I know, I know, it’s been a while (6 months to be exact), but here I am again, promising to write more blog posts! The only thing is, this time I’m serious (I swear). I’ve decided to partially give up Instagram and only post on there maybe once or twice a month. The engagement I get on Instagram is laughable, and I want to focus more on my website, so if you’re reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!
Today I’m going to be talking about shooting in different lighting situations, and I’m going to be using photos from one of my most memorable shooting experiences to date! What makes this day so special to me is that I got to shoot in all kinds of different lighting situations all in one day, and with the same model no less! Angela was a great model, bringing her own sense of creativity to the table, not disappointing at all! I rarely have time for creative shoots since I’ve started doing photography full time, which means I usually have to be very picky about who I choose to spend my time with. I actually just shot her a DM on Instagram and to my surprise, she was just as eager to work with me as I was to work with her!
Interestingly enough, we had planned a shoot in the morning at Lincoln Park, and we were going to do a levitation/wonderland style shoot, but after having a conversation on location, we realized that she had schedule to have another shoot with a photographer friend of mine (Lay Renner), and I decided to tag along for that as well! This was the start of my crazy day!
At Lincoln Park, we ended up shooting in this open field to get a levitation, and it was probably around 10AM where the sun was starting to get high, but the light still wasn’t that harsh. I used this to my advantage by using some of the backlight through some trees to give my shots an “airy” feel.
The trick to making a shot like this feel “airy” is to keep the highlights blown out. It gives the shot a sort of “angelic” feel when the sky is completely white. One thing you have to be careful of when shooting like this is not to lose detail in the shadows. luckily, I shoot Sony, which allows me to bring up the shadows in post so that you can actually see what’s going on.
After I got this shot, I wanted to use the same light, but instead of focusing more on being backlit, and angled her in a way in which the light was actually directly on her face. I actually preferred this lighting since it gave me more freedom with color correction, so I really tried to make the dress pop in post production.
After we got those levitations out of the way, the sun started to get pretty high, so we found ourselves under a few trees to get some photos in the shade. I particularly like shooting in the shade because it makes the photos very soft, but sometimes it can get a little tricky to get the image in focus. We kept her in the same dress, but wanted to use some of the leaves from the trees as a prob, since it went well with the pattern on her dress. She actually wanted to put some of the leaves in her hair, so we did a few shots like that, and then I wanted to use the leaves to cast a shadow on her face. I’ve really been into shadow play recently (as you’ll see in the rest of this blog post), and this was a perfect time to do some experimenting!
As for actually shooting the photos, I shot these at f/ 1.6 at a 1/125 shutter speed. I didn’t want to shoot at 1.4 because it’s way too hard for me to get focus with my shaky hands, especially in low lighting situations. 1.6 is just a TAD easier to grab focus where you want, and it still gives that creamy bokeh (background blur) that we all love!
I also wanted to grab some shots of her sitting under the trees, and intended to edit them with “magical” in mind. I intentionally overexposed the shots to blow out the highlights, so I stopped down to f/ 1.4 and bumped the ISO up to 400. I didn’t think too much about the shots being out of focus since the sun was pretty high and even though we were under trees, she was very well-lit!
Once we were done shooting under the trees, we hiked downhill until we made it to the beach at Lincoln Park, where we got one levitation before making our way back uphill. I really liked this levitation because we got to capture the beauty of the water, and I really like that there were pebbles instead of sand on the beach. The metallic colors of the pebbles really added to the color pop of her dress. As for lighting, the sun was pretty much directly above us, but I faced her away from the sun to give her face a soft shadow. I really like doing this to balance the amount of overexposure I’m going to get, so there’s an even amount of shadows and highlights. If I had her face the sun, the image would have been way too overexposed for me to capture any detail without having to stop down to around f3.5, and we want to keep the aperture at around 1.4 to get really blurred background.
For the last shot of this location, the sun was extremely high, so we found ourselves under some trees again, and we put flowers in her hair because why not?! We just kinda snapped these for fun, but we really wanted coffee so we ended up heading to a nearby cafe right after.
After we were done at the cafe, the real fun began! I headed over to the University of Washington where we met up with Lay, her friend and photographer Sheryl, and Angela actually brought her photographer friend, Charlie Zhuang, along as well. It was really great seeing how different photographers both direct and shoot a model in the same lighting situations. I never really shot with other photographers before moving to Seattle, but it’s always such a great experience! For our first location, we actually had her go in the middle of a bush to capture some flowers, and it was literally like an ugly location challenge because I had no idea I could capture such beautiful photos in such an odd location! It was actually around 4PM so the sun wasn’t quite high but also wasn’t quite setting. It made for some great natural lighting and I was happy with the results!
The next few shots are actually some of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken! We found a small outdoor hallway that had a window that let in a few shadows from the tree behind it. I had to literally climb through the bush to get the right angle, but it was worth it! As for getting the shot, I used my 100mm and shot at f/ 5.6. Most people would want to shoot with a low aperture, but because the light was directly on her face, I wanted to shoot at a higher aperture to really crush the shadows and bring out the details on her face. In post I ended up fading the blacks and adding a little grain to add some character, but I still love the effect of the light on her face! Shadow play is amazing haha!
After realizing that the sun was setting and we were starting to get some harsh light, I wanted to try getting a really nice and artistic backlit shot, as well as a few in direct sunlight. I had her put her back on the entrance to the hallway by the library on campus, and shot with the sun directly behind her. It made for some really artistic shots!
The sun was finally starting to set, but we weren’t done with it quite yet! There is a glass building that Charlie led us to, and we were able to use the last little bit of light to get a really cool reflection of the sunstar! Most of the other photographers there wanted to get some shots with her facing the sun, but I liked the way my backlit shots have been turning out, so I decided to try getting her backlit with the sunstar directly in the lens for a bright effect. It was really hard getting the lighting just right, so I cheated a bit and put the image in black and white to make it look a bit more intentional than I had planned, and it turned out great!
All in all, this day will definitely go down as one of my favorite creative days to date! I had such a great time shooting with Angela, and can’t wait to work with her again!
If you like posts like this, be sure to let me know in the comments, and feel free to let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to write about! Also, if you’d like to keep up with me, you can subscribe below to get notifications every time I post a blog post. Like I said, I won’t be posting on Instagram much anymore, and I’ll actually be posting photos from whole sets on my blog while giving some insight on my thought process on both shooting and editing.
Until next time,