Photography is all about light. Understanding light will take your photography, on your iphone or your camera, to the next level. These three basic steps can help you begin to understand a little about how light affects your photos. 

STEP 1: Find directional Light

Have you ever wondered why pictures (selfies) taken in your car always seem to have great lighting? It is because your car provides "directional" light by blocking light from above you and below you and mostly only allowing light from the front and sides. "Directional" light means that the majority of your light is coming from a specific direction rather than light hitting you (or your subject) from every angle (i.e. above, below, both sides, front, behind). All good lighting is some form of directional light. So, when taking photos try to find somewhere where you can block the light from all but a couple directions like your car, a garage (light only enters from one direction), or even simply next to a wall in the shade. 

STEP 2: Avoid any light coming from below you

The only directional light you want to avoid at all costs is light coming from below you. Imagine someone holding a flashlight under your face when telling a scary story. That is what you are trying to avoid. Light tells a story and this lights story is not appealing. Watch out for bright sidewalks reflecting light back up at you or light coming in from a window below you when laying down.

 Anyone else blown away by how GIANT the bags under my eyes look?

Anyone else blown away by how GIANT the bags under my eyes look?

STEP 3: Find a large light source

The rule is the larger the light source in relation to the subject, the softer the shadows. Harsh shadows would be like shadows caused by the sun at 2pm. When you hold your hand out you can see the exact outline of it on the ground. A soft shadow tapers off instead of having the hard line. This soft light softens features while still providing definition in your or your subjects face. 

The sun is considered a small light source because while it is large itself it is so far away that it is small in relation to us, which is what matters. A good test of your light size is to stand where you or your subject will be and hold your hand up trying to cover it. If you can cover it completely then it is much too small. Think how large your window(which would qualify as your light source) is in relation to you when you are taking a selfie. It is relatively large giving you nice soft light.

 Light is coming from the upper right. See the shadows the left of my face? The light source is the sky itself. I am standing in open shade with a wall to the right and the sky to the left. The sky with out the sun is creating shadows that are soft and taper off.

Light is coming from the upper right. See the shadows the left of my face? The light source is the sky itself. I am standing in open shade with a wall to the right and the sky to the left. The sky with out the sun is creating shadows that are soft and taper off.

 The light is coming from the upper left but my light source is the sun causing harsh shadows. 

The light is coming from the upper left but my light source is the sun causing harsh shadows. 

I hope this helps make your photos that much better! Post any questions below and watch for my FREE photography webinar coming the first week of December. Details will be posted on my Instagram @maylilyphoto.

<3 Michelle

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