“I want to be more lifestyle. How do you handle light when you aren’t shooting outdoors and you do not use studio lighting?”
I’ve photographed lifestyle for as long as I have been shooting. It started with me capturing my Nonno as he battled brain cancer. I wanted to remember HIM, not the ‘Look here, and smile’ captures. So I lied. I told him I was taking a course and had to film ‘hands.’ My Nonno’s hands always fascinated me…a hunter, he had very big, strong and ‘rough’ hands. That is what I wanted to remember as I grew older. What made him MY Nonno. Once he loosened up because the focus was hands, even when I raised up my camera to take pictures of his face, he was relaxed and it all felt non-intrusive.
I take that very personal story into how I film children today. I admire some studio work, but I much prefer a backdrop to be a child’s room versus a roll of seamless paper. Is everything always perfect? Absolutely not. What in life is? And that is how I like to capture the children I work with: carefree and real.
Once you take on that mindset, your shoulders drop. The pressure is lifted a bit. That is, until you stumble upon a home with little to no light at first glance, and then panic sets in. It’s OK. Now, you have to find the light. It is there, just be open to it.
Tip #1: DOORS!
Every house has a front door, right? What happens when you open that door? Light floods in. I’ve worked in narrow hallways/entryways the size of myself. What I recommend if you are in a tight spot is to prop open the screen door and photograph the subject that way.
She was in a tight entryway. I stepped outside and shot ‘in’- gorgeous girl, gorgeous light!
Here there were sliding doors leading to a patio..I didn’t want them outside, so I stepped outside and photographed right in the doorway.
This little NYC girl had a door that led out to an apartment deck. I was outside, she was in!
Tip #2: WINDOWS!
Want to put lifestyle photography into overdrive? Hang out on the floor with a child in their room. I start out ‘positioning’ them so they face towards the window, our light source, and engage in some play so it isn’t too ‘posed.’ Windows are everywhere…living room, bedrooms, bathrooms, use them all!
Do not discount the cute capture/details you can get of a child even when they aren’t facing the camera but are facing a great light source!
Here I stood in front of the subject in her living room. I was going for a bit of dramatic natural light. To get her to look into the light source, I did a quick “Did you see that HUGE bird?” line.
Mom faced the window and held baby directly facing me. They are literally about one foot from the window.
There is not a single session I do without a bed shot with the children facing the window.
Tip #3: NO LIGHT (in a good way!)
You can use the absence of light to your advantage and create some amazing silhouette shots. This one was done at the top of a staircase that had a little window on the stair landing. The subjects were just in enough darkness to turn this into a B&W silhouette.
Being a natural light, lifestyle photographer means working with you have with the available light you are given. I hope these tips will open your eyes to the fact that there is light everywhere- you just need to find it!
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