh, direct sun; no light in the eyes; squinting; harsh shadows underneath the eyes, nose and elsewhere.  Fine snapshot, but not a good portrait.

Now, CAN one get good images in "full" sun?  Absolutely!  It's not always the easiest, but it can be done.  However, let's face it, kids are unpredictable and not typically ones to stay still or in the exact position I will need them to to get that portrait.  Plus, I like capturing people (kids, especially) the way they are and that means, most of the times, letting them run around like crazy, which is not conducive to that light during midday.

I could drone on & on about this issue, but instead, let's compare the above with some images taken at ideal times:

She is facing right at the sun, but because it's so low in the sky, we don't get the harsh shadows and squinting any more.  Also notice the light in the eyes (which is pretty important in portraits) and nice, golden tone her skin receives.

Without a doubt, this is one of my favorites images I've ever taken.  Silhouettes (my favorite, which you know, if you've been following me for any amount of time) are always best taken next to sunrise/sunset. 

Though she may not look like it, this little girl was one tough cookie (though I haven't met a 2 year-old that isn't!).  Because we scheduled at an ideal time, we were able to let Miss Jada do whatever her little heart desired and not worry about, "Oh, it's too bright right there; we have to move!"  Had this shoot been any earlier, this shot would not have the nice, warm, golden tone it does.  It's lit perfectly.

You're paying, what I think is, a lot of money for your session; make it a priority to schedule for a time when you know you will receive the most beautiful, well-lit images.

I hope this better explains why I do what I do.  If you have any specific questions, please let me know, I'd love to answer them for you.  My email address is

Please remember I'm only after the best images possible for you.  

- Jennie


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