Seattle Photographer | Finding and Understanding Light

Whether you take photographs with a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR, we are all looking to improve our photography and to produce photographs that are visually interesting. In order to achieve these goals, it is important to understand how light is hitting our subject.


Over the past few years, I’ve learned a few tricks when dealing with natural light, and today I’m going to lay them out on the table. Even if you are a casual shooter, you can most likely pick up a few of these tips listed below. Please keep in mind that I am writing this as a portrait photographer.

1. Take a look at your hands — I take a look at my hands every now and then during a shoot. I have found my hand to be a great tool because it is easy to see how the light is falling and where to expect shadows.

2. Look at your subjects eyes — I love giving my client’s nice catchlight in their eyes. If you don’t already know, a catchlight is a highlight from a light source that you see reflected off a person’s eyes. I would like to think that catchlights bring a person to life in a photograph and almost make their eyes jump off a print. I pay particular attention to my client’s eyes, and if I’m not getting catchlights, then I will turn the client until his or her eyes start to glisten.


3. Light is neither good nor bad — Look at the available light around you as neither good nor bad, but rather as how can I place my subject in the location to get the results I’m looking for.

For example, harsh sun is often not preferable, but for some photographers it may be just what they are looking for. I love to place my client’s back to the sun. It lights up his or her hair, creating what’s called a kicker or a rim light, and I think it’s just so beautiful. To bring in those catchlights and light up the client’s face, I have either the client or my assistant hold up a reflector.


These few tips help me to set up my shots easily, so I can spend my time focusing on my clients and achieving the images they have hired me to take. Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below.

Light and what a difference it can make was the topic of my blogging group this week. Travel across the globe to South Africa to see what my friend Christine of Chriscross Photography wrote this week!

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[…] head on over to visit Ally from Allyson Photography, take on What a difference the right light […]

NatalieJune 4, 2013 - 7:47 pm

Great post and awesome tips on how to find the right light for the situation!

MaggieJune 5, 2013 - 6:45 am

Great examples and post on light.

Cherilyn HJune 5, 2013 - 6:46 am

Great tips! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Perth baby photographerJune 5, 2013 - 7:16 am

Awesome tips!

SarahJune 5, 2013 - 7:23 am

These are some great tips on finding the right light. 🙂

ChristineJune 16, 2013 - 10:55 am

Love the tip about the hand! And your rim lighting is beautiful!

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