Live Shoot: Find In-Home Natural Light
The in-home portrait shot, okay? Now, we talked about a lot of clients want to put a random photo on their wall from lifestyle sessions. Make sure you're in decent lighting for this shot, grab a window... You just, it might be at the very end. I never put my camera down until I'm out that door. Because what happens is, when you start leaving, what do the kids do? They're like, "Yeah, you're gone." Or they're, like, sad and they're clinging to your leg, right? So normally, or they'll go over there on their own, they're being sweet, and a lot of the time, somebody will be sitting by a window, and you need to quick get that picture, and you've put your camera away. Don't put your camera away. Go grab that shot, that happens a lot at the end for these really pretty portrait pictures. Get on the ground and do the 1-2-3 trick, so you go one, two, and they start smiling 'cause they think you're gonna go to three. You click on two, right? 'Cause at three, they're like (rasps), you know? They l...
ose it. So click on two, it's the best way to get that really cute, real life. I never say cheese, if kids start saying cheese, I'm like, no, no, no, no, and I tickle them, 'kay? 'Cause cheese is elongated E vowel, that's not good, it's not normal. If a child won't let you put them down, if a parent needs to hold the child, this has happened to all of us, that's okay. Have the child held by mom, right here, have the child peek over, do peek-a-boo on the mom's shoulder, that's fine. You still have a close-up shot of a child, okay? Okay, so this family is so cute. Wait 'til you see, three kids, a little dog, and they're a little bit older, the kids were, so when we first got there, we kind of had a trickier time trying to get the little guy engaged. He was like, "I'm cool with it." But he finally opened up. I was tickling him, and you'll kind of see all that. We're gonna take a walk through the house right away, and I'm gonna be talking on camera about why we're gonna be shooting in which room. And we're gonna talk about lighting with that. And then we're gonna see a scene in the bedroom with a dog. We're gonna do, we pulled bubbles out in the playroom area. Mom said that the three of them are always together, that's one thing that she told me going into this, I made a mental note of it, that they never do things apart. They love to be together, so I was trying to make sure that we were doing a lot of things together. I do want to preface, this shoot was a little bit different, it wasn't a full family session, obviously, because we were doing this, you know, for this. Had we stayed longer, we would've shot some more in their kitchen, we would've gone into the kid's rooms, but we did some of the global things that everybody can kinda do, you know. So you'll kind of see how I get my families to interact with me, and how we move around in a shoot, 'kay? Hi guys, we are at Erica's house, and she has three gorgeous children. Two little girls, and a little boy. We're gonna walk around and look at all of the rooms in the house. We'll talk about lighting, which rooms we're gonna want to shoot in and why, and then we're gonna do a little bit, you know, kind of a mock photo shoot, per se. We can't do every room in the house, but we're gonna pick a few activities that the kids like to do that mom filled out on her questionnaire, and we're gonna kind of implement everything that we planned ahead of time into this home. So let's go check it out. Did you say this was south, so if that's east, never, no wait, never eat, north. Never eat soggy waffles. (laughs) Never eat soggy waffles. Okay, so that's north, so we're gonna have constant light in here, since that is north. So this'll be a beautiful room to shoot in. Let's go ahead and pull the windows, can I open these?
Yeah, just pull it.
Okay, I just want to make sure we're not getting any windowpanes. The sun is rising on that side of the house right now, so actually this is a really great room to start in, because we don't have that direct light coming in. If you could turn all these off, I don't want any overhead light. Pull this open. Yeah, this room's incredible. And when I shoot, I'll blur out what's behind the windows anyways, so we're okay with whatever's back there.
Okay. I can open that one.
You got that one. Okay. Hey, puppy. Yeah, you're gonna (mumbles). Okay, let's come in here. Let's turn, we're probably not gonna shoot in the dining room. So let's just keep walking through the dining room. There's just not enough room, I don't think, for the session. Come through this way. Let's go ahead and turn off all of the lights in the kitchen for me, if you can.
Okay, so it's a cloudy day outside today, and this is east, so this is as bright as it's gonna get in here today. So we shouldn't wait too much longer, actually, to come in here since it won't be getting any brighter. So we'll kind of come down here second, I think, after we start in your bedroom, 'cause does it face the same direction?
Our bedroom is... above, I don't know.
On that side? We'll see when we get up there. All right, let's head this way. I think I want to use this room, 'cause there's more light in here. We will be shooting into the kitchen, but we won't be shooting in the kitchen, actually, this time around. Okay, so this is east. We'll probably come down here and play. Hey, peanut. You're fine, so what we'll do is we'll probably have dad come down here, and fly... (grunts) Airplane, can we do airplane? Do you wanna do the airplane? She'll warm up to me. Okay, we'll do airplane down here. I'm gonna probably have you guys stand on this wall, 'cause this is pretty even light right now.
Did you want us to open the pool, or no?
No, we won't see anything out there, because the windows will be kind of blown out. We will have you guys standing in front of the window, so we're gonna need to move the monitor.
But that's all that's gonna be in the way down here. So I think we're gonna be good this way. All right, let's head this way. And then we'll just head upstairs. Okay, so which way is, where are all the kid's rooms?
So this is Lena's room, in here.
Okay, adorable, are you kidding me? Oh my gosh, these bookshelves. We have to do something with these lines.
And the color, I'm obsessed. Okay. Um, could you maybe turn off the lights really quick in here?
Oh, it's kinda dark, okay. Um, so I'm trying to remember which way we face. This is south, north, north from downstairs, right? So it's dark today, so we might not come in here. This would be good for the afternoon, probably, when the clouds are gonna go away. But it's pretty dark in here, so let's not. But these are adorable. This would've been really good for if it were brighter out today. But let's concentrate on the more well-lit--
So this is our bedroom.
Unbelievable. Okay, so we're gonna be doing the jumping on the bed here.
So that means we have to turn off the fan.
Turn off the fan, okay.
We don't want anybody getting in the fan. So we'll do the PJ scene up here, too. These lights, so this is all east, so you know what, since it is cloudy, let's start in here. Like I said downstairs, typically we would start on the opposite side of the sun rising, since it's the morning right now. But since it's cloudy, it's only gonna get darker. You know what, we might leave that on for some cool pop, a little bit. We don't have any, all right, this is perfect. I don't think we're gonna go in the bathroom, as amazing as it is. Do you ever sit in these chairs?
We do. (laughs)
You know what we'll do, let's grab a book, and you can read to one of the kiddos on this chair right here.
Yeah, I think that's what we'll do in here. This is great, this'll be perfect. Okay, and then the next way, I'm turned around.
So this way.
This is Anika's bedroom.
Okay, let's turn the lights off like we do in all the rooms, to check it out. Okay, this is gorgeous light. We've got shadows and some bright light coming in here, so we may pop in here. Oh, and you know what, she's got colored books there, too. So we can use that, as well. How old is she again?
She's, oh, okay. Adorable, okay, this is great. Okay, next room.
This is my son Bjorn's room.
Okay, again, this is on that side that we had less light, so we probably won't come in here. Actually, you know what, it's not doing too bad, though. It's kind of bouncing out there. You have a purple floor out there. That's pretty awesome. Okay, too dark in here, we're gonna not come in here today. It's just cloudy out today.
Yeah, welcome to Seattle. (laughs)
And this is his bathroom. And this is our playroom upstairs.
We are definitely coming in here, we'll do the bubbles in here. So this is east, do you know what, we have a good, full light in here, so we'll do a lot in here, because then we don't have to worry about the kids facing certain directions and such, we can do whatever we want. What is their favorite thing in here to play with?
They love the Rody's and playing with any toy.
Perfect, these are fun and colorful, and they can bounce and be silly and crash, it'll be great. All right, and we'll use this, too. We may turn it so we can get some light on the kid's face a little bit. But yeah, we'll do the bubbles in here. And we'll be good, cool, excited. So, as you guys could see, their house was pretty ridiculously amazing. I know you guys are gonna ask me about what if we get a client that doesn't have a house with that much light? That's not typical. It was really fun, but it's not typical. You don't need that much light in every single house. You don't need a house that perfect to have a lifestyle shoot in. You just need their house, okay. Everybody has a window, so don't worry if their house doesn't, you know, look like Pinterest, okay? So shooting your session, the very first thing that I do, like you saw there in the video, is I walk around and I look at the light, which way things are positioned. Sometimes you're gonna need to stay in one place, and that's okay. Did you guys notice how, in the little girl's room with the bookshelves, it was amazing. That was that one room that was on that one side of the house. We planned that session, we were there around 10, I think closer to 11, when we started shooting. So we were kinda getting to that time where we could shoot either side of the house that we needed, which was the family room, and then the parent's bedroom. So that's the side that we wanted. So we did not take into consideration any rooms that faced it on these opposite ends. So if we'd have been a full session, I would've started it a little bit later, in terms of the show, we needed to kind of do earlier, so that's what I would've done for a real session, 'cause we did not shoot in the kid's rooms. But they did get lighter in the afternoon, she said. But you could see the rooms are so fun, and if you had planned an activity based around her darling birds on the wall, or the bookshelves, and you got there, and you had it prepared, you'd been out of luck, 'kay? So it's really, really important about this. 'Kay, natural light, so sometimes I bring a reflector. I've used it a handful of times, I position my clients pretty appropriately where I don't really always need a reflector. Sometimes I do, to fill some shadows. I'm more of one to kind of embrace shadows as long as, and we're gonna talk about this in a minute, as long as you don't turn your client completely this way, you know, completely 90 degrees. If you do a little bit of an angle, you can always fill some of that shadow. If that means moving furniture, it means moving furniture. Okay? Okay. Let's go a little bit into light now. You can have any light to get great shots, okay? You need to learn to use the shadows. This is my biggest tip for you guys. You're gonna have such more dynamic, interesting photos if you're not always using flat light, and that's like this image we talked about just a minute ago. Search for pockets of light if you need to. I had a student with me, a one-on-one mentoring student, actually, during this session, and she was like, "Oh, we can't use this room, look at all the lines, right?" Like, no, let me show you how we can do this. So instead of letting the babies crawl across the floor, I sat them there when they're about to go, but we got it, right? So you can use those pockets of light. Don't let any room scare you. But you can see, you see behind the girls, there's all those windowpanes, and that can be scary for people. Obviously, windowpanes are cool, like if you have a boy sitting there with the shadows and stuff, we've seen all that, right? And that's cool for photographers. It's not always cool for parents. So you need to make sure you really know your client, okay? You're not gonna have a lot of, most of your homes aren't gonna have that much natural light, like we talked about. Next step. Before I keep going, this family is adorable. This room that you are about to see these images in was pretty much pitch black. There was one pocket of light, and it was coming in to the sink, and I was dead set on using that blue sink, because it was a newborn session, this was the newborn's sister. The newborn was done, like, everybody was done, and I'm like, you are so cute, that sink is blue, we are doing something fun. So I made sure by the end of, at the end of the session, I didn't care what it was, we were doing something in that sink. So we made the decision to do bubbles in the sink, and you'll see some of these shots. So I want you guys to know you don't need a ton of light. What you do need, remember, is you need to be able to have a camera that can handle some high ISO capabilities. And if you don't, that's fine, too. Embrace the grain. Don't miss the shot, embrace the grain, okay? Okay, so here are some of those shots. Remember we talked about walking around and getting perspective, and getting composition? One side of her, we're seeing her face, okay? We shot down on her feet, and then we shot up that way a little bit. So we can kind of get a story of what she was doing. And these images, they turned out so cute. This seriously was a newborn session, and we had all of this, the newborn was getting changed. We tried to bring the newborn back in, and it was just done, she was done. And we got all of these images, look how cute, right? This whole little series, so you can see over here on the bottom, we tried to bring them back in, and the older one was done, too. The middle child was good to go. We had a total bubble fight in the kitchen. Like, literally, we were set to go, we were gonna say goodbye, but I still had my camera attached to me, right? 'Cause I was getting that blue sink shot. So we got a whole series in five minutes, with all of this, 'kay? Really quick, too, is these soap bubbles are Dawn soap bubbles, the only ones that get big. I promise you that. So, back pocket trick. So this was, yeah, you can see, you can do anything. If you're doing a newborn lifestyle, it is okay if there's a really fun kid, and the other ones are all done, the older one's done, the baby's done, you know, the middle child gets left out, grab her, you know, do something fun. So we had a good time with this one. Those ended up being my favorite pictures of the shoot. Go figure. 'Kay, natural light, ISO. Don't be afraid to take that ISO up, okay? If it gets grainy, and you miss, it's better off than missing the shot, okay? Aperture. Depending on your composition, open as wide as you can. Two trains of thought here. If you have plenty of light, and you really want beautiful background blur, say you're in a playroom, and all of the stuff in the background is really, really colorful, and if you kept it out of focus, it would be for a beautiful, you know, background palette, like a background blur. Open that lens up and do it. Take that color and use it for your composition. Then you can change it up, close your lens up if you have enough light, if you have enough light. Close your lens up, and keep more of that in focus to tell the story. There's two different things you can do with the same scenario, just based on your aperture, okay. That's why typically we'll be changing aperture and shutter speed during sessions, but if you're in a situation where you really, really need that light, you're gonna have to bring your client closer to the background stuff, you know, to get everything in focus. You're not gonna be able to have a child forward and all of the stuff in the back that you want in focus. You're gonna have to really adjust based on your light, okay? Okay, shutter speed. Need to have a fast shutter speed with moving kids, okay. Especially with bubbles. I don't ever do bubbles, can you tell? (chuckles) Kids love 'em, and sometimes when we're, this was actually a workshop that I taught, but kid's love 'em, and they always have fun, and they get natural smiles, and you know, I try to take it, I don't go below 150. I can go all the way down to about 60 without camera shake, 'cause I have a pretty steady hand, but not with bouncing children, okay? So you need to know yourself, how low you can take your shutter speed down to without getting camera shake, okay? So you want people to move, we move, right? Show movement. Don't always just sit there. People get so stuck on the dollhouse thing, or activities, toys that kids love. When you're thinking about these activities, we're all gonna naturally think about, okay, what's their favorite toy right now? But what do we do with toys? We sit, 'kay? So you need to not only think about toys that we play with, we also need to think about things that we can engage with, and that we can move with, you know. Life is fluid, we need to show fluidity, okay? Types of natural light. This, we have, there's flat light, flat light is the easiest light you can shoot in, you can do anything that you want with flat light. You're gonna find it in a lot of homes. There's enough light bouncing all over pretty much to do what you want to do, okay? It's distributed evenly across your subjects. You know, if you have a window here, a window there, a window there, or even if you have a window and a window, and white, everything's bouncing all over, you have a lot of light. And when we shot in the studio earlier, with the kids in the bed, that's considered flat light, unless we pulled the kids closer to the wall, there were some shadows over there. That's just really typical flat lighting, okay? Now, the trick with flat light, composition. You can use flat light, but you need composition, otherwise it's gonna be boring. People are drawn to shadows, they're drawn, you know, moodier pictures have more shadow in them, and you can create different things with flat light... using composition, okay? So here's some flat lighting situations. Now, do you see how I composed these images, it made it more interesting, okay? So the dog and the daughter, that was actually at a newborn session, 'cause why not. So they peeked up over the edge of the bed because all I could see was that dog and the white bed, and the white wall, and think, "Oh my gosh, can you imagine that dog "popping over the bed and looking at me? "Let's get his sister, too." So, I was so, this was in my studio window, actually. Composition, flat light, which could've been boring, but it wasn't, because of the composition. Flat light with the mom and the baby, just I was standing over them. That top left corner, same thing. Flat light, what I did was I brought myself around, and I shot towards the window so it kind of created a backlighting effect, and I caused a shadow, okay? When I'm shooting in people's homes, I always wear white, gray, or black, because I don't want any bouncing of my color onto them, okay? Especially if you have reflections in eyes, you can see red dots, and we don't want all that. That other image, the top right-hand corner one, in the bookshelves, could've been boring, right? But how I composed it, you have to think about your lines. I kept it interested, visually interesting. Something like that, when you're doing a center shoot, if you have two things that match, you need to either show part of one, or you need to show it this way, right? And don't make it crooked. If you have lines, you need to stay straight on, and it's hard to do, we all, you know, we're all crooked. And we can fix it, if we need to, but try to maintain that linearity, if you have lines in any composition for photos. Backlighting, this is my favorite. I shoot backlighting probably 90% of my time. I just love it, I'm obsessed with it. I don't know why. I have been since I started, I just do. So it's not always available at home sessions, but you can create it. True backlighting really, genuinely means there's no other light coming in from any other sources besides that one window, and that can happen. You guys are gonna find yourself in this situation a ton of times. What you're gonna do, you can expose, certain situations, you can expose for the highlights. So if we expose for the highlights, we're gonna be spot-metering during backlighting. So if we decide to take our meter reading off of our highlights, right, we want the highlights to be perfect. What do you think is gonna happen with the shadows? They're gonna be really, really dark, right? And that's how you can kind of create a more backlit effect, if you have other windows coming in from other directions, instead of exposing for a midtone, right here, you're gonna expose for the highlight. So you're gonna tell your camera, okay, these highlights are what are supposed to be in that middle range, exposed correctly, zone. You know what I'm trying to, in layman terms purposes. And so those shadows are gonna make it even deeper. So the little shadows that you had will get even deeper and create prettier shadows for that type of situation. Now if you want to do true backlighting, then we tend to meter off of the middle range, or on a shadow, depending on what you want the story to tell. If you want your shadows to be brighter, and you want a really bright image, meter for your shadows. If you want those shadows in there, go back down to your midtones, okay? And honestly, nowadays with digital, you can just check, you know? Get your reading, check it, put it where you want it. But always think in terms of being a photographer, you need to shoot for how you want it to look, and you can do that. You don't have to just always meter on those midtone readings, you know? Some shadows will be too dark, and that's okay, you know? The only thing that I, my rule of thumb with backlighting, if you're gonna blow out highlights, let it happen on things that are not important. So the windows, you can see how she looks a little bit darker, but that's fine. I don't want any, so the red channel is your skin, okay? You don't want the red channel to blow. So if you see any red blinkies, you know those red blinkies in your camera, you can set them in your camera? If you see any red blinkies blinking on the skin, you know you've overexposed those midtones, okay? So bring it down until that can come down. And you can always bring it up in Lightroom and post-processing if you need to. Those red blinkies are a good trick on the beach, by the way. 'Cause you can look and see, 'cause you can't see. Side note. But you can create dramatic imagery with backlighting, okay? And you're gonna need to be turning your subjects, too. And I'm okay with those dark shadows, that's what it looks like at the time, right? So she was playing on her iPad, I went in there, this is right when I got to their house, this was a newborn session, this is what was happening. She was playing on her iPad, he was playing Legos, and there was the baby. I'm like, "Okay, I need to get my camera." Because that's life, right? And it was a backlit situation, so I was even more excited, so it worked out. And they have a really cute rug. Here's another backlit situation. This was actually, this was my very first lifestyle session I ever did. Isn't that funny? That's a long time ago. My very first newborn lifestyle session. Now I'd be like, okay, turn the babies' heads up to connect with the child, right? I'm gonna show you what not to do. But I love this, I have this printed in my studio, because this is what made me shoot newborn lifestyles, because we were in a home in Chicago, in the city, and as you know, if anybody lives in the city, you're in these row homes, right? No light, one window, one side of the house, that's it. And you're lucky if that's the case, 'cause otherwise, the windows are facing another building, and you just don't have a lot of light. So we moved everything into this one room, we pulled a bed into this room, and she climbed up there, and did that, and then jumped off right away, but we got it, right, 'cause she's two. But that's a backlit situation. And I turned them a little bit, because when I had them straight on, 90 degrees, like this, you couldn't see enough detail in their face. Okay, because there's too harsh of shadows and highlights. So if we would've turned them, and it's a little bit blown on that face right there on that back baby. Now I know better. But then, if you would've turned them even more, I knew enough that that would be so bright, and that would be so dark, so you would have drastic differences, just kind of come over a little bit, you know? I don't like the whole degree thing, 'cause it's like, what really is a degree? Just move it closer over to the window a little bit, and you're fine, 'kay? All right, not a great room for backlighting, move. Okay, so this is our bedroom. We've got two windows, and the light coming in from the ray of light coming all over the place. So I wanted this backlit shot. If I would've stepped over a little bit to my right-hand side when the kids were doing this, I had my 70-200 on during this shot, it wouldn't have been backlit. I would've had too much light filling the shadows. But if I moved to the left, my shadows were there. I redeveloped those shadows by turning myself, okay. So if you have a situation where you can't get some backlighting, create it for yourself, okay? Close the shades if you need to darken a room. If you see one gorgeous window and you want to have a backlit image, close the shades on the other room, okay, on the other windows. And you can create backlighting if you have a house that doesn't have any, you know, linear light like that, okay? And these are great for black and white, too. Any of those darker images, always turn out really well when you have drastic differences, highlights and shadows.
Can you explain, for some folks who might be new, how do you expose to the highlights? Can you explain that a little bit more in depth, what you mean by that?
So when I say expose the highlights, what I really mean is just take your meter reading. So when you look through your camera, you put your little meter thing on there, and put it on a highlight. And what that's doing is it's telling your camera's meter where to meter. Essentially what exposure is, is you're telling your camera what do I want exposed for in that middle zone, perfectly, you know, not blown out, or not too dark. So if you say that the shadows are the thing, or the highlights are the things that are supposed to be exposed for correctly, it's gonna make everything darker. Because typically you're not exposing for highlights, typically you're exposing for that middle zone, in that middle area right here. We expose, you know, like for a face, the middle range, the midtones. So if you're telling the camera, which is not a midtone, 'cause if you do matrix metering or anything like that, it takes in consideration everything going around, it's evaluative metering on Canon's. It will take, with spot metering you can say, okay, the highlight is the thing that I want to be perfect, everything else is just gonna fall, okay? Okay, all right. Directional lighting, okay? I love directional lighting. With directional lighting, it's side light, essentially, okay? You can get creative with this type of light. Be mindful, again, of 90 degrees, okay? Move a bit, to have the light wrap around your subjects. Allow some of the shadows to be filled. Be dramatic, expose for highlights, like we talked about. Similar to backlighting, we're just not shooting into the light now, right? We're shooting, instead of us shooting into this window, we're shooting sideways, the window is hitting them, 'kay? What makes shadows more dramatic if you expose for the highlights. Underexpose, if you want to. While you're in a room, compose your shots so you can use all types of light, you know, you can use side lighting, you can use backlighting, you can use flat light in so many different rooms. Use that, it's gonna make for a much more interesting image, okay? We're gonna go into it more during composition, but I'm gonna talk about how I move from flat light to directional light. We'll see it in the videos when I start shooting, which are coming up here in a second again. It'll tell your story, and it looks way cooler, right? 'Kay, so here's a side light. What we did here, this is like my all-time favorite newborn image. This is that same family that we just saw, the little guy on the rug. What we did is I moved the crib. I saw these boats, and I'm like, this room is so dark, but I loved the cribs, and I'm like, you know what, I love the boats, I love directional lighting, and you have a blue wall, so we're doing something right here. So, 'cause all of those elements are fun, right? Blue makes, if that wall would've been white, would it have been as cool? Nope, right? Blue, fun. Look at those harsh shadows over there, 'kay? Love them, love them. I exposed for the highlights in this situation. He was totally blown out on that side, that made the shadows even darker, but it made for a pretty composition, and pretty lighting, okay, for a more visually interesting photo. And that's okay, don't feel like you have to fill these shadows. I think as newer photographers, they're scared of shadows. Don't be scared of the shadow. Now, if you have somebody looking at you, and you have a half dark face, and you know, it's half dark and well-lit over here, that's not gonna be good for this type of shooting. It's great for other types of, you know, shots, but not for this type.