photography tutorial | finding the light in open shade

My friend, Cheryl from Tidymom, kindly invited me to guest post over on her blog today about how to utilize open shade effectively.  I’m so excited to get to share a little bit about photography over there!

You can read that post here:  Utilizing Open Shade Effectively

This post is a follow-up to that one and I’d like to continue sharing about open shade and how to take even better photos in that type of lighting.

You see, while open shade is the ideal shooting situation (especially for a newer photographer)…not all open shade is created equally.  To utilize open shade the most effectively, you also need to Find The Light while you are shooting there.  And by that, I mean that you need to find the BEST light while using open shade.

The open shade I’ll be using for this post is part of the front covered porch on my home.  My model is my daughter, Weslea, who was being her regular goofy self.

Finding the Light Photography Tutorial - Angie Arthur Photography

As you can see, our porch isn’t the most beautiful environment that a session could be shot in…it really needs to be washed down, we have absolutely no landscaping in front of it yet and you won’t find a sign of any decorations anywhere.  What can I say?  Decorating and landscaping skills are NOT my gifts.  😉

But…shooting close-up portraits on my porch is one of my very favorite things to do!  The lighting is spectacular and my camera is always safe from whatever weather elements I am shooting in.  So, I find myself shooting photos of the kids there quite often when I need to take a quick shot.

I’ve found that no matter where we are on my porch, I can usually take a fairly decent photo.

I really don’t like to just capture just a fairly decent photo though!  So, in order for me to capture the very best portrait possible I have to find the best light.

And I do this simply by turning my subject until I find the light in their eyes.  It’s that easy and that simple!

Are you still not sure what I mean?  Here are a few examples to show you the difference it can make when you find the best light.  For all of these example images Weslea is standing in the exact same spot.  The only difference between them is that I had her rotate her body slightly until I finally found the best light to shoot in.

Finding the Best Light in Open Shade

Example #1

{Please excuse Weslea’s expression in this image.  Ha!  She was really wanting to play outside rather than be my model at that moment.}

This was probably the worst light I found.  You can see that Weslea’s face looks dark and has some shading on it.  There is a small catchlight in her eyes but they definitely aren’t sparkling like they should be if I had found the best light.

Finding the Light Photography Tutorial - Angie Arthur Photography

Example #2

By turning her a little bit more she has better light in her eyes and her face isn’t quite so dark.  The light was quite uneven from this angle though with half of her face darker than the other.  I decided to keep turning her to see if I could find an even nicer light to work with.

Finding the Light Photography Tutorial - Angie Arthur Photography

Example #3

When I turned her this way I knew right away that it wasn’t good.  Her eyes are very dark with very few catchlights in them.

Finding the Light Photography Tutorial - Angie Arthur Photography

Example #4

This angle actually was a pretty good one.  Her eyes are fairly bright and shining.  The light is mainly even on her face.  I was getting happier with the light while shooting from this spot.

Finding the Light Photography Tutorial - Angie Arthur Photography

Example #5 – Eureka!

But then I had Weslea make one final turn and I knew immediately that I had found the light!  Look at those bright, sparkling eyes…the gorgeous, even lighting across her face….and the brightness.  I loved it!  I had found the perfect light that I should be shooting in for that moment in time.

Finding the Light Photography Tutorial - Angie Arthur Photography

Quick Reminder: Don’t forget that Weslea was standing in the exact same spot for all of these shots.  All I had her do was rotate a little bit at a time until I found the perfect light to shoot in which really only takes seconds to accomplish.  The more you practice this, the more you will naturally see where the perfect light is and you won’t waste time shooting in the less-than-ideal lighting situations.

Extra Note: Unfortunately, not all kids will cooperate like Weslea did for me.  For uncooperative kiddos or younger children, I would move myself and use my voice as a way to get them to turn to the light.  Just by making a weird noise (ie. animal sound or crazy yell) you can usually get them to look the right direction for a moment so that you can get a good shot!

It literally only takes a few extra seconds to find the best light so that you can take your photos from “Oh that’s a nice picture” to “Wow! That is an amazing shot!”  Try it out today and see what a difference it makes!