Lesson 1: Understanding Light and Exposure
Co-written by Megan Rayo and Jed Hamilton
Hello Beauties! And welcome to the first blog post in a series we’re excited to call Electric Beauty Photography School 🤓 📸
The goal of this series is to share simple and effective 'photography for business' tips that anyone with a smart phone can apply. We know how willing and capable you Beauties are in creating your OWN top-notch photo marketing content, and we are here to help!
In this first blog post, we’re going to cover the most essential and FREE photography tool to understand: LIGHT.
Lighting is most often the one thing that separates good and bad photos. But how do we begin to understand how to use light to our advantage?
Light should be thought about in three different ways: Amount, Direction, and Color
Let’s say you want to capture a B&A (before & after) photo of a client, so you reach for your phone. Sure, you could snap a picture of them anywhere in your space, post it, and BAM! Done!
Not so fast.
Taking an extra moment to consider your light's amount, direction, and color will make your clients and your work look that much more polished.
The most obvious candidate for great lighting is the SUN!
Outdoor, natural light is abundant and completely free. The problem with natural light is that it changes in amount (intensity) and color (temperature) throughout the day. You may have noticed on a sunny day when you pull out your phone to snap a photo at lunch time (12pm-2pm), it’s too dang bright!
Alternatively, taking photos in the morning when sunlight isn't at peak intensity, or on an overcast day is the smart way to go. For businesses in the PNW, this isn't hard to come by 😉
The very best light you can ask for naturally is found during a time of day called "golden hour" or "magic hour," which is the hour right before sunset. Most wedding photography is shot during this time because wedding photographers know their clients will look beautifully lit and all-around dreamy ✨
Taking a picture NEAR natural light but not directly outside will typically diminish intensity and give you great exposure; we recommend finding a big window to shoot all your indoor photos next to. Shadows won’t be as black, and highlights won’t be blindingly bright. The amount of light will be lovely, and positioning your clients in the direction of the light source (facing the window) will bathe their face evenly in light.
But what if your space doesn't have big windows or it's not realistic to step outside? We recommend investing in a professional light such as a ring light. (To see the model we use and love, click here!) Most ring lights allow you to control the three factors of light (amount, direction, color) with ease.
Another thing about direction: front lighting, where your subject is directly facing a light source, works well enough for many photos because it fills faces evenly and provides a less-dramatic, more predictable outcome.
However, one tip the pros use is to offset your key light 45° to the side of the face. This gives your subject a more dynamic or dramatic look. Depth and texture come to life in side-lit photographs.
While we have covered amount and direction of light in this article, we will touch on color more in-depth next time!
PRO-TIP: If stepping outside is your best bet to get good light, your camera app actually has a built-in tool to manage light intensity! Just hold down on your screen while taking a photo, and a small slider with a sun graphic will pop up, allowing you to slide down to decrease exposure, or slide up to brighten. Check out the demo on how to use this easy tool below!
Any questions about what you've learned so far? Contact Megan with all your photography questions & inquiries via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Megan Rayo has been deep into video production since 2012 when she was an intern for E! Entertainment and once shared an elevator ride with Kim Kardashian. She moved to Portland OR to find more meaningful work and started Electric Beauty Productions after her esthetician mama asked her to make some treatment videos for her medspa. She gets fired up about all things photo/video, her wife's homemade flautas, The Bachelor franchise, and helping other women entrepreneurs level up in life and business.