When it comes to utilizing beautiful natural light for your portraits there are a myriad of options…back light, tunnel light, open shade, full sun, or reflected light to name a few. I’m sure many photographers can relate to the fact that learning to understand light and wield it to our photographic prowess is a challenging journey! But promisingly, if you can master lighting it is an essential contributing factor to the level of professionalism and artistic merit we so long to obtain our craft.
This was one of my favorite sessions from last August. It took me months to track down the sailboat, but it was so worth it. I love to shoot near water since I find it so incredibly inspiring and iconic. However, lighting nautical images presents a few obstacles if you don’t like to shoot in full sun. It means you’ll need to work with the sunrise or sunset unless you have an overcast day. If you back light your images with the sun rising or setting behind your model, the light is harsher, more direct and results in dramatic loss to the color and detail of the water. Because of this fact, I often prefer to light nautical images from the ‘front’ if possible to preserve the dreamy blue of the water and create a soft, glowy light on my subject’s skin.
To achieve this, you need to shoot in an area where the sun is rising or setting behind a dune bluff or tree line that will act as a filter for the sunlight hitting the subject’s face, thus creating a ‘shade‘ effect. This session took place about an hour and a half before sunset. My subjects faced the sun directly as it sank behind a distant tree line creating a smooth even light on their skin. Keep in mind that shooting that late works best with slightly older children who won’t be falling apart emotionally by evening.
A few tips to keep in mind for lighting:
Know the look you want to achieve. Lighting sets the mood, conveys emotion and dictates a certain aspect of your artistic style. Does the type of light you’ve selected for the shoot mesh with the theme and feel you are aiming for? Will it set you up for successful retouching as you finish the images in your editing software?
Have a well thought out plan in place. Scout your location ahead of time and identify what the lighting will look like at the exact time of day and time of year where you’ll be shooting. Lighting conditions can alter drastically from one month to the next as the equinox changes.
Estimate the time constraints. You may only have a certain amount of time to work with before the lighting changes…i.e. the sun starts setting or disappearing behind other objects, so make sure that you can realistically carry out your whole plan before you lose the light.
I hope these tips are helpful and thanks for reading!