When I was about 14 years old I grew into a mild obsession with the pretty photographs in the Limited Too catalog and owned countless framed photos of the amazing work of Anne Geddes. At the time I didn’t quite understand why I loved the images so much, to me it was simply because they had this professional look to them that I just couldn’t achieve.
Of course I didn’t have a top of the line camera or flash, but there was something much more important than all of those things that I was missing. The single most important key to beautiful photos is….. light. You see without light, there is no photography. You can have the most expensive camera and equipment in the world, but without the understanding of how light affects a photo…. the results will be just the same as snapping a photo on your phone.
Shocking? Yes, as was I before I realized with a little practice and reading anyone could take beautiful photos. And so I’m here to tell you that even with a point and shoot camera or phone, your images can have that beautiful professional quality as well! Okay I will stop babbling on and demonstrate exactly what I mean…
The image on the left I took with my Canon PowerShot SD870 IS camera, a few feet away with the flash pointed at my little doll. Then (shown in the image on the right) I got in really close to the doll, opened up all of the windows and shut off the flash. Much better right? I didn’t move the doll, just simply used the available light that came from the window to the right.
Another example I wanted to show the sparkly and pretty colors of this Carnevale mask I have. With my Canon 7D and Sigma 17-70 lens I photographed it with flash. As you can see, the flash adds a harsh shadow and blows out all of the beautiful colors. Then, I simply opened up the windows, turned off the flash and photographed the mask again. You can see the sparkles with a more natural look and the colors and vivid.
The key is if there is enough natural/available light in your surroundings… use it to give your photos a more natural look. You don’t need the harsh light from the flash if there is beautiful light already available for you to use!
Many photographs in magazines and ads are beautiful because of lighting, but also because you can see every detail. In this photo, I wanted to show my bracelet but since it is so far away and there isn’t enough light, you can’t really see the pretty rhinestones covering the links. I used my Canon 7D with Sigma 17-70 mm lens.
I then set got up close to the bracelet and opened up the windows to let in some light. Now you can see the pretty details as well as the name on one of the links.
Granted they aren’t as crisp and clear as the photographs in a magazine, but you can still have that great detail and beautiful light with images you take everyday. I always take my iPhone with me on vacation for certain events that I don’t want to lug my dslr around to, and by observing the light and a little light editing after… some photographs have turned out to be my absolute favorite memories.
And so in summary:
1. When there is natural/available light, shut off the flash setting.
2. Get your subjects closer to the natural/available light (nearest window) before snapping the photo.
3. Get in close for details on smaller subjects.
And never forget to practice, practice, practice! By making mistakes, you ultimately learn more which leads you to create beautiful photos you’ve always wanted to achieve.