As photographers we’re ingrained to look for light filled locations to take photos that are crisp and well exposed. Aaand as photographers… we often leave the camera untouched when we don’t find that kind of light! But all you need is a small pocket to work with, and a willingness to embrace low light photography, low key exposures and (sometimes) hard light shadows, to create really dynamic and dramatic imagery.
This week’s highlights reel of images from our CLG community comes courtesy of our Documenting Family Life Creative Workshop which is currently underway. We’ve gathered a handful of images to inspire you to seek out less light (crazy I know!!) and really play with it…
As beginners we’re always taught to avoid hard light because it’s harsh and unflattering to our subjects. But look for interesting patterns in pockets of light to level up your compositions.
Expose for the highlights for a perfect balance of shadows and highlights.
Related: How to Shoot in Manual Mode
Don’t avoid small pockets of light just because the light will fall unevenly over your subject’s face when you place them in it. In this shot, it’s not jarring or unflattering and in fact has added interest. Also note the shadow behind her, adding an extra layer to this beautiful capture.
The light in this shot is coming from up higher than Esme’s subject, which has illuminated her right eye and created a fabulous triangle shaped splash of light on her right cheek. And speaking of shadows, check out those lashes! As mentioned above, when shooting in light with bright highlights, always expose for the highlights to avoid blown, overly bright splash of jarring light.
Keep your eye out for warm afternoon light streaming through windows and the next time all the planets align (because let’s be real: animals and kids!) pop someone in it!
One of the best things about doorway light is the darkness beyond creates a perfect backdrop from which your subject can pop.
Related: Doorways for Natural Light Portraits
Got reluctant toddlers or kids who never.stop.moving long enough to take a good shot? Give them something to do.
When you side light your subject with window light in a dark or low lit room, you’ll create beautiful directional shadows which provides more dynamic and dramatic light.
Related: Easy Dramatic Light Portraits
I’m the first to admit I avoid taking portraits of my kids indoors at night when I need to use artificial light source. And whilst it’s true that overhead lightbulbs are the same as shooting in the full midday sun because it creates the same kind of shadows (but it’s worse because you also get some horribly funky white balance issues!).
But try lighting them using a source that’s down lower, such as a lamp around eye level, with a low wattage bulb so you can avoid really jarring shadows.
Low light pockets aren’t limited to the indoors. Head outdoors just before sunset and look for those long warm shadows on the ground.
Related: Golden Hour Photo Tips
Head into the forest where the only light you can find are small pockets, and wait until your subject looks up into it. In this way you’ll get a low key image with a beautifully illuminated face.
If you have some west facing windows, set up an activity next to the window, then wait until the last moments before sunset to grab some indoor silhouette shots.
Related: How to Take Silhouette Photos
Backlight your subject in a dark room and look for halos as the light catches the edges of their hair and features.
I hope you enjoyed this fabulous collection from our current workshop students, and we hope it’s inspired you to get out and look for little pockets of light!