Working with the Light You're Given

Light- The Key to Good Photography

I am sure you have heard that the golden hours of photography are early in the morning or right at dusk, but sometimes ideal lighting conditions are hard to come by. What is a good photographer to do? Keep your eyes peeled and look for the light. I was shooting a wedding recently at the most beautiful location. There were waterfalls, gazebos, little bridges, beautiful fountains, it was lovely. However, at the time of day we were shooting there were tons of oddly shaped shadows from the sun filtering through the trees at all of these photo ops. I tried to put my bride and groom in different areas to block out the shadows, and was mildly successful. Then I happened to look up and see the most delicious light filtering in over a back fence into the garbage area of the venue. Despite their protests and the looks of shock from the grandmas in the group, I dragged them over, posed them up and started shooting. There were overflowing garbage cans, no trespassing signs and an ugly shed behind us but I got the light I wanted to create some dramatic effect.

Sun Flare Light Effect

The key to getting a cool sun flare is knowing your camera. I know that in order to properly expose my subject when they are back lit I need to shoot a few stops down from whatever my camera is telling me. Once I have the shot lined up and the subject focused, I re-frame enough to let the sunlight spill into the lens, just a touch, right at the tippy top.

Working with the Light You're Given Sun Flare

Resourceful Photography

Frequently there are big reflectors in the environment that can help brighten your subjects; you just have to open up your eyes to them. I recently shot a wedding and the mother of the bride wanted a group picture of about 45 people on the steps of a massive building. By the time I got everyone set up, I was expecting to find that the people in the back would be extremely dark, but was pleasantly surprised to see that they were actually fairly bright. Looking around to see what was causing it I noticed that the noonday sun was bouncing off a nearby metal roof top and right on to my enormous group, saving me the trouble of trying to figure out my flash.


Adjusting Ambient Light

How to Balance Indoor and Outdoor light


  1. I would like to learn. I just bought a canon xsi and am going to bermuda in October. I hope I can learn enough to capture some incredable shots. What do you thinK?

  2. This is a good lesson. I was wondering what you mean by “shooting a few stops down from what my camera is telling me”.

    I have a fairly new camera and want to take some good shots with different light exposures but it is hard for me to find a correct balance in the aperture, shutter speed, and exposure value. Do you have any pointers that might make it easier to figure it out?

  3. I have an old 200 mm lens for Nikon and its not that good with lighting, are there any tricks you can show me to improve the lens… It’s either too bright or to dark. I messed with the ISO and everything. Please help. I cant afford an up to date lens.Thanks

  4. This was a nice lesson. We need to focus onto the subject we want so the working with lighting was good

  5. This is so perfect for me because I am always looking for the right settings with whatever light is available to me. I’ve caught some great shots of my daughter doing this.

  6. hi new to the photo but i was agreeing with u on the sun light reflets are great if u catch them at the right time. i went to alantic city 4 a weekend u should see the nice shots on the peer i got a good shoot of a rainbow formeing i actualy made a tee shirt out of the pic i took every 1 loves it thanks.

  7. Hello there,
    I must say the tips & lessons posted onn this websites are very neat, easy-to-learn, helpful to the amature photographers.

    -Kapil Semwal.
    BB 21435A88

  8. Hi! I am really trying to get into photography and making my own ‘cheat sheet’ for shooting conditions. My question is, when shooting back lit subjects, do you meter the ground first or a neutral area, hold that exposure, then focus the subject? Or do you meter the subject THEN stop down? Back lit subjects, are my biggest hurdle to overcome.
    BTW, this website is fabulous. I paid for a mail-course and it did not teach me half of what you have. Thanks so much!


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