Got out for a few minutes on Saturday to enjoy the warmer weather and practice working in harsh light. One of the things I love about photography is that you can shoot in any situation as long as you know how to work the light and the location. These photos were taken in our yard, which isn’t super picturesque but has a mixture of shade/sun. This time of year, the front yard is mostly full sun and the backyard is mostly full shade in the afternoon.

If you remember, Saturday was warm but SUPER windy! So what I love about this little mini session with Olivia is that her hair is wild because of the wind!

I’ll add some notes for those of you who’d like to hear about the lighting and how I handled it:

For the first photo, Olivia is standing with the sun directly behind her and slightly to the left. This tends to be a good option when dealing with full sun but you have to expose carefully since the full sun tricks the camera into making the image too dark so it’s underexposed. I shot the photo below in manual and adjusted the exposure until it was correct using exposure compensation. I shoot 100% RAW to give me full control of the processing after a photo is completed in-camera. In this case, I processed the photo in LightRoom and was able to pull the exposure of the front of Olivia’s body up even more using the “fill light” slider. (I also adjust “blacks” and “contrast” to compensate for the heavy backlight.

This next photo is the same as the photo to the top left. I wanted to show what a good crop can do for a photo. In this case, I cropped a vertical photo into a horizontal (which I don’t do enough and I love the result!) and the resulting photo is even more fun because it focuses on Olivia’s eyes, crazy hair and big smile. A photo that’s nice and sharp will sustain a close crop without losing the sharpness. This photo was taken with the Canon 50mm 1.2L and I have to say, it is the sharpest, fastest and crispest lens I’ve owned. I adore it! (That little “rainbow” to her left is a bit of sunflare and while some photogs might fix it, y’all know I love sunflare in all its glory!)

For the next couple of photos, I played with shade and sun. I put Olivia at the very edge of the fully shaded space in our backyard. The full-sun portion of the yard is right behind her. Because she’s in the shade, she’s not squinting and the light isn’t blazing on her skin. In this case, I am shooting in manual and exposing for the skin. This means I’m basing proper exposure off of Olivia’s skin – I do this by focusing on her face, pressing the shutter half-way down and reading the exposure on the meter and then using exposure compensation from there to get the right exposure. In this case I would probably overexpose at about a half stop to get the look I am going for. A gray card can come in handy in this type of mixed lighting as the resulting photos tend to be a little “cool” since she’s in the shade but the full sun is right behind her. I usually cheat and adjust white balance in LightRoom on the RAW file when I’m in a hurry. I added vintage tones to these in post-processing as well. (It looks like she’s squinting in these but it’s really just her big laugh due to all the wind!)


Here’s an example of putting Olivia just outside the shady area – opposite of the set-up above. You’ll see that because she’s back in the sun, I’ve positioned her so the sun is to her right and not directly on her face or right behind her. The kicker when I photograph Olivia is working with the glare and shadows caused by her glasses. She’s been wearing glasses since she was 2-years-old, so I’ve gotten pretty good at watching for glare, etc. but it’s always tricky. Something else to watch for when the subject is wearing glasses – the focus ends up on glasses instead of slightly behind the glasses where it really belongs – on the eyes. As I look closely at this shot, that’s probably what happened here as her eyes as slightly soft compared to the glasses and everything else on that same plane.

(This was the one serious moment of our little mini session!)

So this next photo was a random moment when she was lost in thought and I kept on snapping. So I was less concerned about positioning her perfectly and more concerned about just getting the shot as it naturally happened. She’s facing the sun but with her head down most of the sun hit the top of her head. I love that very little of the photo is perfectly in focus except for the very tip of the side of her body – her glasses, hair and hood.

The next photo is far from perfect in terms of light. The sun was behind her but also coming a bit from her side. We’ve got some shadows on her face from her glasses as a result and some odd glares from her glasses underneath her eyes. She’s also squinting because it was so bright looking up at me (towards the bright sky). Nonetheless, sometimes you break the rules and a photo still has an element you love, so you don’t throw it out. In this case, I love the location because I take a few photos of her every year here on our front steps. I also love that her hair is not blowing around like crazy and she’s smiling so I can see that she still hasn’t lost any top teeth. I know she’s due to lose them soon, so I cherish the photos we have left with a mouth of baby teeth. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed this windy light lesson!