Photography: Lighting

I have to admit that I’ve had very little time this week to think about this week’s SOS: Photography post.  I was so motivated last week when I posted about smiling for the camera, but then life got in the way this week.  So, this tip came together quickly through a conversation with my husband last night.

When trying to think of tips that should be easy to follow when taking blog photos, no matter what kind of camera you’re posing in front of, what came to mind first was lighting.  If I had my camera books handy (they’re still packed in boxes in the basement!), I’d quote from them, but since I don’t, I’ll have to paraphrase. Basically, you want to take photos in indirect light with any flash that may be built into your camera turned off.

Strong light will make for harsh shadows.

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

I was really excited about taking photos in the desert when we were at a wedding last summer, but my husband and I quickly realized that there was no where to hide from the mid-day sun.  And, there was no time to come back later to take advantage of dusk when the sun would be lower and not as harsh since we were due to be dancing and eating at the wedding reception then.  You can see how shadowy my face is here, and I will even admit to lightening my face in Photoshop so that it wasn’t even darker and more shadowy.

Speaking of dusk, dawn and dusk are easy ways to get nice photos with indirect sunlight.  The magic golden hour!

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

In the photo above my husband and I were taking advantage of the setting sun at dusk. A little prep in the morning meant we could run out as soon as we got home from work that day to catch the setting sun.  You could easily do the same with the tripod.  Just try different angles with respect to the location of the sun to find the nicest light.  Often, as long as there’s enough light still hitting your face, it’s best when the light is coming from somewhere behind you.  No squinting and a soft glow = win, win!

UPDATE:  I just read a post by Jenny of Cashmerette that suggests you orient your face towards the sun during the golden hour.  She believes it shows off the garment the best, and I think she may be on to something there that I hadn’t thought about!

You can even get fancy and catch a sun flare!  Though, here we’d let the sun get a little too low, which is why the light isn’t quite as soft as in the photo with my golden Archer.

My guess is that the very popular style blogger, Wendy of Wendy’s Lookbook, takes most of her photos at dawn since the lighting is always perfect, but there are rarely people around despite being out and about on city streets.  If you can motivate and get yourself ready by the time the sun comes up, you’ll likely have your favorite photos spots all to yourself. Bonus, you won’t have a day’s worth of wrinkles in your clothes, either!

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

Indirect light can also come from odd places, like here at the base of this sculpture.  Since digital photos are free, don’t be afraid to try something crazy out like standing on a lighted grate near a giant orange wall!

If you prefer taking your photos indoors, try to set up your camera near a window that’s getting a lot of light from outside.

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

Here the window was just off to the left, and the wall behind me was catching the late day sun from the northwest.  All my Stitcher’s Guild Sewing with a Plan photos were taken against that same wall, and I bet the clear photos were a big part in how I secured second place in that year’s SWAP.

Sew Well - Photography and Lighting Tips

That said, I also think that was some of my most successful sewing to date. What a fun challenge that was! I hope to find time to push myself like that again sometime soon.

Also, note that the shadows behind me are a bit sharper in the SWAP photos than in the one where I’m wearing the Drape Drape dress.  That’s because I’m standing closer to the wall in the SWAP photos.  Since those SWAP photos, I’ve learned I like standing a few feet in front of the background wall if I can help it so that the shadows behind me are a bit more muted.

Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on lighting in blog photography.  I’m sure there’s a lot more for all of us to learn, so please share away!

14 thoughts on “Photography: Lighting

  1. I never thought of myself as a photographer when I was younger, but blogging has definitely pushed me as a photographer. I’ve been doing some amateur modelling for Zulily, and the lighting they do is amazing! The smallest tweaks they do make a big difference.

    1. I read your post about modeling! I’d love to learn more about what they do. You should put together a post about what you’ve learned. Even if it’s not attainable for the masses, it would still be good to read!

      1. Hi, Amy, I wanted to tell you that your suggestion was a really good one, and I made 2 tutorials for modelling. I’m going to post the first tomorrow, and the second on Thursday. I’d love for you to check them out, and would be honored if you would refer your readers to check them out if you feel your readers would benefit. Enjoy.

      2. Yay! Thanks! I’m hoping to do a post this week on how I’m working on improving my posing in front of the camera, and I already knew I wanted to link to a Cashmerette post. I’d love to link to yours as well!

  2. If you find yourself having to take portrait photos in less than desirable light such as the strong midday sun, then that’s the perfect time to use your flash. What it does is provide ‘fill flash’ and take out those harsh shadows that you found yourself lightening in photoshop. Your flash is not just for low light. Give it a crack!

  3. I agree, finding the best light is quite difficult for me. I end up taking most of my photos around 6-7 pm in my backyard when it is still light but no too bright. Cloudy days work great though. interesting topic.

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