Light.... ahhhh sweet light! There is nothing more central to taking phenomenal photos than LIGHT! From the beautiful glow of the early morning sun to the golden hour right before the sun sets, learning to read light, see what it does for your photos and use it is truly at the heart of great photos!
We could literally go on for days talking about different types of light, why we love it, how to use it, etc. But since we know you still need to raise your kids in between taking photos of them, we will try and stick with the Momtographers' less is more approach here too.
Essentially, there are three types of light:
We will start with the one we use most often and suggest that you do too - natural light! It's exactly what you think it is - natural. It comes from the sun... period. Now whether it's filtered through the clouds or by a window or shines harshly down on your subject at high noon is another story altogether, but all the same, if it comes from the sun , it's natural light. You could also call moonlight natural light if we were talking night photography - but even that comes from the sun!
As long as you aren't getting help from an artificial source such as a flash or a lamp, then you are working with natural light. The beauty of natural light is that it adds an element of authenticity to a photo that is incredibly hard to recrate with artificial light. There are conditions that exist in nature -such as the golden hour at dusk or just as the sun is rising at dawn - that are simply stunning and impossible to recreate any other way than by just going outside and snapping it up!
Natural light is also great for more practical reasons - IT'S FREE, it's always there, and there is no equipment involved! For the record, with very few exceptions, The Momtographers, Krista and Adrienne are natural light girls. But that won't stop us from diving into the yummy details of the other two for those of you more adventurous folks!
Available light, like natural light, is exactly what you would think it is by reading it's title. It's the light that's available in any given situation. More often than not, the moments we want to capture as momtographers are happening as life is happening, which means we have to lea rn to be flexible and use... well, what's available. Let's say you're standing in a room photographing your two-year-old blowing out her candles. Unless you positioned the whole party, cake and all around a bank of windows, it's likely you have a mix of light contributing to the scene. Light from a window, that flouresent kitchen light overhead and light from the candles. Welcome to the world of available light! It can be tricky sometimes, mostly when it comes to color, but nothing that a few tricks can't help you overcome. For more on the different colors of light - see our article on White Balance.
The last type of light is artificial light. Studio lights, flashes, speedlights, etc. are all forms or artificial light. In some ways, once you learn how to use these different tools created to help with photography, they are WAY easier to master than natural or available light because, quite simply, you can control them! There are no variables, nothing changes unless you want it too.
That's why so many professional photographers operate out of studios with artificial light. There's no hoping the clouds are going to be available for that 11:30am shoot. They set up their lights to look how they want them to look, when they want them to look. People who are super skilled with artificial light even know how to use it out in the field to fill in the holes when natural light isn't giving them the look they're envisioning.
The downside - it can be costly to invest in, cumbersome to set up, and intrusive to many of the spontaneous moments you want to capture, but not disturb. It's so involved, that most professional photographers who shoot on location have assistants who do nothing but help wrangle all the lights! Like everything else in the world of art (and photography, in particular), there is a time and place of artificial light. But in our humble opinion, perhaps with the exception of a speedlight (which can help deliver light in a pinch!) artificial light is the least Momtography-friendly of the lot.
As we said before, we could talk and debate all things light for days on end. But we promised to keep it simple and relevant so we're starting you off with 6 of our favorite most-common lighting situations, showing you the path to mastering them.
Have a look at one of our all-time favorites, window light!