Reflections : Natural Light Photography


A few days ago Chris Walters wrote and asked me on Facebook how I find and use natural light during an engagement session. More often than that, it’s just something I do, not necessarily something I’m good at explaining with just words. But that didn’t help Chris, nor would it help anyone else with a similar question so I got to thinking…and when I think, it usually requires JD to do something. Like I’ve mentioned before, I love ideas, but he’s much better at executing them. Which leads me to today’s Reflections Post.

I asked JD to come with me to Eileen and Joel’s engagement session to photograph behind-the-scenes photos of me shooting, specifically showcasing the environment and the light source(s). I think this is the best way I can approach this question without demonstrating in person. But, lemme tell you, I’m way more fun in real life. Honest.

I usually start the session 1-1.5 hours before sunset, but since we were shooting in an urban area, I knew the tall buildings would block a bit of light, so we started 2 hours before sunset. Because the sun was quite bright, I started the session in shaded areas, but ensured there was natural light reflected from nearby buildings. Here Joel and Eileen stand on a shaded street…

As you can see in the window reflections, the caramel colored building across the street poured a dose of warm light to illuminate the location and minimize the muddiness an overtly shaded location can provide.

Ever since buying the Canon 35mm, 1.4, I’ve become smitten with up close and personal photos. Smitten. Yes, I stand close to my clients, but it gives an entirely different feel to the photo and I’m a fan.

Yes, THIS CLOSE. The light source is behind me and you can see how bright it was (right side of the photo) and I’m standing just to the right of Eileen so I am not blocking it from illuminating her face.

Nice glowy light…in an alley? (Yes, I realize ‘glowy’ isn’t a word)

Clearly there wasn’t exposure compensation done on this photo, but I’m using it to show, precisely, just how strong the light source was…you know I love me some natural reflectors! The illuminated wall behind my left shoulder is reflecting light onto my subjects making an otherwise darkish alley shootable (again, I’m not sure shootable is a word either). Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I’m holding Eileen’s purse because I couldn’t bear to see it placed on the floor…lord only knows what would’ve ended up on the bottom of her Louis Vuitton…

Like I mentioned in their blog post, this was the last frame from the session and as we were walking back to our cars, I stopped when I saw the light pouring down…I live for light like this…

Now here’s a pulled back version of the photo. Clearly it’s not a cute location…and it smelled just as funky as you think it would. But this light was amazing and the overhead bridge provided a frame for me that I might not have seen walking through another alley. Sometimes it takes me walking backwards (which I did when I talked to them) to see light and locations differently.

Okay, so now I’m at the end of this post and I feel a bit lame because I’m not sure if this was helpful, but here’s the point: I had an idea…and JD made it happen. That right there? Well, I think he deserves an “A” on this project. You see, I’m not as cold and heartless as some of you think I am with my grading!

For those who asked, I used the 50mm for every photo except the one I highlighted with the 35mm. For the entirety of the shoot, however, I also used the 85mm. Also, for those who asked what I was doing with my hand in the last photo: I was shielding the sun so I could focus on my clients (sometimes when the sun is too harsh and pointed into my lens it prevents me from doing so). Thanks, friends! 🙂