You’ll quickly learn that light conditions can be either your best friend, or your worst enemy when photographing people, particularly children who aren’t as patient as you experiment with different lighting set-ups. So, with that in mind, here are three types of light you’ll typically work with, and how to get the most out of each to create fantastic images:
Light streaming through a window can create soft or harsh lighting conditions, depending on whether you are working with direct sunlight (harsh) or diffused light (soft). North facing windows are the best option for soft light, but also long as you time your photo shoot to avoid directly sunlight any window should work.
For the most even lighting effects, have your child stand/sit perpendicular to the window, then turn their head at a 45-degree angle to the window. You can also experiment with different angles to create more dramatic lighting, such as backlit silhouettes.
Finally try to avoid using other types of lights as these may cause color temperature issues, unless you are really comfortable with adjusting your white balance either in camera or in post processing.
Rather than breaking out the flash whenever the light is low, try a few things first. Get your subject to move closer to the light source (within a few feet), as the closer they are the more direct light they will receive. Try to keep your shutter speed above 1/60s, any less than that and you will be risking blur from subject movement or camera blur.
Increase your aperture to its largest setting (this information is found on the lens, such as f/1.4 or f/3.5). You can also boost your ISO to make your sensor more sensitive so less light is needed. Although this can induce noise or graininess, it’s better than not getting the photo at all.
Flash is usually our last resort, simply because it can be hard to work with. You want your subject away from any wall by 6 feet or more to avoid shadows in the background. For built-in flash units you will need a diffuser, otherwise the light is just too harsh. If you have an external on-camera flash that turns you can bounce it off ceilings or walls or use a diffuser to create much softer, more natural light. Most external flashes can also be used off-camera to create different lighting conditions.
If your kids won’t cooperate for your lighting experiments, grab a big teddy bear and give it a go. The more you practice with working in different lighting conditions, the more confident you will be when these types of lighting situations present themselves – soon you’ll be able to handle anything!