Tuesday, 31 January 2012


There's a very good reason why film makers shout 'Lights' before anything else, photography is all about lighting. Without the right light you will struggle to take a good photograph... So today's blog post is all about lighting.

How we control the available light and add additional light when needed is basis for all photography. There are numerous controls and methods for controlling light available to today's photographer.

On the iPhone the settings that help us control light are preset into the phone, you can choose one of these presets by tapping the white 'focus square' that appears on your screen in camera mode. Not only does this focus the camera it also helps you use the available light. There's little you can do with the iPhone presets, but you can use one of their apps to improve the photo after it was taken.

The Canon 400D is another matter all together. This not only has 'set presets' (the portrait, sport, landscape modes on your dials). It also comes with manual modes where YOU control the camera settings. These are the settings we'll discuss in detail while actually taking photos in next weeks blog!

When you look through the view finder of the Canon (when it's on Mums!!) there's a little dial along the bottom in the black frame. This is called a light meter. A light meter is your link to understanding how your camera sees light.

This device takes into account all of the settings on your camera - the ones that are preset in the auto modes and preset on the iPhone – and tells you about if there's enough light to take your photograph. The first step to understanding photography lighting is to understand this tool for measuring light.

Your mission, should you choose to take it, is to keep the dial of the light meter on 0.

If the dial looks like this then your photograph will be under-exposed, that is too dark or grey looking.

If the dial looks like this then your photograph will be over-exposed, that is too light or very white looking.

OK what you can do to correct the above problems...

Cute sleeping pose is often
under lit...obviously!
Under exposure – You need more light!

Outside – Make sure the sun is behind you or just over one of your shoulders (so that your child isn't squinting at the sun). Position yourselves somewhere where there is more available light.

If it's dusk / night then you should turn on some lights or move light closer to your child...or your child closer to some light!. I hate to suggest this but you can use your camera flash (eeek horrible horrible horrible) but this will cause your child to be slightly over exposed and the background all shadows... this is because your built in camera flash is not very good. Use it as an absolute LAST resort.

Inside – There's never enough light inside really, unless you are in a studio. Many shots of your little ones in the setting of your own living room will probably turn out dark unless you've turned on a few lights. Make sure you have the window to your back, that a light is on – careful of where your shadow stands.

Over exposure – Try all the opposites to under exposure. I find creating a sun visor with my hand over the lens of my camera / iPhone helps with over exposure outside (I'm not sure why?!).
Andrex Puppy?!
Light off the white window sill,
the loo  seat &
because she is stood next to
the window creates too
much light.

Inside, turn those lights off – find a setting where the flash doesn't automatically pop up and over expose your child... Make sure your subject isn't sat under a light or under a window where the light will be at it's strongest.


When you see professional photographers on the TV or at school fayres they have people holding up big white squares. These are called reflectors and can be made at home (cardboard covered with colours.

These can be used to reflect more light or a different tone of light onto your child.

GOLD - creates warm tones
WHITE - neutral colour effect
BLUE - creates cool tones
SILVE - neutral tones - brighter than white

These could be used to create more light without over exposing - you slightly aim your camera into the reflector while keeping your subject in the frame. Thus the harsh light is 'reflected' onto your subject rather than over exposing them.

I find as a busy Mum with a working husband, people holding reflective pieces of cardboard usually aren't around to hold while my toddler is doing something cute. Also the introduction of these people would completely change the cute thing she was doing that I was trying to capture in the first place.

So if you want reflectors then set the scene yourself. A sofa, a chair and a white sheet can create a white corner for you to set up as a reflective background. Give your child some objects to play with (a cheap pair of  adult sunglasses for instance) and you have your very own 'studio' with reflective white light!

Now keen photographers will notice that I'm nearing the end of the blog without covering white balance. This is because I am going to cover this when we're playing with our photographs in Photoshop, Snapseed and other applications. Everyone else, don't worry about it - your camera will do the work for you.

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