For many natural light photographers, photographing in the “Sweet Light” is the highlight of what we do. This light happens around an hour before sunset and an hour around sunrise. It’s the most beautiful, sweet and natural light of all. Timing it can sometimes be difficult, but if you allow yourself to set up your subject and get ready for the sun to start it’s decline, you will be rewarded with the prettiest of all light. It only lasts for about 20 minutes and then turns into a different kind of light, twilight, which can also be beautiful to capture. In the following images, my beautiful subject Zoe is dancing in the sweet light in Ocean Beach, California. This session was timed to capture this gorgeous light as she moved to the music in her head. Photographing with Sigma’s 24-105mm F4.0 DG (OS) HSM | A lens, I was able to create these very sharp and beautiful images. I choose to photograph wide open, at f 4.0 and use a fast shutter speed, s 1/400 to keep my images sharp, as Zoe was consistently moving. My ISO was adjusted as the light changed.
The new Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM I A is the ideal lens for portrait photography in natural or low light situations.
As a natural light photographer there comes a time when even the best of us struggle with finding the right light. As I have mentioned in earlier blogs, the direction of the light and the beauty of a location may not be cohesive, meaning in order to get good light on your subject, you must use a part of the location that’s not so pretty. Sound familiar? Learning how to make a location and the available light work for you, no matter where you are, is one of the greatest lessons you can learn as a photographer. Even now, as I travel for a living, I find myself in locations for the first time and need to be able to find the light almost immediately.
As a photographer, I am definitely a problem solver. I must solve endless problems including lighting, posing, and flattering my subject. One way to become a better problem solver is to understand the tools available to us, most importantly, our cameras.
When photographing people and portraits, it is important to understand how your camera and lenses see. When looking through the lens, how does your camera interpret the environment and your subject different than what you perceive with the naked eye? Whether posing and shooting fashion, family portraits or head shots, understanding this makes a profound impact on the final results.
This February I was invited to join the fast-paced and inspirational conference called Seniors Ignite. The conference, this year hosted outside of Las Vegas, focused specifically on senior portrait photography and all elements involved– lighting, posing, business, inspiration and more! The event helps elevate senior portrait photography through lecture by those leading the industry and also a great deal of hands-on shooting through their senior model program.
High school seniors around the country can apply to be part of the program through their host studio, and a limited number are selected to come to the event and be photographed in fashion-editorial style shoots at the annual conference.
There is one question that is asked of me most often when I am teaching photography. That question is “Which lens is your favorite”? That’s such a terribly difficult question for me to answer. Lenses are like children, I love them all and hate to play favorites.
All kidding aside, I carry 5 lenses with me everywhere I go. Sigma’s 35mm F1.4, 50mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4, 24-70mm F2.8 and the 70-200mm F2.8. Most of my boudoir shoots are done in studio. My studio is very small (about 10’x10’) so I most often shoot with my 50mm due to size constraints. What if I want to take my client out to the rooftop though? (I’m bringing out the 70-200mm for that!) or into the vestibule (only the 24-70mm will do there). I would be unprepared without the other lenses.
Learning to use manual settings in your camera will provide you with the ability to create the beautiful exposures you desire. The exposure in your camera is determined by several different settings. Exposure refers to the lightness or darkness of the image. The settings are: 1) the aperture, the lens opening, which lets in light and controls the depth of field; 2) the shutter speed, the speed by which the lens lets in light, and 3) the ISO, which controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. The right combination of these three settings will give you a nearly perfect exposure and give you the effect you want for your image.
Our job as portrait photographers is often to flatter our subjects and help them look their best. There are so many elements that can go into this equation; lighting, posing, expression, focal length, camera angle and more. There is a lot to consider, so sometimes it is useful to train our eyes to see certain undesirable visual elements so we can weed them out.
I have both a creative and analytical mind. I do not like absolutes. I do no like rules. I do, however, appreciate guidelines that help give us photographers a better understanding of how to use our art to communicate. I’d have to side with Pablo Picasso on this one; “’Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’”
The challenges of photographing in natural light can be many. I don’t always get to choose when I photograph, especially because I photograph children and sometimes the best time for them is in the middle of the day. When that happens there are a few things that can help to make this actually work pretty well.
This month I was invited by Sigma to test out their brand new Sigma 24-105mm F4 lens and to shoot a series of bridal images to demonstrate the versatility of the lens. I decided to put together a fashion-influenced bridal shoot in a stunning location and with the help of my incredible talented creative team. Once I had put together striking visual elements, I would then test all features of the lens that would be important to me as a working photographer.
For several years I photographed weddings, and all the challenges that come with them. I realized very quickly that the last thing I wanted to worry about was my gear. I had to focus on the posing, the lighting, keeping everyone happy, my extremely long shot-list, and much more. I needed to know my gear was reliable and would help me get those must-have moments. When I started I didn’t have a second shooter or assistant; I was the one-woman band expected to make every shot count.