There are three things that inspire me most when I pick up my camera, whether it be to capture my children or for my client work, and they are emotion, connection and light. And the greatest emphasis of these three is light. Light can make or break an image for me; it brings the photo to life.
Backlight and directional light are my favorite sources to work with and what inspires me most. I am drawn to shadows and light and how they play on each other. It evokes emotion from me and is probably why I love those moodier, contrasty edits and images. I play around with light a lot, especially during the winter months when I have to create the light I want. It is so dreary here in the Midwest most of the season. I am so thrilled to share some of my favorite tips and tricks for how I find light and use it!
We live on a farm here in Michigan where we have flat fields and open sky. Mother Nature can be just so inspiring, so when the sun is dipping low, the sky is full of dreamy colors and the clouds look like cotton candy a silhouette of my kids. I love a wide shot to show the scale how small they are in this big, big world.
My favorite element of backlight during golden hour is the dreamy glow it produces. It is so flattering for the subjects and that light is just so warm and inviting. When photographing in backlight, I like to try a number of different angles. One of my favorites to keep those golden rays of light, but also have a warm glow, is to use my subjects or objects in the environment to block just a tiny little bit of the sun. I am able to keep my subjects properly exposed, but still have the sun’s golden glow.
Because I like moodier edits, I prefer to have darker colors in the background of my subjects. When my children are willing to humor me for a bit, I’ll coax them (a.k.a. bribe them) to the edge of shade so the light hits the top of them, but isn’t overpowering. Boom — that delightful backlight dances around them and creates a warm, backlit image while I have darker shadows to contrast that amazing golden light.
So, it obviously isn’t always golden hour and I don’t always have ideal light. But, being the true memory documenter I like to think I am, I shoot in any and all lighting conditions. Using the camera during harsher times of day doesn’t produce the soft shadows and lovely light I like, so I try to find ways to diffuse it with whatever my environment provides me with.
My children love to play in the barns we have on our property and all of them are extremely old, which works in my favor. Just about any time of the day I can find great light in them thanks to the spaces between the old barn siding.
We store hay bales in our barns and the floor of the barn is covered in hay and straw. Needless to say, dust is plentiful. When the sun is streaming in directly through cracks of the barn siding, the dust is visible in the air. My children are constantly moving, so they are kicking around the loose hay which in turn gets a ton of dust in the air. When it hits the rays of light, it is just magic.
I also love the directional light our barns allow me to control. They have HUGE sliding doors and I can move them to allow more or less light in from one side. I love the fine art, painterly look the right directional light creates. I will sometimes create this light using off camera flash or bouncing my on camera speedlight, too.
Finding inspiration indoors can be a bit trickier and can leave me uninspired, especially during the dreary winter months here in the midwest. My go to is window light, though. When all else fails for inspiration, go to a window. This directional light is soft and it falls off the subject quickly, making it simple for me to accomplish the contrast between light and shadows and have diffused light.
I swear I am nearly done talking about my love of light and how I search for it. Promise! I’ll bow out with a little story with this last photo, because the light helped me tell the story so darn well.
While at the bakery at our local apple orchard, I was watching my daughter’s eyes dart back and forth at the bakery case. She was seriously considered what donut she wanted. It was extremely dark in the old barn, but there was fluorescent light from the case holding all the goodies. Was it the most gorgeous light? Um, no. But it lit her face so well and helped to tell the story of her sprinkle or no sprinkle struggle so well. To keep the fluorescent light from being too ugly, I made sure my white balance was on point before snapping this shot.
@tlovesr & @terryfarmsphotography on Instagram