{Be Successful} A ‘Hand’y Tip


If you’ve been involved with photography longer than a minute you know how important light is. The same image set-up with different lighting circumstances can change the final result dramatically. Poor lighting can mean extra time during the editing process because of the additional density and color adjustments necessary. (And who wants to add time to the editing process…definitely not me, I’d rather be shooting!!!)

Sometimes it is easy to determine the direction of light. Most people know when the sun is glaring in their eyes or not and shadows do a good job of telling us which direction the sun is coming from. However when you’re in overcast circumstances or in an area where the light is more diffused, determining where to place your subject in order to achieve the best lighting scenario can be tricky.

Enter my ‘hand’y tip: Hold up your hand with your palm open and facing you. (Like you’re waving to yourself. If you’re lonely, go ahead and wave and say hello. Then laugh because you just talked to yourself…but I bet you feel better because you laughed!)

Observe the light hitting your hand. Does it appear well-lit or are there shadows caused by the creases in your skin? Now move it around slightly and see how the light changes. Unless you’re sitting in complete darkness, which is unlikely since you should at least have the glow of the screen you’re reading this on, you should notice the differences.

In portrait photography, you can pretend your hand is the face of your subject. When I’m in a location where the light direction is not obvious, I’ll hold out my hand and move it around until I find the spot where my palm is most evenly illuminated. Light will always have a direction…you just have to find where it’s coming from. Will you look goofy and like you’re doing a weird dance with an invisible partner? Quite possibly. But I promise it works and will be totally worth it when you’re not sitting in front of your computer adjusting for shadows and cool skin tones because your subject was in the dark!

Even when you’re not actually shooting, this exercise can be done anytime and wherever you are. The more you pay attention to light in general the more you’ll be aware of it when photographing. You’ll learn subtleties of what to look for. All light is not created equal. You’ll find that coming to the edge of a shadowed porch is actually lighter and warmer than even a step closer to the building. It’s amazing how a ‘little’ adjustment can make a huge difference in the quality of your work!

Happy waving and dancing with imaginary partners! ;)


In the images below you’ll see the light is coming from the right. In the left pic both of their faces are well lit, whereas in the pic on the right, his face is darker since he’s turned away from the light source.

July 20, 2013

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