Avoid The Hard Light

Photography tutorials are so much easier to do now that I have my own little model to work with! Kelli Nicole wrote a similar post on this topic, titled “Finding Indoor Light for Portraits” and I thought that including T1 in some shots would help you see how effective seeking out the right kind of light can be.

You know that the word photos is Greek for light, right? I think a lot of people unfamiliar with photography know that good photography revolves around light, but they might not know that all light isn’t created equal. Especially when shooting indoors, there is a certain type of lighting situation you want to avoid, and doing so will help you see a dramatic improvement in your photos.

Here is T1 chilling in our bedroom, sitting right in the middle of what is known as a “hot-spot”. Hot-spots are pockets of harsh light, found next to windows when the sun is shining directly in. You want to avoid placing your subjects in lighting like this. The time of day where the sun is shining in like this will vary based on the direction your windows are facing (and if you’re hunting for a place to live and want to have the best light possible, look for north-facing windows!

All images in this post are straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) unless I specify otherwise.

Awww, T1 look so cute! Too bad I can’t see his eyes, since they are hooded and covered in shadow. And that shadow to the right of him is really distracting.

Even with a little bit of editing things aren’t looking much better.

What about cropping it and turning it black and white? Nope.

Sometimes you just can’t wait until another time of day though. If you have a baby like mine, he’s probably going to start crying soon. Or you’ll get him dressed and he’ll throw up over his clothes, and you want to photograph his new outfit before he messes it up.

My solution has been flipping my chair around so it faces opposite the window. Here he is half in and half out of the hard light, you can see that it’s really not possible to get a good picture in light like this because you have to decide between exposing for the very bright or the very dark, and you just can’t ever win. When you’re photographing people, make sure they are in only one type of light.

Here he is just a few feet farther back than he is in the photo above. Now the light is even (though there is a bit of a shadow behind him) and you can focus on his drooly lips instead of the shadows running all over his face.

With a little bit of editing things are getting better.

I like this one best in black-and-white.

That’s how I take photos in a room filled with hard light, but there is an even better solution, and that is waiting for the sun to move so you get the right kind of light.

Here is T1 hanging out in our living room at 9:30 am. The light is so blinding that he can’t even keep his eyes open!

No good.

Mom, I can’t see!

Seriously, enough with the photos. Get me out of this blinding sunlight.

After T1 woke up from his afternoon nap I laid him down in the exact same spot and tried again. He can keep his eyes open now!

Oh hello little one, isn’t that so much better?

Edited just a teeny bit. If you would like the light to be a bit more even you can figure out a way to use  a reflector as I talked about in this post.



I hope these simple tips will help you take better pictures of your own babies, or kitties, or puppies, or pasta dishes, or friends, or whatever. You don’t have to have a fancy camera to make this work for you either! Good light will help any camera produce a better photo.

17 thoughts on “Avoid The Hard Light

  1. Great tips. I think lighting is very important and I’m glad to be back in the East because when we were in Denver, the light was so harsh most of the day, sometimes until 4pm.

  2. love love love your photography posts, especially because we get to see tons of pictures of the world’s cutest baby!! 🙂 If you ever have the time, I’d love some editing tips as well – your photos always look so amazing!

  3. T1 is so stinkin’ cute. Just have to say that. That one on the floor with his eyes open made me smile big this morning.

    I’ve been getting lazy about my food photos because I’m just not a photographer, but you’ve inspired me to at least get some better light. At least I know not to use my flash 🙂

  4. I’ve always heard to people talk about trying to find apartments or homes with north facing windows and how that create greats lighting. I can understand why east and west could create problems, but why aren’t south-facing windows just as good as north??

    Jenna Reply:

    Apparently it is softer? Pioneer Woman’s site has a post on it: http://thepioneerwoman.com/photography/2008/03/the-northern-lights/

    Hayley Marie Reply:

    Ah no wonder my mother insisted we have so many windows on that side of the house! Thanks for the tip 🙂

  5. Thanks for the great tips! So helpful, even for those of us who know nothing and use a point and shoot digital camera! T1 is just too cute!

  6. Great tips, Jenna! I know it’s probably common sense that harsh light=bad pictures but I always end up taking horrible pictures of my baby just because I want to capture the moment. Thanks to your comparison shots, I think I’ll be looking to find better lighting next time. T1 is SUCH a cutie pie. Love those pictures on the living room floor!

  7. I’m so jealous that you have such a cute little model for your post! It would have made mine so much more effective. Maybe I’ll pose C there someday and add his picture to my post :).

  8. I have to say that I love the one with the crab outfit, eyes looking straight at you, it just makes me one to smile, laugh even. It must help to have a cute baby to take picture of for practice.

    Thank you for the tips too, I read it on Kelli’s site but it’s good to have it engraved in the brain.

  9. Your right about the lighting. Sometimes it can be corrected by a filter, but you should also try playing with the images on photoshop. have you got into that program yet/ It is a lifesaver and quite fun!

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