Here's another mini lesson for parents trying to get better pictures of your kids. Previously I discussed CHANGING YOUR PERSPECTIVE and GETTING REAL EXPRESSIONS OUT OF YOUR KIDS. Today I want to share a few thoughts about lighting. Light on. Light off. Bright. Dim. I don't know how much I knew about light beyond this before I was challenged to learn to "look for the light" as I first began taking photographs.
It doesn't take much to whip out a camera and bang out a shot but what I have learned is that the lighting, more than just about anything besides the human interaction, affects the photograph enormously.
If you want to take better images of your children, it is so important to learn to evaluate the light that you have them in.
Turn Off Your Flash
It is almost always better to turn off your camera's built in flash to get a better picture. The harsh light flattens, takes away detail and changes the whole look of a photo. Turning off your flash means you may need to change your settings to be able to get the shot inside, or to guide your child to a well lit area in your home but it is so worth the effort.
Here are some pictures of Ruby that I took this afternoon.
Flash. (expression: Ruby is about to tell me about how she wants to make a clay tennis court...that's my crafty gal).
No flash. Look how lovely the play of light is around the angles of her face. Night and day difference. (Man, I love this girl!!)
The only real exceptions that you would want to take would be: in near darkness if you can't capture the image without a flash because your shot is too blurry, or as fillflash in bright, overhead sunlight.
More light isn't necessarily the better light. Standing a child directly in the bright midday sun will result in strong shadows and a really unflattering look. This picture was taken of me on our trip to Arizona. I do like it because there I am with my little boo strapped to me. However, it would have been a way better shot had I hopped under the nearby train station shelter and faced out toward the light and then grinned. What you are looking for at this time of day is "open shade" where you still get the light but it is not direct.
Get Your Light Source Behind You
I love to have a big area of natural light behind me to shed some beautiful light on my subjects. Inside it can be a white or neutral wall bouncing light on the face of a child, but not a prominent color that will give them an orange or blue hue. Outside, it can be lots of wide open space.
In this image of my sister and my niece, I shot them on a bed with bright white sheets reflecting up and a huge window behind me to shed lots of light on their faces. You can even see the shape of the window in the catchlights of Quinny's eyes.
In this picture of my parents and the grandkids, I found an area that had a fun background at the park where they would be prominent and really colorful, but had wide open space behind me. They would have been too dark had we done our photos in the middle of the trees.
This is a great type of lighting to start with as there are no strong shadows and it is generally flattering for all faces (including mums who like to have their wrinkles camouflaged a little :)). It disguises texture problems and skin imperfections. Put your kids on your porch, near a wall with light behind you, or directly facing a window for this type of lighting.
My crazies on our porch, facing the light.
I had them facing out toward me and all the open space behind me. If there was a wall directly behind me this would have never worked as it would have made their faces have a color cast of the colored wall and also shadowed them.
I love the drama of this type of lighting which comes...from the side....imagine that. Facing your child at a 45 degree angle to your light source or window gives a variety of highlights and make your child's face appear truly 3-D. The closer to the window, the more diffused the lighting.
I love the way little Elijah is tucked up against his mama and emphasized by all the shadows and highlights.
With side lighting, just make sure to have them facing the light source enough that you get catch lights in their eyes.
Tymen's face is given lovely depth by the window light on his left side.
The Sweet Light
That hour or so before sunset when the light gets all warm and glowy can be a wonderful time to photograph children. The light is more indirect and more flattering. These shots of Ruby were taken in this light.
Even with the sun directly shining on her, there are no strong shadows at this time.
Photography literally means "light writing" so as you begin to "write" beautiful images of your children, remember to find gorgeous light so they can shine!