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Finding the Best Light

The awareness of light and using it effectively is one of the most important things we can to do create a memorable photograph. By picking our location well, and placing the subject appropriately, we can control light outdoors, as effectively as we can in a studio shoot.

Ideally, the light should be brightest on the most important areas of a scene.  With portraits, that is usually the highlights on the face. Generally, we want a feeling of the light coming from one direction, from one side of the scene. This creates much more interest and impact within the image, as well as defining the shape of the face.  Ideally lighting will be chosen that gives the  most pleasing shape to the subject’s face.  

There is no single style of lighting that is best to light any subject.. Everyone is different, we must simply find the lighting situation that places our subject in the best light. That means scouting out many locations and keeping track of where that magical light is, at various times of the day, and seasonally as well. It is well worth putting in the time and effort to do this, to know I am getting the best lighting possible each time I go out and shoot.

Notice that the highlight on this girl’s left cheek is the brightest area of the scene. It is also the area of greatest contrast in the scene. As a result, our eye goes directly to her face with little else to distract . This is absolutely straight natural light. There were not even any reflectors used. We simply placed the subject according to the direction and quality of the light that we wanted to use.


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