Sunny days, shady ways

If you've ever tried to take pictures on a sunny day, you've probably experienced my recent pain. I came across a pretty blue field of flowers, and thought, "What a perfect spot for a photo!". But shooting in the bright, mid-day sun resulted in a picture that was all wrong: the strong sun created an unflattering combination of harsh shadows and overexposed spots on my son's face.

Short of leaving my camera at home on sunny days (which I've been known to do!), how could I create better images? Well, one answer is to find Open Shade.

First things first, not all shade is created equal. With Open Shade, you're looking for a couple key things: 

  • Full shade created by a building, tree or other object to block the sun. You don't want your subject in partial shade or dappled light, because the bright spots behind your subject can be distracting.
  • The sun should be behind your subject (although it will be blocked by the aforementioned object), with your subject facing the blue sky. The sky will reflect light back onto your subject.   
  • A reflective surface in front of our subject  (like concrete, snow, sand, etc.) to bounce light back up at subject. Position your subject behind the sun/shade line: close enough to ensure light is reflecting back onto your subject, but not too close that the reflected light is overly strong.

Here are a couple images of how I set up my experiment with Open Shade.

My house is blocking the sun and my son is sitting behind the sun/shade line
My son was facing a blue sky (although it wasn't ideal since the houses blocked some of the light)
And finally the finished picture! The light is nice and even, which creates a creamy, bright skin tone. He also has large catchlights (the reflected light in his eyes), which add depth to the picture and draw your attention to his eyes.

For comparison sake, here's what happened when I tried the exact same shot, but placed him in front of the sun/shade line. 

In the side-by-side comparison, you'll notice that in the sunny picture on the right, his neck, shoulder and hat are very over exposed, while his face is lacking the brightness of the picture on the left.

One thing to be careful of is colour casts from the reflected light. If the surface in front of your subject has a strong colour, like green grass, that colour can bounce back up onto your subject. Take a look at the greenish tinge to my son's face below, particularly in the close up shot.

The reflected green is especially noticeable under his lips and to the left of his chin
Now that I have learned to love the shade in sunny days, I can't wait for summer to begin!


When to capture a moment...and when to sit back and enjoy it

When I was younger, I admit that I suffered from FOMO (a fear of missing out, usually related to social events).  Even though I've largely overcome this fear now that my Saturday nights at the bar are a thing of the past, a new kind of FOMO has emerged. A fear of missing the perfect shot. When I notice that the light is at just the right angle or Julian is making one of his adorable faces and I don't have my camera out, I often feel like I should be taking a photo. But truth be told, I know that photographing your life is about striking a balance.  While I'm lucky to have so many subjects all around me, if I miss one shot there'll be thousands more to capture.

I made sure to remind myself of this on our recent trip to Mexico. There were several times I purposely left my camera back in the room so that I could just enjoy the sun and sand without worrying about taking pictures. At other times, I forced myself to put my camera down even though the setting and light seemed perfect when I sensed that my not so patient two year old (and my ever patient husband) were done smiling for the camera.

Looking back at my pictures from our vacation at the Azul Fives resort, I think I was able to capture just enough of the moments to act as a great reminder of our wonderful week away.


Taking pictures at Kala House of Colour

Just before Christmas I checked out my friend's adorable pop-up shop, Kala House of Colour.  The home goods store had such beautiful products, I couldn't resist taking a couple of product shots. So much of my photography these days is of moving subjects, so my first thought was "this will be a breeze".  But I soon realized with product photography, you face another challenge. The little details matter...a lot! But before I get into that, here's a look at the simple set up I used to take the pictures: just a curved white piece of paper and natural window light.

With this first picture below, you'll see what I mean by attention to detail. In other types of photography, you can get away with tiny imperfections. Few people will notice if the picture of your adorable newborn isn't perfectly level. Not so with product photography. To help keep my camera level and to eliminate camera shake, next time I'll use a tripod.
My camera wasn't completely level, which made the candle appear tilted
In the second image, I adjusted my angle to correct the perspective
Here's another example of the little details making a big difference. At first glance, the photo below looks great, the bowl is well lit and the colour is strong. But what about the background - white is white, right? Not quite, as anyone who has picked out white paint colour knows! When taking picture of a product against a white background, you want a completely clean and bright background to let the product shine.
The background in this photo has a greyish tinge, which stands out compared to the white pages of this blog.
In this edited photo (I adjusted the White slider in my photo editing software), the background is more of a true white.
The pop-up shop has now closed, but Kala House of Colour will return this summer up north, so follow the store on Instagram or Facebook for more details. Here's a couple other photos of the store.