One of the first challenges to any shoot is finding your light. Sometimes it is from a lamp, a street light, an off camera flash, or my favorite, natural light.
Why does light matter? In very simplified technical terms; when you take a photo with a 35mm film camera, light enters the lens and essentially burns the image onto the negative. So, without enough light entering the lens, you end up with a really dark (or black) image.
Light will set a tone for your image and help dictate how your audience responds to the photograph. And I do mean “tone” in a literal sense. All lighting sources have different colors in them. Some light has a slight blue tone, like LEDs, while others, like tungsten, have a warmer orange tone. You can see this for yourself by going down to your local hardware store and perusing the lighting department. If you look at the light bulb's samples you will notice they all have a different degree of warmth to them.
Choosing your light is very important technically, but even more so artistically. Those warm or cool tones will affect how your audience connects with your image and that is always my goal when shooting. I want the audience to feel something when they look at my work. Personally, I find there is great drama in natural side lighting from a window. You can make really strong shadows and use some color to really make the image pop.
In this example, from a 24/7 Settlement Service shoot, you can see the more dramatic shadows which brings a sense of seriousness to the image. But the lighter colors in Rocco’s suit and tie make you feel more comfortable and at ease.
I think anyone who has ever used a camera phone realizes they look like “pros” when the lighting is just right! When you are at your favorite restaurant snapping your mouthwatering dish; I suggest asking to sit by a window. Trust me. Natural side lighting from a window will be your new best friend! Even if it is a little cloudy out, the clouds will act as a natural light diffuser for you (that means the light will not be so harsh and spread more even amounts of light onto your plate).
Here is an example of using natural light from a Salud Juicery shoot. The light is nicely diffused by the clouds. We kept the look of the image simple so the muted colors would shine against the wood countertop.
When shooting, I always suggest playing with your light to find the emotion in your imagery. You can take a photo from serious to happy go lucky just by moving your light or changing your light source. And remember, the best part about this digital age is you can always delete photos and people only ever see the good shots, so keep snapping and stay social!