It’s time for the third installment of Ask Megan Monday. I’m having a great time with this and I hope everyone is getting something out of it. Keep the questions coming–I’m happy to answer them!
Christina asks: Megan, what time of day do you find best to shoot in? Do you use flash during the day or do you open up on your aperture, set ISO or shutter? What do you use the most to capture your great light?
Let me see if I can shed some light on the subject (sorry–I couldn’t resist). But seriously, I love talking about light. Probably because as a photographer light affects everything I do. It’s no secret that I adore golden hour–that hour right before sunset. I typically schedule all of my outside sessions for the last two hours of daylight. I actually go online and look up sunset times when someone books a session to determine what time our shoot will take place. I just love that warm glow and how you aren’t restricted as to where you can photograph.
Most people think that high noon is the absolute worst time to photograph. In some ways I agree. At this time of day the sun is practically straight overhead. What does this mean for your pictures? Well, if you are out in the full sun and you take a picture, your subject is likely to have “raccoon” eyes–the shadow cast from their brow bone will make it so that there isn’t any light in their eyes, making them look hollow. In fact, any shadow created at this time of day is going to be quite harsh which doesn’t make for a very pleasing image.
But I also think that every situation has a solution. I decided to take Abby out in our backyard on Friday so I would have some examples to show how you can find great light in nearly any situation. These quick images are not the type of quality that I would show in a client gallery, but they work well to explain how you really can take a picture in the middle of the day. The first image was taken at 11:55 am and the second at 12:07 pm. For these two images my settings were f/3.2, 1/250 seconds, and ISO 200. (To answer the other part of your question, I always choose my aperture first, then my shutter speed, and lastly will adjust my ISO if needed. I rarely like to go under 1/250 on my shutter speed for kids, so if I can’t get enough light with that then I’ll bump up my ISO.)
Our backyard is full of oak trees right now, but none have any leaves so there is a huge amount of dappled light. I knew that I would have to find some place in the shade that still offered me a good deal of light so I took her over to the doorway of their playhouse. This is a great example of using an open space with an overhang to light your subject. Think of it like a window letting light through. You have the shade from the roof, but you have light reflecting off the ground bouncing in to light your subject. Another great space to achieve this is in your garage. Seriously. Open up the garage door and place your kids near the entrance. The light will reflect off of the driveway and will illuminate your subject. Try it out!
While the first image is a decent photograph, I wanted to show you how, by finding open shade, you can create a great image no matter what time of day it may be. Using the shade provided by the two story home next door, I placed Abby so that she was looking up at me and not straight on. This is what creates those beautiful catchlights (although you can hardly see them because just like me, Abby’s eyes disappear when she smiles). I almost always do this at one point or another during a session with kids. Normally at 12:00 pm you couldn’t do this because they would be squinting like crazy because they would be staring straight into the sun. But by finding a shaded area, it’s easily achievable.
So get out there and practice finding the light in any situation. And send me your questions for next week’s Ask Megan.