Friday, January 4, 2013

Finding the light...

Since I don't currently have my photographer website up & running, which is where I normally would post this kind of thing, I decided to go ahead and post here :)

I am doing a 'P52' photo project with a group of photographers. The overall theme, is 'light'. The concept is, that you learn better, how to use and find light creatively for your photos to succeed.

Having a stomach bug and not getting out much lately between car troubles and not yet wanting to venture out solo with 4 littles (one of which is 3 weeks old!), I am restricted to my house and was honestly thinking about quitting, on the first week.

However, today as I was thinking about my p365 photo journal (, I was frustrated because it was 5pm,  the light was going fast and my camera battery was only just charged.

I went into my dark kitchen, only lit by the light coming in through 2 small windows. One, the light was rather flat and neutral,  but the other window, ever evening, the setting sun blasts through it with blinding warm light, so that I have to close the blinds.

Then it dawned on me... It's photographers GOLDEN HOUR outside, this is prime photo op time outside, why couldn't I attempt to use that golden hour sunlight, INSIDE my house.

Boy, was I challenged!

When sharing this pictures, I want to make some things clear first...

- All were taken within about the same 8 square feet, just from different heights and angles.
- My camera really needs a good clean and so does my lens
- They were all taken with natural light, no electric lights, no reflectors, flash etc, just light from the 2 windows.
- I made some minor contrast/exposure tweaks in ACR, but these have not been photoshopped in order to give an authentic representation of the experiment. I chose not to go in and remove shadows/color casts etc because I wanted to show what the lighting really did.
- This weeks specific theme is 'Breaking the rule of thirds' - which will explain some of my more unconventional framing.
- No children were hurt in the carrying out of this experiment ;)

Attempt 1 - Backlight:

My first attempt, I used the sun bursting in from the window as a back light, here you can see the light in very warm, you get a very soft hazy picture, with lots of pretty highlights. However, I was having a hard time because of the strength of the light and movement restrictions, getting a good angle in which I could get her face as sharp as I like, and we are lacking much catchlight in her eyes. I think a reflector would have helped in this case, but I didn't have access to someone to hold one for me to bring the light back into her face.
I will go back to trying to successfully get a good backlit image in this lighting, plus she isn't making the best face.

Attempt 2 - Side lit :

I decided to try and place around with the contrasting light coming through the slats from the side. I have seen some neat pictures done this way... I don't honestly think I 'got' it. Although I think that perhaps a black & white conversion and some tweaking in photoshop, some cloning out of my plug and camera charger back there could actually make this a decent picture.
Here you can see how parts of her face are really blown out and yellow from the bright golden light, and there are some harsh shadows on the left of her face.
I really want to attempt to do something cool & creative with these slats .... so I think more on this.

Attempt 3: Using light from both windows at an angle.

Ok ... kinda bleh. The lighting is boring, I have this huge WHITE distracting segment in the back because of the window,  subject is too soft, but there is non of that golden flaring light that makes it acceptable.   It's not an BAD lighting situation, it's just not terribly exciting and I am not sure what to do  to make it more creative.

Attempt 4: Using my kitchen as the 'open shade'

Here I had her sit down and pushed the chair further back, this removed the harsh light from being right on her, and I think created almost an open shade effect. The light is very evenly distributed on the subject, nice catch lights in the eyes, nice and crisp, lots of color.
This is the SAFEST use of the light, it's really the best portrait lighting and it took me quite a while to figure out how to find a good place to get this in my dark kitchen.


Despite what I thought, I really don't know as much about light as I thought. I know how to use SAFE light. I know how to use light in basic, easy situations, but I do not know how to use light difficult lighting situations to my advantage, how to use them creatively & how to overcome the problems they present.

I am going to keep going back to my kitchen, at sunrise, and sunset (you see the light comes through the other window in the morning!), until I can master using the light creatively!

I am feeling very challenge and excited to see how this journey improves me as a photographer and creatively.

This is exactly what I needed for 2013. I had decided already to step away from professionally offering photography for this year already, for personal reasons and was looking for an opportunity, to use the time off, to challenge myself technically and creatively.

Excited to see what 2013 brings!


  1. I love that backlit picture! It just captures you and draws you in.
    And yes- I often feel like I am best with "safe" light too

  2. A great experiment - something I think we as photographers could all benefit from trying occasionally!