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Let the light be your guide

There are two ways of spreading light: To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
— Edith Wharton

As people, we have an opportunity to be the light for others while also being able to show others just how beautiful and amazing they are.  This is also true in photography, both metaphorically and literally speaking.  The camera is the medium used to capture the light and the subject serves as the light.  But how do you take photos that showcase the beauty of a person?  

Think back to the guiding principles I shared in my last post.  The individual principles are Light, Exposure, Composition and Emotion.  The Art of Photography has been described as "Painting with Light."  This couldn't be more true.  Nothing can make or break an image more than the quality of light that is present (or created) when an image is taken.  Today we are going to unlock one way of identifying and creating quality light.  Specifically ambient light, as we will save flash for further down the road.  When you think about ambient light, you can break it down into two specific areas:  Indoor and outdoor.  Many people believe that indoor lighting can be the most challenging, however it doesn't need to be.  Some of my absolute favorite photos of my children were taken indoors.  The key to creating a beautiful image is using the right tool at the right time.  Whether you know it or not, you already have one of the greatest lighting tools of all:  A Window. The larger and closer the light source, the softer it becomes.  Professional photographers spend plenty of money trying to replicate the quality of light that you can get from a simple window in your home.  Windows are big, bright and able to be diffused with the swipe of a hand (white sheer curtains).  All of the images below were taken in close proximity to a window.  Take special note of the location of the light source in the eyes.  These are called "catch lights."  

These catch lights are a great indicator of where the light was located in relation to the subject.  By identifying the catch lights and taking note of the shadows you can get a clear idea of where the light source (window) was located.  In order to create the look you will want, you will want to play with the placement and angle of your subject to the window.  If the window is directly beside them, the shadows will be more present.  As they turn towards the light, the shadows are filled in with soft, beautiful light.  You will want to play with this in order to get the look you are going for.  You will also want to find a wall that has a flattering color for your image.

Once you have locked in the lighting that you desire, now the real fun begins.  This is the moment where you get to make your kids laugh and get them to relax and have fun.  Tell them to make silly faces in between the smiles.  Tell them to frown, click*, then smile again!  You will find that the more you ask them to "switch it up" the more they will laugh and smile and create the images that you desire.  

So the next time you are thinking or taking a photo of your child in the daylight hours, take them in front of a window and give it a try.  I have a feeling you are going to love it!

Pro Tip: Always set your file format to RAW (or RAW + JPG) if possible.  This will allow you greater flexibility in the editing process and the ability to bring back shadow detail and highlights that JPG alone cannot.