A dark house is the portrait photographer’s nemesis. But low light doesn’t have to mean dark and dreary… think dark and moody. Emma Davis is a CLG Advanced Grad and an instructor on our team. She’s a self confessed light seeker and mum to six gorgeous muses to indulge her love of hunting and capturing light. She also lives in a dark house, but she embraces the light to create magic… read on to learn how!
Limited by Light
My house is dark, especially in the winter time. So for the longest time, when I wanted to photograph my kids, I’d drag them all across the road to the park at golden hour in search of some nice, pretty, predictable natural light. I’d stalk other photographers on Instagram and obsess over their gorgeous indoor photos of their children at play. I craved to be able to document my children in the same authentic, spontaneous way, but I didn’t think it was possible given the lack of light in our home.
I signed up for the Click Love Grow Advanced Photography Course hoping to learn a few more technical skills to help me shoot in different lighting conditions, but I didn’t realise just what a game changer it would be. I’ve gone from trying to work with the obvious light, to actively hunting light – I’ve become a light seeker. I’m no longer limited by my dark house, and I’m able to capture all those little spontaneous moments that happen in our home without feeling stifled by the lack of light.
One morning a few weeks ago, as I was leaving to take my girls to school, I caught a glimpse of the way the dew was glistening on the grass in the morning sun, and I rushed to grab my camera to capture it. (Spoiler alert: We still made it to school on time!).
8.20am Dew on the front lawn. I lay on my belly to take this and got soaking wet!
To take a shot like this, position yourself so the scene is backlit, and the light needs to be bouncing off the grass. So this is best shot when the sun is low in the sky, either early morning or late afternoon. The wider your aperture (low f stop number) the more bokeh you’ll create.
f4.5, 1/1000, ISO 100
When I returned a while later, the sun was slightly higher in the sky and the dew was slowly evaporating…
9.11am I wanted to capture the sunburst as it was such a clear, bright winter morning.
And thus began my ‘Day in the Light’ project – as I already had my camera out, I decided to keep it handy and document the winter sunlight as it filtered through varying parts of the house across the day.
9.53am Light patterns in the entrance way. The trees opposite the front door cast their shadows across the floor.
When shooting in this kind of light, expose for the highlights and let the shadows fall away. “Metering for the highlights” simply means your highlights are perfectly exposed. This tutorial below explains how to meter if you’ve never done it (it’s very easy!).
10.57am Direct sunlight filtering through the front door, with my cheeky little photobomber staging a quick escape.
f2, 1/250, ISO 320
11.20am As the sun continues to move around, it filters through the shrubs by the front door.
f3.5, 1/800, ISO 100
12.47pm The sun has virtually disappeared from this side of the house now, just one cheeky sliver illuminating the toys my toddler discarded on the floor when he went off to have his nap.
f2.8, 1/200, ISO 500
2.27pm Our balcony clearly needs a waterblast! But I love the geometrical shadows the balustrades cast in the afternoon sun.
f2.8, 1/250, ISO 400
3.15pm My children painted a rainbow on the slider in our room during lockdown and it’s one of my super fave things to shoot at this time of day when the afternoon sun streams through and creates shadows on the floor.
4.20pm My daughter’s shadow against our bedroom wall. You can see the shadows from the rainbow slider painting framing her.
f2.8, 1/400, ISO 320
7.06pm A moment of solitude after my toddler has gone to bed. Our house has these very 70s balustrades inside along the hallway upstairs and they create cool shadow patterns when the downstairs lights are on.
f2, 1/200, ISO 1000
I had so much fun with this little project, and I’m looking forward to trying it again in the summer when the light is completely different! How about you – what is your favourite little patch of light in your home?
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