Sunday, May 31, 2015

Backlighting a Subject

There are a million other places online where you can learn about backlighting (back-lighting?), and most are better resources. You may want to close this tab right now and Google it! For those of you still with me, I thought I'd throw out a few samples and tips when it comes to this type of lighting situation, because it's currently my fav. This post will be about natural, outdoor lighting--I know practically nothing about studio lighting.

Mostly what prompted this post is that I've been questioned a few times recently when I am posing people with their back to the sun. It's understandable. I, too, grew up often looking into the sun with squinting, watering eyes when people took my picture. I think it's a common idea that we need to face people toward the sun to get enough light. I've certainly used that method myself. Exhibit A:

Sorry, L, that couldn't have been comfortable! Notice she is squinting, and there are shadows under her chin and nose. The background is very dark because the camera had to expose down for her bright skin.

And sometimes the sun just isn't cooperating. I might want a certain background (and I know, I know: light trumps background) and am unwilling to give up on it, so I do what I can and get something like this. It's not the worst, and maybe you are wanting this lighting scenario sometimes. Uneven light can create a certain mood and highlight or downplay aspects of your photo for a look that really works. It's just different, and not my current preference most of the time. There are many ways to light a subject, and a lot of what you see out there now is about trend, not what is more correct.

Backlighting is trendy, but it also makes a lot of sense in certain situations. Here's what I love about it:

It gives a nice glowy edge to your subject, aka rim lighting. It's pretty, and it helps set your subject apart from the background.

You can achieve some cool effects with flare and general sun-shininess.

It more evenly lights the subject. It's softer with fewer shadows, which is often much more flattering for the person's skin. It does a little bit of natural erasing of fine lines and uneven texture. Liane has great skin, so this isn't a very dramatic example, but I thought I'd show a comparison of sidelighting to backlighting. This was another case where on the left I couldn't turn her back to the sun because we were on a hill with flowers that I wanted to incorporate. I worked with it even though it wasn't my favorite setup. I much prefer how the lighting looks on the right. It creates a happy glow around her, while her face is even and soft. (I wrote those little labels inconsistently, I now realize, but I don't feel like fixing it.)

You can also see that in the photo on the left, her hair and the background don't have much separation in the darker spots. If I had her against a more solidly dark background, she would sort of blend in so that you would barely know where her hair ended and the background began. On the right you have a definite outline to help her pop out from the background.

It often makes the background look a little dreamier as it fades into sunshine. This depends a lot on the time of day and the background, but it's a much softer backdrop than if you are shooting from a different direction.

Backlighting a subject does take a bit of practice. You have to get to know the right circumstances that will give you the look you're after. Here are a few tips in the form of a diagram I made:

Click on that diagram for a large version you can actually read. I'll re-note a couple of the things it says:

1. Look for a background that helps filter the sunshine for a pleasing look. If you just have sky behind the person, it'll be very washed out (assuming you are exposing for the face, not the background). Sometimes that's okay! But just know that in case that's not the look you're after.

Here you can see how the sky is very flat and white.

And here's how a building can help filter the light if the sun is positioned correctly. In this photo I took for work, the sun is still high enough that it wraps over the building and still brightens up the edges of everyone, yet the background is not completely washed out.

If your background doesn't allow any light to filter through or around it, you're basically just photographing your subject in the shade. That is also fine, but it means you probably won't get the rim lighting or glowy feel.

2. Make sure you are in manual mode on your camera so you can control the exposure. If you just let your camera handle it, it's going compensate for the brightness of the sun in the background and give you an underexposed photo. You need to force it to let in more light so the faces of your subjects are nice and bright. This is also what washes out the background to give it a more dreamy appearance.

3. It really helps when there is a pale scene/surface behind you to reflect a bit of light back to your subject. It means the background will be less washed out to include a bit more detail. Honestly, this is not always something I seek out, but you'll start noticing spots that work better because of the reflective surfaces. Some are even overly reflective, and you can still have squinting even when the person's back is to the sun. It's all a balance that just takes experience. I certainly need more experience! Meanwhile, it's really fun to discover awesomely-lit locations to place a subject. Sometimes you get lucky and it's easy, other times you have to keep moving to find a better spot. You can start practicing by simply asking your subject to turn their back to the sun, and start taking some pictures. You'll begin to see what works and what doesn't.

I hope this is helpful! Let me know if you have questions about this or something else I might be able to post about!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Greengate Images

Hi, friends! I am trying not to harp on my Etsy shop too much, but I wanted to remind you of my grand opening sale. One more week!

Oh hey, are you having trouble visualizing the photo prints hanging on a wall? Here are a few mockups! Click the image to visit the listing.

(To be clear, I didn't take the room photos, only my own photos that are inserted into the frames--the rooms are stock images.)

I now have an official listing for large prints, though you can always request any size and we can discuss the cost and feasibility.

Are you wishing the prints came framed? I will soon add a listing for framed print pricing, but you are welcome to inquire before then and I can give you a quote.

Thanks for looking! And if you ever see an image on my blog that you'd like me to put in my shop, please let me know. I welcome suggestions because I have a hard time choosing. I am trying to add photos regularly, but I'm a little backlogged right now due to the time of year when I'm out taking more photos than I am inside editing and prepping them. :)

Happy Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Portraits: Katt

The other day I had a faaaaaabulous time photographing Katt over at Bush Park. The weather was perfect and Katt was a wonderful model. She made it so easy to take pictures with barely any posing instruction required. Plus, she's a beauty, isn't she?

I had a very hard time narrowing these down, but I tried not to obsess too much about my choices. This is a pretty good sample of the evening. Read between the photos for more info on Katt!

What's your favorite drink to order at Starbucks? I love coffee in general, but when I'm at Starbucks, I like to get a caramel Macchiato with extra caramel and an extra shot or two. :) But I do love going to small local coffee shops as well. Broadway Commons is one of my favorites! They have an awesome hazelnut black and white mocha...yum!

Describe your personality.
I like to call myself an "omnivert." (I read about it in an article once, and I’m not sure if it's really a thing or not, but I totally related to it!) From what I gathered, an omnivert is someone who is a mix between an introvert and an extrovert. So while I love to be out and about with friends being social, I can flip to the other side of the spectrum where I can also be happy just being at home with my two cats and watching Netflix. :)

I think that could describe a few of my friends. There definitely needs to be a name for the middle grounders.

What did you study in college? I was a General Psych major.

Katt was really excited to have portraits done with wisteria because it's one of her favorite flowers. We got there just in time before the flowers all died off, and it was sooooo beautiful on that porch!

(I'm trying to tile two verticals next to each other here, and it shows up correctly on my browser but I'm wondering how it looks for you? Let me know! I'd love it if it worked now--in the past it's been all weird in the final published entry.)

This photo looks like I used flash, but it's just the lighting in this particular spot.

What's your favorite color? Oh gosh, I go through phases of colors that I like... In high school I was all about neon colors and funky patterns. Now that I'm a little bit older, I find myself gravitating towards earth-toned neutrals and pastels. For instance a few of my favorite colors right now are: maroon, olive, navy blue, gold, and blush pink (the last three are also my wedding colors! :))

That's right--sorry guys, she's engaged! Katt is getting married this September. She's been busily managing to keep up with wedding plans and a demanding job (I know, because we're coworkers and her department has a lot on their plate!). And doing a portrait session with me!

I'm loving the roses at Bush Park right now. I have lots of rose photos to show you sometime.


There's that ring!

What are your favorite things to do in your spare time? I recently got a bike for my birthday from my fiancé’s family, so I’ll be doing a lot of riding during my summer. I love spending time crafting with my best friend Becca, I have favorite shows that I like to watch, I love spending time with my fiancé and his family, and I love love love going to the beach (it's one of my most favorite places to be!).

I also know she's very artistic! I have proof because I took a watercolor workshop with her.

She was at her car for an outfit change and I bugged her for a photo. She looked cute, I couldn't help it. PS Thanks to Katt's friend who loaned her the hats! They were so fun to work with--they look awesome on Katt.

Oh man, the lighting here was SO awesome, I just wanted to take a thousand pictures in this one spot.

Don't look at my cropping on this....I know you're not supposed to chop the hands there, but I just really like this photo anyway.

Where is a place you'd like to travel to soon? Hmmm, well I'd love to go to Europe, and my fiancé and I are trying to plan a trip sometime in the near future... But for now, I’m looking forward to going to Seattle for our honeymoon. :)

Thank you so much for looking, and thanks again Katt for a super fun evening! We should do this again sometime!


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