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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

{photography with lei rogers}

{image courtesy of Christopher Becker}

Hello all!

My name is Lei. I'm a crafter, photographer, music lover and mom of 4.

{image courtesy of Kristen Duke Photography}

Some of you may know me from my craft blog My Many Colored Days. Well, I also have a photography site. And I blog about photography there, as well as on my Facebook page {here}. If you want to get to know my work, those are the places to go. Be sure and say hi while you are there!

I've been photographing off and on since high school. It all started as a dance major at a performing arts school, where I was hand picked to study dance photography. There I fell in love with the art of photography immediately. Now this was before digital cameras, so all my film was developed in a dark room. It was hard work; very complicated. And it didn't come naturally to me. Nothing left-brained does, actually! Lol! But the creativity behind photography... the artistic use of lighting, the variety of angles and composition, the anticipation of a perfect moment caught on film... that was right up my alley. Here are some examples of my first photos (they are scans, and almost 19 -gasp- years old):

I continued to have an appreciation for photography but didn't really do much, creatively speaking, with my camera until after I had my first child. And I suspect the driving force there was what has brought many of you to this blog series... I wanted good pictures of my kids. I didn't want to pay an arm and a leg to someone to take pictures of my kids, when I knew them best - right down to their most endearing expressions and true smiles. I knew I was perfectly capable of it, and besides that had a great desire to do it myself. From there a hobby turned into a business... over the course of about 6 years. And I couldn't be happier with where I'm at right now!

Kierste's and my vision for this series is to take you through the baby steps of learning how to capture professional looking, artistic pictures... be that of your family, or simply for your blog, or even as you start your own photography business! We will start small. I know not all of you have high tech cameras. The first few "tutorials" will be geared towards the majority of you who shoot in auto mode on a point and shoot or even basic DSLR camera. But as we go along, I promise we will get more technical and talk real photography using all those big ambiguous terms you are curious about! I don't want to throw too much at you at once, but feel free to let me know how you like the pace of things and I'll be happy to customize this series!

Today I want to talk about lighting. Whether you shoot in automatic mode or manual mode, lighting is of utmost importance in capturing a high quality image.

I am a natural light photographer. While I have and occasionally use an external flash, I shoot the majority of my images using nothing more than the natural light of the sun. Even those images I capture in my home studio. So obviously the time of day has great bearing on how well exposed my images are!

My basic rules of thumb regarding lighting are:

1) For the best outdoor images, shoot in the late afternoon/early evening. This is when the lighting is the softest. However, low angled lighting - be it morning or afternoon/evening, will achieve the soft, filtered effect you want overall.

2) For the best indoor images, shoot mid morning in your most well lit room, preferably with a very large window. Since morning light is a bit harsher than evening light, this will penetrate into your home the best.

3) There are some exceptions to those rules. If it is an overcast day, you can shoot outdoors at any time. The clouds act as a natural filter. In fact, overcast days are a photographer's dream, because you don't need to think so much about angles and placement of your subject. This filtered light however negates your chances of getting a well (naturally) lit indoor picture.

Now let's look at some examples of how lighting and time of day will affect your images so that you can see what I mean.

Here's an example of an image taken outdoors, mid-morning:

Here's an example of an image taken outdoors in the evening:

The 2nd image was taken out in the wide open. Love the golden glow the sun provides at the end of the day! Classic example of flattering, natural light. The 1st image was taken in a field with a little bit of shade here and there. I had to use it because it was a very bright day and we were well past sunrise (which is the complimentary opposite of sunset). When shooting in the morning, the earlier the better. That can mean 7:00 AM, though! But the higher that sun rises, the harsher it is, and the more shadows it creates. And then shade may do you no good, because anything that doesn't provide complete coverage (trees, for instance) will put spots of sunlight on your subject. And that can be very unflattering!

Here's an example of an image taken out in the wide open, mid-day, sun right overhead:

I had no choice but to face my subjects away from the sun in this shot (plus I had to use very specific settings on my camera), or they may not have even been able to open their eyes.

Truthfully, a good photographer knows how to work with whatever lighting they have. Obviously I can't always schedule my shoots for 10:00 AM or 5:00 PM! Tricks like facing your subject away from the light can be used if you're good with shooting in manual mode. In auto mode the subjects in this image would have come out much darker. Why? Because the camera settings are going to be based on the light source, and because the sun is so bright here it would have darkened the picture overall to compensate, making my subjects also darker. In manual mode however you can expose off the subject you want to be well lit - in this case the family I was photographing. Clear as mud? Probably not, and that's why we're taking this so slowly. More on "backlighting" later.

To give you beginner photographers shooting in auto mode the best advantage, my advice is to avoid mid-day light. Or at the very least, find shade! Or take advantage of an overcast day, and you'll get a great image every time! This image, for example, was taken mid-day when it was overcast. In fact it was even raining a little!

{Most people think overcast is going to return dark dreary photos. Not so!}

Moving on - here's an example of 2 images taken indoors in the morning:

This image was taken facing away from a window. The light source is behind her. Do you see the shadows on her face? And this after brightening it up quiet a bit in photoshop! Still a good photo, but not AS good as the one below:

By turning her towards the light (it was coming at her from the front right side, actually) I got not only a brighter image (no circles under the eyes!), but I also got "catchlights". See how beautifully her eyes reflect the light? They look alive, and they sparkle! Whenever possible (you don't want squinting!) face your subject towards the light.

Hope all this helps you all understand the importance of lighting a bit better. Remember - the basis for a good image is your lighting. Even if you are shooting in auto mode on a cheap little point and shoot, your camera will have less work to do when you've already given it the base of great lighting and angles.

Now go out and experiment! If you have any questions or would like to show me any images demonstrating good lighting, I'd love to feature a few of them in next month's installment! Email them to me at

Next month we will discuss composition!


A huge thank you to Lei--I'm so glad she's here to share her talents and knowledge with us!




Blogger Tara said...

thank you for taking the time and helping me understand lightning...i just recently got a new camera and can't wait to take pictures of my two kids instead of taking them to the jcpenney...i just got a rebel xs, i know its kinda old and used but i figure it was a good start up camera

March 2, 2011 at 7:31 AM  
Blogger The Allen Family said...

Awesome. Thanks for all that! Can't wait to learn more.

March 2, 2011 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger The Crump Family said...

So happy you are doing this series! Thanks for the pointers!

March 2, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

Fantastic. Thank you for teaching us!

March 2, 2011 at 10:29 AM  
Blogger Yvonne said...

I love this so much. I REALLY love to take pictures and stink with lighting so I hope this helps me. I struggle with whether to have the light behind or in front of me when I'm taking the picture.

Thank you for all the great information.

March 2, 2011 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Brittany@twocrazycupcakes said...

Thank you! I'm looking forward to this series! So excited!

March 2, 2011 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger mommy2luke2008 said...

Thanks so much! Did you convert the black and white yourself, or did you use an action? I think it is beautiful!

March 2, 2011 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

Great tips! I am so excited about this series--I really need to step up my skills! Thank you!

March 2, 2011 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Lei said...

Yes, I used a recipe of b/w actions from Totally Rad, set 2. The best around, in my opinion. :)

March 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Mommarock said...

It would be great if these tips were in a printable format.. so that I could reference them again and again.. as well.. getting older and the memory is the first thing to go.

March 2, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Lei said...

Hmmm... thanks for the suggestion. That may be do-able!

March 2, 2011 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger deeder6 said...


So fun to see you on one of the blogs I frequent! I love your lesson! I can't wait to see more!


March 3, 2011 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Hurray Leilani! Thanks for the photog lesson; I look forward to future installments!

March 3, 2011 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger Samantha said...

Thank you. I am probably the worse person in the world when it comes to taking pictures and its really because i have no idea what im doing! even just those few lighting tips were amazing to me. cant wait to hear more!

March 4, 2011 at 6:46 AM  
Blogger Megs said...

I can't wait to go and practice. Hopefully they look as good as yours.

March 7, 2011 at 12:34 AM  
Blogger kirstenmiller said...

Thanks so much! Looking forward to the next installment!

March 9, 2011 at 1:13 AM  

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