This is something most people never really think about when looking for a photographer, but it is truly important and is something that distinguishes who we are and our style of photography. As you already know, we LOVE bright, airy, crisp, warm and glowy images!! The BEST way to get images like this is to use natural light. This means no flash, no lighting stands, etc. While there is a time and a place for extra lighting (such as a dark reception hall, or a church), the most beautiful images happen using just the light of the sun. Our images have a distinct “natural light” feel to them, and our photography centers around capturing that feel! As you might guess, this adds a little bit of complication to our work…angles, locations and timing all become completely dependent on the light available. Being natural light photographers, we must have a whole other realm of understanding, planning for, and working around the current lighting conditions.
So when IS the sunlight the BEST for our style images?? Well, it’s called Golden Hour, and you may have heard of it before. It is actually TWO hours right after sunrise, and two hours right before sunset! Soft, glowy, warm light comes in from a much better angle during these times and helps us to create AMAZING images!! This is not to say that we cannot shoot at other times of the day…there are ways to work around harsh, direct overhead light…but these are absolutely our preferred shooting times!
Location also is so important for natural light photographers! When the sun is directly overhead (especially if the sky is cloud-free!!), we will position you in open shade. If we keep you in direct sunlight, you will have harsh shadows in your eyes that can absolutely destroy an otherwise great photo! Placing you in a place of soft shade, especially somewhere that is open all the way through to the other side so we can see daylight through it, and close to the front edge of the shade, we can avoid the direct sun and harsh shadows. Staying close to the front edge of the shade allows the surrounding sunlit areas to reflect enough light onto you so that you don’t end up underexposed and dark in your images!
Another thing natural light photographers must consider about locations is whether it is in a valley or on a hill. We are based in Central Virginia and there are mountains, hills and valleys EVERYWHERE! This means the sunset time can vary…a LOT. If we are in a valley, the sun may set a half hour earlier than it would on a hill or mountain so we need to take care to calculate that into our timing!!
Angles. The sun comes up from one direction and goes down in the other. You probably guessed that this means MORE careful planning for us!! And it does. Unless the sun is softened by a natural diffuser like a cloud, it is generally a bad idea to have the sun directly shining on the face of our subjects. It is far better to shoot “backlit” and use a reflector to keep the image from becoming a silhouette! We sometimes use a 5-in-1 reflector…a big circular reflector that bounces the sunlight coming from behind you back onto your faces…but the BEST scenario is to use a NATURAL reflector. We look for big, neutral areas of light color that can reflect enough natural light back onto you to create the perfect glow! This can be anything from a wall to a concrete sidewalk to driveway gravel!
Being natural light photographers is an art. It is such a fascinating and ever-changing way to capture images and we LOVE it for that…and for the distinct look it creates! Like I said at the beginning of this blog post, most people never really think about this when looking for a photographer, but we wanted to share because it is important to distinguish this from other styles! (And you may be less confused now when we stand you directly under a giant tree right in front of an ugly gravel driveway!!…don’t worry, we know what we are doing!)
Have a blessed day!!
Ashley, Shayne & Rhittie