When clients tell me they want to go to a special location for their photo shoot, I always try my best to accommodate their wishes. I’ll let you into a little secret…the location matters very little for great photos. The absolute best factor for photos is good light. Some of my favorite shots have been taken in parking lots, alleyways and plain business doorways. Here are my 3 tips for finding the best light for photo shoots –
Time of day
You may have heard of the “Golden Hour”. This is roughly an hour before sunset or and hour after sunrise. Sunset tends to have a little more warmth than sunrise and I’ve only had a couple people willing to be photographed first thing in the morning so, I usually shoot in the evening. Not only is the light a bit “softer” at Golden Hour, you’re not going to have light coming from above which creates some weird shadows on people’s faces.
“Open shade” is just the shade of a building or wall but facing open sky or sunny areas. Shooting in open shade can actually help you shoot outside the “Golden Hour”. If you’re fighting with direct light, look around and see if there’s some open shade to move your subject to. I avoid using the shade of a tree as my open shade. Often it makes it too dappled to work well.
Use a reflector or reflected light
Bouncing light back onto a subject’s face with a reflector is like a magic trick. I have moms or a friend hold the reflector for me when I shoot High School Seniors. When I show them how to use the reflector, they often say. “Ooooo, I need one of these!”. It’s a little addition that makes a big difference. It adds a little sparkle in peoples eyes. That sparkle is called “catch light” (see the catch light in the above photo from the reflector). If you grab any magazine, look at any professional portrait online, I guarantee there’s a catch light or lights in their eyes. This is done with lighting usually but a reflector works great for this. It doesn’t even have to be an actual reflector like the one I’m using above – anything that reflects light back onto your subject works. One of my favorite places to shoot around my house is the side of my house that faces West. As the sun sets, it reflects a beautiful even light onto someone facing it.
Time for confession
I have to tell you a funny story; when we figured out that my daughter would be between her Junior and Senior year when we were heading to Paris I said, “Let’s do your Senior Portraits in Paris!”. Sounds awesome, right?! I ignored all my own advice about light over location because, well, PARIS!!! I did get some fun Parisy shots but my favorites, honestly, could have been taken anywhere! See for yourself –
Would you have known if I didn’t tell you that these were taken in Paris? Let me show you a shot I took in a super nondescript back alley in my little town. And when I say nondescript, I mean it!
(My niece! Such a cutie! #proudaunt)
Don’t you think this could be Paris too?! Really, it matters way less what the location is and way more the quality of the light on your subject!
If you want to purchase a reflector for yourself, I like the kind that have silver or warm silver on one side and white on the other. Here’s a link to the kind of reflector I use – Soft Gold/White Reflector.
Now get out there and shoot! :)