Creating Golden Hour Lighting on a Rainy Day


Click on image for larger view.

Today’s feature is from Sean Scheidt.

Sean says:

“This session was a fashion editorial shot for Girls Life Magazine maybe 4 years ago now. It still remains one of my favorite and (I think) a really good teaching model as to why being able to know your way around lighting is super important.”

Sean’s Photography Tip:

The exciting part of doing a fashion editorial for a national magazine or ad work is that you are a part of the creative team – from conception through finalization of the series.

The challenge there is that you have to deliver a specific number of images. In this case, 8 images. Every scene is planned out weeks, if not months, in advance.

We aren’t simply showing up at a location with models and a team and just shooting whatever looks cool. No, each shot was planned out and thought about in advance, including the overall story.

In this case we thought it would make a cute fashion story if two girls were hanging out at a diner after school. We wanted that warm golden hour light, bright oranges and chrome. So we scouted the perfect location, arranged wardrobe and found our models and set our date.

However, the day of the shoot was a partially cloudy one with on and off again rain – not ideal for the golden hour light we were trying to capture, but a crucial reminder of how important it is to be able to expertly use studio lighting since our shoot depended on that type of light.

Shoots like these can also take 8-10 hours, so relying on natural light just won’t cut it even on a beautiful day. So in order to achieve the lighting that we wanted and needed, we surround our diner (on one side) with sets of lights with CTO (orange-ish) gels.

Each of these lights would have a reflector dish (increasing the output of the light) and would be shooting through a large panel of theatre diffusion set up a few feet in front of each of them. This would ensure that we have an even, soft, beautifully warm light streaming in all day.

We set one of my assistants outside with a walkie talkie to monitor the lights during the shoot and make sure everything was firing. On the inside, I lit the models simply with one light with a Photek Softlighter, letting the light we were pumping in from the outside of the diner supply the majority of the light for the session.

The results were beautiful! Our lighting setup gave us that steady sunset look all day and made it possible for us to meet the clients’ expectations.

This for me is why pre-planning your shoots is the most important: shot lists, having more than enough lighting, knowing your lighting, and having the ability to troubleshoot allows me to never go into a shoot blind.

Sets are really active and lots can and do go wrong during the day. If you can have your end of the work as tightly controlled as possible it will help you to deal with all the other variables that are bound to arise without compromising the shots.

On a recent shoot (which is not out yet so I can’t share) we had everything go wrong but still were able to produce excellent images despite having a car broken into, wedding rings stolen, credit cards stolen, models late, flights delayed, broken rental equipment and really hot weather.

And we only pulled it off because we had a plan. So do your homework, plan each shot, and you’ll be much more likely to end up with a successful shoot.


Click on image for larger view.


Click on image for larger view.


Click on image for larger view.


Sean used a Canon 5D Mark III (affiliate link) with a Canon 24-105mm L (affiliate link) lens to capture these images.

Sean Scheidt is a Baltimore, NYC, LA, and DC Portrait and Fashion photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.


Cameras, Lenses, and 3 Easy Tips for Wedding Photography


Today’s feature is from .

Matt and Ann say:

“These are a few captures from Janelle and Erik’s beautiful wedding in downtown Ottawa. Erik is a mountie for the RCMP and wore his vibrant red uniform for first portion of the day.

They chose one of the most beautiful churches in the area, the Notre Dame Cathedral and a had their reception in the super bling Mezzanotte Italian Bistro where we had to consume copious amounts of delicious food!

Janelle is one of Matt’s cousin’s best friends and we were fortunate enough to have been connected through her.”

Matt and Ann’s Photography Tips:

What’s in their Bag:

Camera Bodies:

  • 3 Nikon D750’s
  • A D90 for backup


  • Nikon 35mm f/1.8G (FX)
  • Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Micro
  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
  • Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

About Cameras:

We both use Nikon D750’s and carry three bodies at all times between the two of us. Matt photographs with two bodies whereas Ann photographs with one.

We also have our trusty D90 as a back-up, which a few years ago we would have been absolutely terrified to photograph a wedding with, but today would feel totally confident that we would deliver outstanding images with little to no sacrifice in quality.

We now rarely go above ISO 1600 as we tend to bring in off-camera flash for anything above this so the D90 works perfectly as a nice little back-up weight in our kit.

About Lenses:

We’ve been alternating our lenses (all Nikon) back and forth for the past three years and are always choosing the opposite of one another. This year Ann is totally into our primes and shoots primarily with the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G (FX), Nikon 60mm f/2.8 Micro and the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G.

Matt on the other hand shoots with the 24-70mm f/2.8 on one body and alternates between the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro and the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G depending on whether he wants more reach/tighter crop/portraits or wants to produce epic flare for effect (the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G produces gorgeous flare if done right and used in moderation).

Last year it was largely the opposite set of lenses per photographer. We still do share though!

3 Simple Tips to Keep In Mind:

These are three of the simplest, and yet biggest, tips that completely changed the way we see the world through our cameras on the big day:

  1. Create clean compositions with light on dark, or dark on light.
  2. See ambient light, where it is falling, and the direction it is traveling.
  3. Expose for highlights.



Matt and Ann of Green Tea Photography are Ottawa, Canada, and International Family, Engagement, and Wedding photographers.

Click here to see more tips on Gear.

For more tips on gear for weddings, we highly recommend Susan Stripling‘s Thinkbook: Gear + Equipment. In it, Susan discusses the gear she has in her bag, plus what each piece is used for and when. You can check it out here.



*Please note: many of the links in this post are affiliate links, which help us earn a commission. The price is no different to the consumer, but each percentage of a sale helps support us, what we do, and keeps the site free for everyone.

Creating Unique Wedding Reception Lighting


Today’s feature is from .

Barbara says:

“Melissa and Tyler met at work and simply wanted a wedding that brought their two families together. The relationships between everyone was a high priority.”

Barbara’s Photography Tip:

Lighting is the key to well-composed reception shots. I set up 3 – 600ex Canon flashes that are remotely triggered with an ST-E3.

I put two of the speedlights on either sides of the head table and a third is across the dance floor opposite to the head table (creating a triangle).

Bonus tip: if you want to create some awesome layering, shoot through stuff like the decor (see my last shot for an example!).


Barbara used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 70-200mm 2.8 LII lens, a Canon 35mm 2.8L lens, and a Canon 100mm macro 2.8 L lens to capture these images.

Barbara Cameron is a Ottawa, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Scotland, and Ireland Wedding photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting

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Tips for Urban Family Portraits

Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You

Today’s feature is from Edyta Grazman.

Edyta says:

“This session was scheduled around the younger child’s 1st birthday, though I had previously photographed him when he was a newborn and when he was six months old.

I love returning clients! There are so many benefits to working with a family you know; everyone is more relaxed, comfortable, and knows just what to expect.”

Edyta’s Photography Tip:

This session was shot in downtown Chicago, where I shoot most of my sessions. The city look is fantastic, but it can get busy so you have to be careful to consciously choose what you want to include in the shot and not let things get distracting or full of clutter.

With that in mind, I shot this session wide open to separate my subjects from the busy backdrop.

I also picked a spot in the city where the sidewalks were light and would act as reflectors bouncing the light back onto my subjects along with pretty landscaping for the nice backdrop.

Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You
Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You
Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You
Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You
Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You
Tips for Urban Family Portraits // Belovely You

Edyta used a Nikon D750 (affiliate link) with a Nikon 70-200mm 2.8 lens (affiliate link) and a Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens (affiliate link) to capture these images.

Edyta Grazman is a Chicago, San Francisco, and New York Children and Family photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Camera Settings, Lighting, and Location.




Off Camera Flash Tutorial


Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8
Focal Length: 85mm
Shutter Speed: 1/50
Aperture: f/2.8
ISO: 160

For this tutorial, the photographer recommends the following equipment:
  • Camera and lens of your choice (this photographer used a Nikon D800 with varying lenses, including a Nikon 85mm 1.8 lens, a Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens, and a Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens)
  • A Nikon SB 800 (or Canon or other camera make equivalent)
  • A Photoflex Octodome
  • Either a light stand or a hand-held pole attachment and assistant

Sometimes the difference between a stunning portrait and one that falls a little short is just a small pop of light. Whether you are working outdoors or indoors, combining natural light with off camera flash to highlight your subject can take an image to the next level.

Sometimes, all you need is a reflector to pop more light onto your subject in order to make them stand out from the background. A lot of natural light photographers do this, and it can definitely do the trick.

But it doesn’t work in all cases, like on cloudy days where there is no real sun to reflect, or in cases where your composition doesn’t allow the sun to hit the reflector at the right angle, or where the reflection is too bright and hurts your subject’s eyes. And even though I always bring a reflector with me, I still like to have something else in my arsenal in case it’s not enough.

That’s where off-camera flash comes in.

Using off camera flash, or OCF, can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be once you understand the basic concepts and how to modify the light to get your desired effect. In this article, I’ll go over some of the tips and setups that will help you tackle OCF like a pro.

Off Camera Flash – Make It Natural

The main rule about off-camera flash is to make it look as natural as possible. The best portraits that pull it off effectively are those where you can’t tell that anything was used.

In order to make the flash as natural looking as possible, I like to use a diffuser on the flash. Diffusers, if you haven’t use one before, soften the harshness of the flash and the shadows created by the flash.

There are a plethora of flash diffusers on the market, but the one that I like the best for portraits is the Photoflex Octodome. They come in various sizes, but for portraits of one or two people the small one is great and very portable.

After placing the speedlight/flash (I use a Nikon SB 800) in the Octodome, attach it to either a light stand or, if you have an assistant, a hand-held pole attachment. The latter can be more ideal because it allows for more flexibility with the direction of the light, as an assistant is able to move and adjust it as needed.

Once it’s set up, I like to position it at a 45 degree angle anywhere from a foot to a few feet away from the subject depending on how much light is needed (see below) – the closer to the subject it is, the brighter your subject will be.



Now that everything is positioned correctly, I use a flash trigger to trigger the flash from my camera and use manual mode on both flash and camera.

As a general starting point for camera settings, I set the flash to ¼ power. I then set the correct exposure for my image without flash, and then I underexpose my image by about one stop by adjusting the shutter speed.

Underexposing like this will underexpose your subject so that the flash can provide the additional light needed on your subject without being overpowering.

Now that everything is set up and my settings are locked in, I take the photo and then analyze the image on the camera display. If I want more light then I set the power of the OCF to a higher setting, such as ½ power.

Conversely, if the image is too bright then I adjust it to a lower power, around maybe 1/8 power. If I find that I need just a minor tweak I adjust the shutter speed up or down 1/3 stop.

Taking a few shots to perfect the light will really benefit you in the long run because after you have found the best combination of ambient light and flash for your setup, you can lock it in for as many poses as you like a long as you stay in the same lighting situation and at approximately the same distance from the flash and your subject.

Restrictions to OCF

One thing to keep in mind is that the sync speed of your flash is generally about 1/250th of a second. What this means is that if you go higher than 1/250 of a second shutter speed, the flash will not sync with your shutter and not let the right amount of light in.

So, due to this restriction, the flash is best used indoors, on cloudy days, or in shady areas where it’s not so bright that the shutter speed needs to be set really high when using low apertures.

There are solutions for this as well (such as neutral density filters) but to keep things simple when first learning this technique, stay in environments that tend to be less bright.

It takes a little while to get the hang of balancing the ambient light with the flash but once you get to a point where you can get a great exposure within a few shots you will fall in love difference it makes in your portraits.

Most of us do not want to dwell in the super technical, but hopefully by practicing these few easy steps you will have another tool that you can use confidently to create the images that you envision.

The images below (along with the one at the top) are a few different examples of using off camera flash in different lighting situations. In all of these images I balanced the ambient light with a flash with an Octodome diffuser.


Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8
Focal Length: 85mm
Shutter Speed: 1/50
Aperture: f/3.2
ISO: 250


Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
Focal Length: 35mm
Shutter Speed: 1/50
Aperture: f/3.2
ISO: 320


Lens: Nikon 85mm f/1.8
Focal Length: 85mm
Shutter Speed: 1/50
Aperture: f/2.8
ISO: 160

Click here to see more tips on Lighting and Flash.



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An Introduction to Light Painting


Camera: Canon EOS 40D
Lens: Canon 17-50mm
Focal Length: 17mm
Exposure: 67s
Aperture: f/4
ISO: 100

Today’s feature is from Michael Newcomer.

Michael says:

“Throughout my life, I have taken courses on painting, drawing, stained glass and jewelry making and have always been a visually creative person. It wasn’t until I picked up a digital camera that I found a medium where I was able to create the ideas I had in my head.

I have been studying light painting since 2010. I first discovered it when some friends presented images for a local meetup contest. I was amazed and instantly hooked! I’ve been exploring this craft ever since.”

Michael’s Photography Tip:

Photographers have been playing with this technique for quite a while (as early as the 1930’s even), and Man Ray holds the title for the first light painted image in 1935. Even Picasso did some light painting.

For those of you not familiar with light painting, it is the art of creating a hand-lit image in a single long exposure. It’s actually quite easy, and a lot of fun!

All you need to light paint is a tripod and a camera that can do a long exposure of at least 30 seconds (though most of image creations take several minutes to create). The camera specs and settings for a lot of the images in this post are also listed below the image if you’re curious to how I set up my gear.

Just open the exposure and wave some lights around in front of the camera and BOOM – you are light painting!

If you’re curious to see a little bit more about the world of light painting, check out either the Light Painting World Alliance (where the world’s best painters showcase their work), or 200 Orbs – a project that took place in the summer of 2014 where some light painting junkies got together in a field in VA to attempt a new world record of creating 200 orbs of light in a single long exposure image.


Camera: Canon EOS 50D
Lens: Canon 17-50mm
Focal Length: 37mm
Exposure: 27s
Aperture: f/5.6
ISO: 250

Camera: Canon EOS 50D
Lens: Canon 17-50mm
Focal Length: 23mm
Exposure: 39s
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 100

Camera: Canon EOS 7D
Lens: Canon 17-50mm
Focal Length: 21mm
Exposure: 80s
Aperture: f/8
ISO: 200

Michael Newcomer is a Charlotte, NC Fine Art and Portrait photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

Seeing Things in a New Light


Today’s feature is from Julie Dessureault.

Julie says:

“Laurie and Nicolas’s story is so touching, beautiful and truthful that I wanted to share it.

Laurie used to be a competitive figure skater, but lately her biggest battle has been with cancer.

Her fiance Nicolas, however, was not a figure skater – until recently.

During the fall and winter, Nicolas secretly started learning how to figure skate. He would practice several times a week, sometimes with coaches, and sometimes alone, keeping it all a secret from their friends and families for months.

His idea? To create a figure skating choreography for his girlfriend that he would use to propose to her.

Nicolas wanted to prove his commitment to Laurie, and prove to her that no matter what, no matter how hard things got and how hard she had to fight, he was committed to her, loving her, and their life together.

Needless to say, she said yes.

Julie’s Photography Tip:

Even though I’ve photographed in Old Montreal a thousand times, I decided on this particular session to look at it as if I’ve never been there before.

I paid close attention to things I may otherwise overlook, and really focused on light, texture, and flection, and using them to my advantage.

This session also took place later in the day and the light was amazing. I made sure to take advantage of that by having my subjects face the sun with their chin up so as to beautifully expose their faces with lovely, Golden-Hour light.


Julie used a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 35mm lens and a Canon 135mm lens to capture these images.

Julie Dessureault is a Montreal Wedding, Portrait and Headshot photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting and Location.

Changing Your Perspective Changes Everything


Today’s feature is from Antje Egbert.

Antje says:

“For my studio’s first birthday I wanted to take some funny pics, so I decided to use the pompoms I created for my first test shoot exactly one year before.
I asked my daughter for help, and so we took these images.”

Antje’s Photography Tip:

Originally I had just planned to just take a few pictures in front of my blue-and-red-dotted backdrop, but you know what happens when you are motivated by one good picture – you want to take more!

But of course, by the time I decided I wanted to take more pictures we didn’t have too much time left, so I couldn’t create a new set or change what I had to be something more complex.

However, a little change of perspective creates a completely different picture!

First we took some pictures with my pompoms, which had a lot of motion. They look and feel like “birthday party is coming, yeah!!!!” and are really fun and playful.

After the pics with the pompoms I took very simple, arranged portraits of Lotta. I took them as a close-up portrait, which subdued the flashy dots on the backdrop (making sure to use the lens wide open so as to focus on the face and create a lovely bokeh).

Just one turn around we found our next and completely different set.

When I first took the pompom pictures I had the daylight from my windows behind me – along with my sofa. So for the next scene, I posed Lotta on the sofa and used the light from the windows, but as backlighting this time.

If I didn’t have the sofa in my studio, I could very well have also had Lotta sit on the floor or in a little chair – another super simple, easy, low-maintenance set that would have also added variety to this session.

Post-production was very minimal, and I edited the images in LR and PS to adjust contrast, brightness, red skin and clipping.

modest portrait
sofa szene
lying on sofa

Antje used a Canon 5D MKIII with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens to capture these images.

Antje Egbert is a Germany/NRW Portrait photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Camera Settings and Lighting.

Digital pictures are wonderful, but a great way to preserve your memories of your little ones (and your clients!) is by putting together and designing an album for printing.

Don’t know how to design your own album or a little stuck on how to do it? (Or still using Photoshop to do it instead of InDesign? Which let’s face it, is making it ten times harder for you than it has to be?) Learn how to get started here.

A Recipe for Soft, Natural Newborn Images

A Recipe for Soft, Natural Newborn Images


Today’s feature is from .

Kelly’s Photography Tip About Soft Newborn Images:

For this particular session, my clients wanted to keep it really simple and make each image purely about capturing their baby. To make sure I was able to accommodate their desires, I chose to use soft, neutral tones and textures so as not to distract.

My studio has an abundance of beautiful natural light. But, to keep with the soft, natural images, I used my sheer curtains to diffuse the light. I personally prefer this type of lighting because it gives the images that beautiful, soft look while also highlighting all of the baby’s features.

When positioning the baby, I like to light the area from a 45-degree angle. Then, I look for where the light falls across the baby – changing my exposure in camera to suit.

For camera settings, I generally shoot wide open at f2.8 which also contributes to that soft feel each image has.  In post, I used my ‘workflow action set’ to adjust the contrast, skin reds, and  give the images a nice warm tone for these newborn images.


Kelly used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L lens to capture these images.

Kelly Brown is a Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Maternity and Newborn photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting, Editing, and Camera Settings.

Online photo galleries are a great way to deliver your lovely images to your client, manage sales, etc. But a great way to maximize your sales per client is to do an in-person sales session with each of your portrait clients.

If you’ve never done them before, this can sound pretty intimidating – but believe me when I say you wouldn’t be the only one to feel that way. If you need a little help figuring out how to do an IPS (what to say, when to say it, etc.), there are guides out there to help you get started.


2 Stops Below Camera Meter For Emotion


Today’s feature is from .

Jason Mark says:

“The couple is one of my previous wedding couples. I wanted to have a catch up with them, as well as, work on something a little different. So, I thought they would be perfect. We still went for a pretty stylised look and feel; this style suit both them as a couple, also. I wanted something very close, emotive and to capture them embracing.”

Jason Mark’s Photography Tip Using a Camera Meter:

For this shoot, I was going for a very emotive feel. So, I knew I wanted to underexpose these shots. Some of the images were even shot up to 2 stops under the camera meter reading, which was key in allowing me to bring out the detail in the sky and get that moody feeling I wanted.

Because of this, I chose the Sony A7 as my camera body because it has an amazing dynamic range, which would allow me to effectively pull off the technique I was aiming for.

I also knew I wanted to get closer shots as well as wide, landscape images. For lens choice, I knew the 35mm Zeiss was ideal for this. Which truthfully was rather convenient because at the time this was taken, this was the only lens that I had. (Since then, I have moved on and I am back with Canon and Fuji.)


Jason Mark used a Sony A7 with a 35mm 2.8 Zeiss lens to capture these images.

Jason Mark Harris is a Worldwide Wedding and Portrait photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Camera Settings and Lighting.

These are some gorgeous images, something that the client would love to show off. One of the best ways to let your clients do that is to get them their own StickyAlbums mobile-friendly album. The app is loaded onto their mobile device, and you can even put the client’s image on it.

Then every time they click on it and open it up, not only are they easily able to bring up their pictures to show friends and family, but they’re also doing some free advertising for you when they say who their photographer was. Read more about StickyAlbums here.


Sunset Minus 2 Hours For Romantic Pictures

Portrait in Forest

Today’s feature is from Sussie Mellstedt.

People are always looking for romantic pictures for inspiration.  This photographer has a great tips for creating portraits with that edge of romance. With some practice, you can make photos like these, too!

Sussie says:

“I was in a smaller city called Nettuno, 1 hour from Rome in Italy. I wanted to have variety of locations. So, I brought the beautiful couple to a forest, then later into the medieval city and ended the session by the ocean.”

Sussie’s Photography Tip for Romantic Pictures:

The gear that I use is Nikon d800 and the lens is Sigma FineArt 50mm. That’s it.

Less is more. I like to feel free as a photographer, to be able to be present as much as possible in the moment. So I prefer to work with natural light and that’s what I also did in this photo shoot.

I took the photos just a couple of hours before the sunset, in order to get softer and romantic light.

I usually use Pinterest or Belovelyyou to get some inspiration for the poses, but during the photo shoot I try to take it as it comes. Maybe I see something different or find a creative subject that I can play around with.

I also like to think in colours, so I always suggest the colours of the clothes that will suit the location. I’m a big fan of VSCO, it matches my photography style. It’s a filter that you can add either in LR or PS and it adds the film feeling over it.

I would say that the majority of my photos are romantic, dreamy and soft, so that is my goal during the editing process.

Hands in Forest
Legs in Forest
Portrait in the city
Kiss in the city
Jump of joy at beach
Portrait in forest, headshot.SussieMellstedt_7

Sussie used a Adorama Nikon D800 with a Sigma art 50mm lens to capture these romantic pictures.

Sussie Mellstedt is a Stockholm, New York, Rome Weddings, Portrait, Maternity, Fine Art photographer.

Click here for more tips about lighting, editing, and location.

Film images definitely invoke a certain feeling and emotion. But if you’re not comfortable shooting film, don’t worry!  There are tons of amazing film presets and actions out there to help you capture that film feel.

Creative Lighting Techniques Using a Projector

Lyndsey wearing a Forever 21 dress and Ray Ban sunglasses

Today’s feature is from .

Photographers know that the use of creative lighting techniques can turn a normal photo session into an extraordinary one. Have you ever thought to use a projector as a photography tool?

Danielle says:

“For this session, I had a Valentine’s Day fashion theme. I shot with three awesome girls (one senior and two juniors) in fun, funky outfits from Forever 21, H&M, and American Eagle. I shot in studio with a Savage seamless background and just one single heart-shaped spotlight.”

Danielle’s Photography Tip:

The lighting technique I used for this session was extremely simple. I borrowed my boyfriend’s gobo projector – basically a spotlight. There are a bunch of stock images that you can buy or you can create a custom design. I just bought the stock heart design and put that in the projector to create the shape of the light. I used the white setting since the seamless paper was a pink tulip color, and also there were color filters that could also be added to make the heart more pink, red, purple, etc. It took two minutes to set up and I loved the look of the images.

Here’s one more tip: The projector is extremely bright, so standing off to the side a bit or shooting from below for some shots worked the best so that the models weren’t staring right into the light. I grabbed some sunglasses for my blue-eyed model, too, which helped! Shooting from the side also helps to not get your own shadow in the shot.

Lyndsey wearing a skirt and vest from Forever 21 and Ray Ban sunglasses
Anne wearing a Forever 21 skirt and top
Anne modeling a Forever 21 beanie
Dana in a Forever 21 skirt and her own top
Dana in a Forever 21 skirt and her own top

Danielle used a Canon Rebel T2i (affiliate link) with a Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (affiliate link) to capture these images.

Danielle Chudolij is a Boston, MA Senior Portraits, Wedding, and Family Portraits photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

Off-camera lighting is key to understanding some of the ideas in this tip from Danielle. But if you’re not 100% familiar with it yet, it can be a bit of a struggle.

Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there to help you understand the in’s and out’s of off-camera lighting, and one of our favorite guides (affiliate link) even includes a list of portrait recipes with 24 different lighting setups to use for quick reference.


Spotlight Lighting Effect

Dad & Boys

Today’s feature is from .

Michael says:

“This family hired us to do a shoot on what ended up being a very cold December day. We had access to an industrial complex in our area, but were limited in terms of the variety of backgrounds and locations within the warehouse.

Our clients were tons of fun – these two boys were full of energy, they literally ran around in a full circle for almost 15 minutes straight. The day before the shoot the older boy had an accident at the park and ended up with quite the black eye, but it really added to the rough-and-tumble look of the photos.”

Michael’s Photography Tip:

In this shoot we were limited to a small space inside an industrial complex, due to bad weather. I decided to use dramatic and edgy lighting to add character to the location and give it a theatrical effect.

This family was very high energy and so traditional wasn’t really an option. I complimented their characters with dramatic lighting, which allowed me to take a situation in where I was limited and create really fun photos out of it.

To pull off the lighting, I used two lights in total – an off-camera flash (Nikon SB 910) (affiliate link) with a snoot on the flash to create a spotlight effect, and a light for backlighting to create drama in some of the images.

I also underexposed the ambient light to finish off the effect. I used my long lens (Nikon 70-200) so I could compress the background, which allowed me to get more options out of the location.

Instead of posing the shots, I set up the lighting and staged them instead, and let the family play and be themselves while I documented the whole thing.

Boy 5 Years Old
Boy 7 Years Old
Mom with Boys
Family Photo
Mom & Son

Michael used a Nikon D800 (affiliate link) and Nikon D3S (affiliate link) with a Nikon 70-200 lens to capture these images.

Michael Tigchelaar is a Toronto, Ontario, Canada Lifestyle / Documentary photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

These are some very memorable family photos, and what family wouldn’t want to show them off? Make it easy for your clients and give them their very own mobile app (customized with their image on the app) with all their images from their session with StickyAlbums.

Plus, the more your clients share their images – the more free marketing for you!


Ensuring Proper Lighting in Client’s Home

New York Newborn Photography by Karilyn Sanders Photography

Today’s feature is from .

Karilyn says:

“This mother contacted me about photographing her son’s Jewish bris ceremony. Unfortunately, the ceremony fell on a Saturday which meant there could be no photography. So I went to their Upper East side apartment the day before and did a newborn session instead!”

Karilyn’s Photography Tip:

I’m an on-location photographer, so I asked the client to send me some photos of her apartment before the session to show me what sort of natural lighting they had. New York apartments can be tricky, since they are usually small and don’t always have good window light.

If the pictures the client sent me showed that they didn’t have good windows, I would have brought my speed light + umbrella setup. But in this case, the client had a large window in their bedroom. The window was at least 10 feet wide, so I posed the newborn on their bed, which was parallel to the window about 5 feet away.

It was an overcast day but there was still plenty of light, and I used my 50mm lens at f/2.8, shutter speed between 125-200 with ISO 320. I brightened up the photos in Photoshop, but they still had good lighting straight out of the camera.

I did 90% of the shoot on their bed, without any backdrop/backdrop stand. They had a white bedspread, which definitely helped as a large reflector to bounce more light on the baby. These things are important when you can’t bring a ton of gear with you!

New York family, photographed by Karilyn Sanders Photography
New York mother and her newborn son, photographed by Karilyn Sanders Photography
New York Newborn Photography by Karilyn Sanders Photography
New York Newborn Photography by Karilyn Sanders Photography
New York Newborn Photography by Karilyn Sanders Photography

Karilyn used a Canon 7D (affiliate link) with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens (affiliate link) and a Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (affiliate link) to capture these images.

Karilyn Sanders is a New York City metro Newborn + Baby photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

Not having a studio (or choosing to be an on-location photographer like Karilyn) can be a lot of fun, but also poses its own difficulties – like how to do in-person sales sessions (affiliate link).

Thankfully, the creators of YouProof (affiliate link) have already thought of that and created an in-person proofing app that can be used from anywhere – your studio, a coffee shop, and especially your client’s home. Check it out here. (affiliate link)


Keeping Clients Confident on Cold, Cloudy Days

This is a prime example of why shooting in winter can be fantastic. Layers, faux fur, and so much texture.

Today’s feature is from .

Victoria says:

“Michaela’s session was a senior and dance session combo. I had worked with her in the past with dance, but was more than excited to be taking her senior photos as well.

We shot the session on Michigan State University’s campus, at the Board Art Museum and a few other areas around campus. It was absolutely freezing out, but Michaela was more than willing to brave the cold (even with bare legs!).

The first half of her session was focused on dance, using part of her costume from The Nutcracker. She wanted an “alternative” look, so she paired it with a lace top, bare legs, and long hair rather than the traditional top, tights, and a bun.

The second half of her session focused on her awesome sense of style. Not only is she gorgeous, but she also has some pretty amazing clothes.”

Victoria’s Photography Tip:

This session was shot on a very cold, overcast, ugly day. We made sure to bring plenty of blankets to bundle her up between shots, and I made heavy use of a reflector to brighten up her face.

Sometimes, it’s hard for clients to trust us when we tell them that shooting when it’s twenty-five degrees out, overcast, and in the dead of winter (with no snow in sight), can actually be a great thing.

By continually raving about the photos throughout the session, I know I helped Michaela and her mom both feel more comfortable with the shoot.

During outfit changes, I’d look through what we’d already shot and talk about how amazing they were turning out, how excited I was to process them and show them.

I’d also thank them for trusting my instinct and experience, and continued to reassure them that overcast days are better than full on sunshine because the light looks better, there are less squinting eyes, etc.

I know that both Michaela and her mom left the session feeling confident with the images that we got, as well as the experience as a whole.

This has to be my favorite dance photo from the set. This perfectly captures Micheala's essence.
Dancing on pointe always turns out beautifully in photographs. Attention to the little details, like the arch of her foot, makes all the difference.
Allowing her to have freedom with posing during the dance portion of our session provided with some very elegant images.
This image showcases the "alternative" feel that Michaela was hoping for.
The tall grassy areas around the museum provided for some great contrast compared to the metal building.
Allowing Michaela to relax throughout or session helped keep poses flowing freely and  natural looking.
Michaela's eyes were just to die for. I had to showcase them in at least one image.

Victoria used a Canon 6D (affiliate link) with a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 lens (affiliate link) to capture these images.

Victoria Simmons is a Columbus, GA and Phenix City, AL Seniors and Couples photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Client Relations and Lighting.

Working with seniors is really fun and rewarding, but also challenging – who are you marketing to? Their parents? The seniors themselves?

Thankfully, the masterminds at Seniors Ignite (affiliate link) recognize this challenge, and have put together a ton of free information on their website all about addressing this issue. Check out the Seniors Ignite Website (affiliate link).

Belovely You 2014 Best Tips on Lighting Pt. II


Like I said last week, we had a ton of really awesome lighting tips in 2014, and had to break down all our best tips into two posts instead of one.

Part I covered a lot of miscellany in regards to lighting, but Part II will focus primarily on off-camera flash (OCF) and the use of reflectors. And without further ado…

Best Tips on Lighitng Using OCF

Using OCF is great, but not always the easiest to pick up on. The best tips on lighting takes learning and practice to create beautiful portraits. Using these tips, your results will be amazing!

To start learning, you need a flash and something to tell it to fire, like a trigger and receiver set. Once you have your hardware, use a doll or something to practice.

Set it up on the kitchen table, and systematically try different flash power settings. Once you find settings that work, try the same thing in a different room that has a different amount of ambient light.

This will help you know approximately what to set your flash power settings to given the ambient light levels at a shoot.

Photograph by Infiniti Photography!

Image taken at night using OCF

Even if you’re an experienced OCF user, many times when you expose for your subjects you totally blow out the background in the process.

OCF is a great way to light your subjects while still maintaining the integrity of the background.

One way to do this is to use an off-camera flash with an SB800 speed light and a white umbrella. Have an assistant hold the flash with umbrella at about 45 degrees to the side of the clients and just above eye level.

Well-exposed subject and background

Well-exposed subject and background

This way your clients are lit but you don’t have to blow out the background to do it.

More Advanced Use of OCF.

Once you get good at it, you can try some really cool effects like this editorial shot:


To pull off this shot, the photographer placed the subject so that the setting sun was off camera left and placed a beauty dish off camera right to serve as their main source of light.

Keep your aperture relatively closed to make sure you capture the background as well. From there, you can put the finishing touches on it in post-production.

Another really dramatic way to use OCF is to use it to capture the motion of dance.


This amazing, dramatic image was created using two speed lights and a barn. The barn provided a darkened area, which you need to shoot into for this to work.

The speed lights were placed behind the dancer at 45 degrees, pointing towards the camera, with a reflector in front of the dancer for fill.

Make sure to put your focus on manual for this too since as the dancer jumps and moves, your camera will try to re-focus if it’s on auto-focus and will create a blurry image.

Speed lights can also be used to create a golden sunlight look, even when it’s not the olden hour.


This image was taken in a forest in the morning, with low ambient light and using speed lights to create the warm color.

To pull this off, you need two speedlights, a reflective umbrella, a triflash holder, and  an orange gel filter (which usually comes with Nikon speedlights).

Gel one of the speed lights with the orange gel, but leave the second one open. Ask an assistant to hold the speed lights and umbrella (which were mounted onto the Triflash holder).

Using Reflectors

One of the most common uses of reflectors is to use it to bounce light back onto your subject. If you’re shooting at the end of the day and the shadows are getting longer and engulfing your subjects, this would be one of those times.

This is exactly what happened to one of our featured photographers, and she was able to use a reflector to maintain a decent amount of light on her subjects as the sun sunk and shadows got longer.


She had her subjects in the shade of a barn and used a Larson Enterprises 3×4 ft rigid reflector (with a kickstand) to bounce light back into the shadow.

She placed it somewhat far away from her subjects to make sure the light was spread wide over her subjects, and wasn’t too bright so as to blind her clients.

Keep in mind though in this type of situation that you’ll probably want to make sure to adjust your camera settings/ISO to account for the lower light conditions.


Reflectors don’t just work great shadowy settings, they work great in sunny situations too.

If you want to try a more ethereal, glowing look to your images, have your client stand with their back to the sun and shoot into the the sun.


Place the reflector in front of your client and use the silver side to get more contrast and help keep the details in their face.

Using Your Surroundings.

Fancy gear is all super nice and great, but a lot of times, you don’t need all that.

One of our featured photographers even just used a set of sheer curtains to diffuse the natural light coming through a client’s windows in their home.

For a reflector, she set up white foam core boards on each side of her at 45 degree angles.


Snow also makes an amazing reflector if you live in an area that gets snow in the winter.


Uniform snow cover is amazing, because it produces even, beautiful light (and no need to have an assistant hold a reflector!).

And if you’re shooting at the right time of day during the golden hour, you can only give yourself a step up in terms of lighting:



Here are a few of our favorite lighting resources:

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.34.45 PMOCF and speed lights are crucial to pull of a lot of these tips, so getting a firm handle on how to use them is also important. Andy from Simple SLR has put together a great guide all about mastering OCF (and it’s less than $30!), plus it comes with portrait recipes too and great ideas for putting together portrait images. Check it out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.26.42 PMAnother key element to mastering off-camera flash is knowing your camera settings and what they need to be to optimize the use of OCF. Photography Concentrate makes a really easy-to-follow guide that is written to quickly and thoroughly introduce you to using your camera in manual mode (in fact it’s designed to do all that in just a few hours). Check it out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.42.01 PMOne of the most important parts of the OCF setup is, well, the OCF. (You can get great on-camera flashes too, and some really great accessories and flash holders and firing devices). There’s tons of options out there to suit your needs, and Adorama has a plethora of them. Check them all out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.42.09 PM

If you need a more continuous light source as opposed to a flash, there’s lots of options there too. Fluorescent lighting, HMI (hydrargyrum medium-arc iodide) lighting, LED, Tungsten, etc., and any and all accessories you need to make it work and fit your needs. Check them all out here.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.42.26 PMLight Modifyers and Reflectors are another common option for lighting for photographers. These include things like soft boxes, umbrellas, gel diffusers, and of course, a wide variety of reflectors that are necessary to pull off some of the tips in this article. Check out your options here.


What are some of your favorite lighting tips and gear?

Leave them in the comments section below!



Thank you for using the links above, as they help us earn a commission and support the site, keeping it free for everyone.

Belovely You 2014 Best Tips on Lighting Pt. I


We had some great portrait tips come in this year. So many, in fact, that we decided to split them into two separate articles. The best tips on lighting are going to be shared with you to make your portraits even better!

Today’s article will focus on different lighting situations and some nifty lighting miscellany, and next week’s will focus entirely on OCF and the use of reflectors.

Before we get too deep into it, let’s first start with….

Basic Tips on Lighting for Portrait Lighting

For the most ideal natural light photos (which some photographers argue is the best kind of light), you’ll want to try and avoid a couple things: shooting at night and using flash (which obviously isn’t natural light right from the start), and shooting in direct sunlight.

Alternatively, you’ll want to try shooting in open shade – which means conditions in which it’s light outside but the sun is not directly shining on the subject. Some of the best locations for this is either in the shadow of a tree or building, or the light created during a cloudy day.


Photo taken on a cloudy day out of direct sunlight.

This sort of lighting situation will give you smoother, more even skin tones, and prevent large lighting contrasts between bright spots and shaded regions on the subject.

When you don’t have Ideal Lighting Conditions

It’s great when you have 100% control of your lighting situation, but as most of us have experienced before – it doesn’t always work that way.

Here’s a few non-ideal lighting scenarios that you may (or already have) encounter, and a couple ways to make the best of it.

Shooting in Direct Sun.

When no open shade is available make sure to keep the sun to the backs of your subjects, but make sure to also maintain enough ambient light on their face.


Audrey Woulard often shoots in open sun, and demonstrates that it can be done very well and yield beautiful results.

Another good tip for working in direct sunlight is that if you must do it, try and do it later in the day during the golden hour so you can leverage the beautiful lighting that shooting during that time of day will give you.

Make sure, however, to not have your subjects look directly at you, because then they tend to squint. Instead, go for a more candid or lifestyle approach and capture your subject as-is, or interacting with other subjects.


Image of subjects interacting with one another and not looking directly into the sun, giving the image a more candid feel.

Lighting in an Urban Setting.

Finding flattering light in an urban setting is difficult with tall buildings casting really dark shadows with no available ambient light (or with colored buildings giving strange color casts).

Areas that work well for letting natural light in in an urban setting are areas like parking lots or wider alleyways that open up enough to let natural light in.


However, you can still get some good lighting to filter in to more narrow areas depending on the time of day and position of the sun.


This image was taken in a wider alleyway that allowed in enough natural light.

But always remember when shooting in an urban setting – safety first. Never shoot in the middle of a roadway or in areas with busy traffic. And never trespass onto private property.

And a lot of times, government and federal buildings (even though they look awesome) are off-limits for shooting, or may require a permit so make sure you look into that if you have a building like that in mind for your next urban shoot.

Lighting in a Client’s Home.

If you’re doing your session in the client’s home, remember what what they consider to be ‘good natural light’ is probably something completely different than what a photographer considers to be good natural light.

When you arrive at the home do a quick walkthrough of the house and take note of not only the available light in each room, but also the position of the sun and time of day since the amount of available light in each room will change as the day goes on (and can help you plan the session accordingly).


Wonderful natural lighting from large window in client’s home.

Also be mindful of the paint on the walls, since strong, bold colors will give off strong color casts.

Studio Lighting

If you have a studio with a large window that lets in lots of natural light, set up a couple reflectors in a V-shape and place your client in the corner between them.


Reflectors set up to reflect natural light back onto subject.

This will bounce the light from the window back on to your subject. Use reflectors with a neutral, skin-toned color as well (or white ones) to make sure the client’s skin tones photograph well.


Image taken with above reflector setup.

If you’re doing newborn portraits in your studio, a great method for lighting them is what’s called “feathering the light.”

This type of lighting technique creates soft, even skin tones on the newborn, and overall is pretty easy to set up. The only equipment you really need is a softbox (affiliate link) and light, and more than likely a backdrop and/or prop for the baby.


The results this type of lighting produce are gorgeous, and very popular for lighting newborns:


You can read a tutorial on exactly how to do it here.

Using OCF to Light Up The Rain

When you’re not shooting in a studio you’re pretty dependent on the weather’s cooperation because rainy days can sometimes ruin your portrait session – but it can also make it pretty spectacular.

This is exactly what happened to Two Mann Studios when they were doing an engagement session.

It started just pouring rain during their session, but they were still able to make the best of it by setting up speedlights to backlight the rain.


They managed to turn what could have been a gloomy day into an amazing work of art.

If this is something you want to try and pull off but the weather isn’t raining for you, you can create a similar affect with just sprinklers.


Have your subject stand with their back to the source of light (whether it’s the sun or a speed light) and aim the sprinkler towards them coming in from either camera left or right.

Lighting On-The-Go

Love the look of a softbox but hate that you can’t use it when you’re shooting on location?

Scott from Photocrati (affiliate link) has come up with a solution for that by creating his own to be used with a camera flash.

All you need is a backlight, a flash, a pocketwizard, reflector, and a spring clamp to make your own too (click here to see more details on how to do it)!


Always remember…

Trying new lighting techniques can be kind of nerve-wracking – you’ve never tried it before, you don’t know how it will work or if it will turn out, and what if it doesn’t?

But that’s ok – you’re never going to advance as a photographer unless you really push yourself and try new things.

And if you’re really worried you won’t get any good shots, try some with a lighting technique you already know and are good at.

That way if the new technique doesn’t work out you’ve still got plenty of images to give to your client.

What are your best tips for portrait lighting?

Leave them in the comments below!




2014 Best Tips On Newborn Portrait Photography


Newborn portrait photography can be very rewarding – but since your subject can’t really talk to you or move on their own, it’s also a little bit different than your average portrait session.

We’ve compiled our best newborn photography tips that we received in 2014 to give you an idea of some of the things you need to consider before starting in on newborn portrait photography (or if you’re a seasoned pro, give you some new inspiration for future sessions!).


Safety is #1 when it comes to working with newborns. Their immune systems are underdeveloped, they can’t move on their own or tell you if they’re uncomfortable, and are completely dependent on you (and the parents) during the session.


Some of the most important things to consider before even starting the session include:

  • Immunizations – because of the delicate state of the newborn’s immune system, make sure you are up to date on your immunizations for at least two critical diseases: DTap (Diptheria, Tetanus, and pertussis), and MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella).
  • Personal Hygiene – keep your nails clean and well-trimmed with no chips in your nail polish, as this will help reduce the spread of germs that live underneath and around your nails.
  • Snacks – if you’re headed for a long day at a client’s home, you might want to bring your own snacks with you. But make sure you ask the parents first if anyone at the household has any food allergies, and/or just bring snacks without nuts.
  • Preparing clients – have your clients turn up their house temperature before you arrive (or turn up your studio temperature) to about 85 degrees, as newborns lose heat rapidly. This will help keep them comfy during the session and more likely to be pleasant babies.
  • Props – make sure all blankets and/or wraps that you bring with you are clean and that you wash and sanitize them between each and every session. Make sure to use unscented detergent that is free of perfumes and dyes

Also make sure that any props you are using are safe. Some props that are considered unsafe would be:

  • Props made of glass or anything that can break and/or shatter
  • Anything that requires placing the baby up high (like on a book shelf)
  • Placing the baby inside something that is prone to tipping (such as an unstable basket)
  • Putting the baby inside some type of appliance, like a mailbox, refrigerator, etc.
Example of a safe, sturdy prop

Example of a safe, sturdy prop

Relaxing The Baby

Having an upset baby during the session can make the session incredibly difficult, so keeping them happy and content is very important.

One of the best things you can do is make sure the parents prep the newborn for the session by feeding them beforehand so they’re more likely to sleep.

To prep you and your studio, make sure the studio is warm, or if you’re doing the session at your clients’ house, tell them to turn up the temperature in their house to about 85 before the session starts.

Also tell the parents to make sure the baby is fed right before the session so they’re more likely to sleep.

A couple other great things that come in handy is both a sound machine and warm hands – you can even take it one step further and use gloves when handing the newborn as many times adult hands can be cold and may startle a sleeping baby.


Don’t forget about parents either; often times, if the baby’s parents are anxious or nervous, it will rub off on the baby and they’ll be more likely to be fussy.

Another good idea is to have the parents sitting close to the baby during the session (but just out of frame, or in such a way that they can easily be cropped out) so they can reach out and comfort the baby or rock them between shots.

The infant's mother's hand is located just out of frame in this shot.

The infant’s mother’s hand is located just out of frame in this shot.

If you’re still having issues comforting the little one, one of our featured photographers, Renee Barber, also recommends reading through “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp.

The book has a lot of tips on soothing and comforting babies, and Renee swears it’s one of the best things she’s done for her newborn photography business, as it gave her some great ideas on how to soothe and comfort a cranky newborn.



When it comes to posing, always consider safety first – if the infant is put in a situation where there is a risk of falling or being unstable, either don’t do the pose at all or do it as a composite image. Even then, you still may not wish to do the pose – and that’s ok.

A couple popular infant poses are the head-on-hand pose and the head-on-wrist pose (which is also known as the Froggie Pose).

When doing the head-on-hands pose, use a large bean bag and center the infant on the bean bag – that way if for some reason they squirm and start to tip, they won’t fall off the prop.

Secondly, use a lens you can shoot close to the baby with – like a 35mm. This will allow you to reach out a helping hand quickly and easily if the baby does start to tip.


Before doing the head-on-hands pose, it is absolutely crucial that you check with the baby’s parents and make sure that the newborn has not been diagnosed with Congenital Hip Dysplasia (CHD), because the positioning of the legs for this pose would cause the infant’s hips to be dislocated.

When doing the head-on-wrist pose, it’s best to do it as a composite as newborns have no control over their balance and could easily tip over when put in this position.

It’s best to do this pose in two shots – one shot with a helper holding the baby’s wrists, and a second shot with the helper stabilizing the baby’s head (see examples here).

When combined in Photoshop the extra pair of helping hands can be edited out, giving you the desired pose but without sacrificing the baby’s safety.


Composite image created from two separate images, both with different stabilization points.

And finally, when posing the baby in any pose, always keep an eye on their skin tones and color – if you see their skin turning purple or blue, their circulation is being cut off and they need readjusting.


One of the most common styles of lighting for newborns is soft, even lighting, which is often achieved when you correctly utilize the play between light and shadows and feather the light.


Even, feathered light on the baby’s front with depth created by shadows.

The lighting setup for creating this type of lighting is relatively simple, and includes a safe resting place for the baby (and most likely a backdrop of your choice), and a softbox (preferably one that is relatively large in size; a 50×50″ softbox would work perfectly).

Place the softbox at 180 angle and about 6 inches in front of the baby and backdrop setup. This placement will ‘feather’ the light onto the subject, which will create softer shadows and even lighting across their face.


Example of lighting setup used for feathering the light.


Final product of light feathering setup.


Baby skin can often be red and blotchy, which isn’t as appealing as smoother, creamy skin tones. To help with that, reduce the reds in post production to help even their skin tones out a bit.

You could even use a preset or action to do this for you, and may even be able to find one made specifically for newborn skin.


And Remember…

Babies are super cute, and we really hope this post gave you some inspiration for where to start if you’re just looking into newborn portrait photography, or just some new tips you maybe didn’t know if you’re already a seasoned pro.

But remember – at the end of the day, if a pose or prop or lighting setup or anything whatsoever seems unsafe for the baby, or you’re not completely comfortable with it – don’t try it! It’s not worth the risk to the little one.


Here are some other products we recommend for Newborn Portrait Photography:

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.31.02 PMTo really maximize your portrait sales, nothing beats in-person sales sessions. But just getting into them can be intimidating – which is why Matt and Katie have created a guide to teach you exactly how to conduct one. Complete with scripts for you to follow, it’ll help take the edge off of figuring it out on your own.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.34.45 PMA lot of the lighting techniques above discuss off-camera lighting, but if you’re not familiar with off-camera lighting that immediately puts a damper on trying out some of the lighting ideas above. Andy from Simple SLR has put together a great guide on off-camera lighting, and even if you’re a seasoned pro it can serve as a great reference piece for future sessions.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.41.34 PM

None of the information in this post is valid if you don’t have a solid contract in place. The Newborn Photography Contract is written by photographer-lawyer Rachel Brenke at The Law Tog, so you know it’ll cover all the legal basics and necessities (including the contract itself, model releases for adults and minors, print releases, and more).


Baby skin can sometimes be mottled and blotchy, so doing skin smoothing on newborn portraits can help give the image a cleaner, finished look. Doing it by hand can really eat up your time though. We love and recommend the Portraiture plugin from Imagenomics, which automatically does a lot of the skin smoothing for you in just a click of the button.

before-after-72111-1024x337Black and white images are a great way to evoke emotion, but oftentimes just cutting the saturation doesn’t quite have the same affect because it’s important to remember that you must edit a black and white image differently than a color image, and Photography Concentrate has created a guide to show you how to do just that.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.46.27 PMIf there’s one thing new parents like to do, it’s show people pictures of their family’s newest addition. StickyAlbums is the mobile app made for just that, and allows clients to easy share pictures of their session with friends and family (which in turn is amazing free marketing for you!).


Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 4.52.35 PMA great way to get your client their images is with a personalized flash drive – no more burning files to a disc, just drag and drop onto a flash drive and send it along. Plus the personalization gives it that extra professional touch, and since CD drives are sort of on their way out, a flash drive will probably have greater longevity.


Thank you for using the links in this post, as they help us earn a commission and support the site, keeping it free for everyone.

Why Gently Directing Your Clients is Important


Today’s feature is from .

Nikki says:

“David and Erin’s amazing engagement session took place near Lincoln, and I had the honor of visiting the ranch where Erin’s beloved horse live – a place that is both profoundly beautiful and deeply important to both Erin and David.

It never ceases to amaze me, this job of mine – it’s like a key that lets me “in,” like a confidant or a close friend, to some of the most important places and times in peoples’ lives.”

Nikki’s Photography Tip:

I always schedule my portrait shoots to begin a few hours before sunset, to take advantage of the prime light of the day. I love my golden hour…who doesn’t! This couple was easy to work with (and it shows) but even when a couple is really relaxed, I always guide them somewhat in their posing and interactions.

Taking charge (in a positive, easygoing way of course) is really important to the way I interact with my clients at a shoot. I direct them through most of the poses, giving them suggestions and often making changes to their pose/movements once they’ve gotten into it.

Even though it seems counterintuitive, gentle but thoughtful posing is really key to helping my clients relax and be themselves – they feel taken care of, and that they can focus on each other and not have to worry about if something looks “off.”

I love making sure my clients look their absolute best (and I always give them plenty of tips ahead of time to maximize the session). I see this as my job, not my clients’ job – after all, why would I expect my clients to know how to look good in a photo (unless perhaps they are professional models)?

I also love to have couples play little games for me, to get to their natural smiles and flirting expressions. I’ve found some inspiration in the Beloved type of shoot, although I don’t use those techniques at every session. I have quite a list of ideas and games to get them moving, which helps keep the mood happy and affectionate.



Nikki used a Canon 5D Mark II, with a 35L, 50L, 85 and 135L prime lens to capture these images.

Nikki Moore is a Lincoln, Nebraska Wedding and Portrait photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Client Direction and Lighting.

When you’re out in the countryside like this shoot here, it’s quite obvious you can’t quickly retrieve something you may have left behind.

Make sure you have everything with you when you leave for this type of shoot, and a professional, easy way of carrying it all.


*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.


Water Droplet Portraits


Today’s feature is from Nadia Stone.

Nadia says:

“We just moved into a new house with a big forest garden and  automatic sprinklers, so we decided to take advantage of our new surroundings and have some fun!”

Nadia’s Photography Tip:

My garden is exposed to the South, so I had my kids stand with their back to the light and had the sprinklers come in from camera left.

At first I had the sprinkler setting too high, and the water obscured their faces. But all I had to do was turn down the intensity of the sprinkler spray a little bit and the water droplet size was perfect.

We used two umbrellas to catch the water from the sprinklers, and I use a long shutter speed to stop the movement of the water.

For the editing, I just use a lot of clarity to really outline the droplets of water.


Hiding spot



Nadia used a Nikon D4 with a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G lens to capture these images.

Nadia Stone is a Southwestern France (Labenne, Hossegor) Children, Family, Couples, and Wedding photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Camera Settings and Lighting.

Nadia’s black and white images are really lovely, but to really get a solid black and white image, remember that you have to edit them differently than you do your color images.



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Senior Portrait Tips from Jessica Drossin


Today’s feature is from .

Jessica says:

“The young woman in this session really wanted her senior portraits to be an urban session to express how much she loved visiting downtown LA.”

Jessica’s Photography Tip:

I’ve actually got a few different tips related to this session, so here goes:

1. Senior Portrait Success. I think a huge key to making a senior session a success is showing the model the work as it progresses by sharing the back of camera images somewhat regularly. Essentially, you are teaching them about what looks good in terms of modeling while also building trust. If they don’t like something (i.e. “my hair looks too messy”), you will hear about it early on so there are no surprise emails later.

2. Lighting in an Urban Setting. The biggest issue for me is always finding flattering light. This can sometimes be a little tricky in an urban environment with tall buildings casting shadows. We really timed the session around how the light was going to change, so I finished with my open sky images last and shot the open shade images first.

3. Color and Cohesiveness. For the overall color and feel of the session, I took some liberty and enjoyed playing with color and details. I used a variety of the tints I create in order to push the color palette and make the overall image feel unified.

There you have it! Enjoy my session, and try out some of these ideas in your next senior session!


Jessica used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens to capture these images.

Jessica Drossin is a Los Angeles, CA Portrait, Fine Art, and Wedding photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Location and Lighting.

Jessica did a great job with the color palette in these images, but to do that she definitely had to have a solid knowledge and understanding of Photoshop and Lightroom.

If you’re looking to beef up your skills, check out a 7-day free trial at – there’s tons of tutorials on both programs that should get you started in the right direction.



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Adorama Lighting Sale JUST for Belovely You!

Black Friday has come early and Adorama is doing a sale on some lighting gear just for the Belovely You audience through Cyber Monday (12/1) at 11:59pm Eastern Time.

Yup, that’s right. You guys are the only ones that know about it. It’s a special deal that they worked out just for us with code BYNOVEMBER

Here’s what they got for us:


Flashpoint Softbox

Normally $59.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $49.95!

Comes with 70 watt Fluorescent Light Unit, Built-in 19.5×27.5″ Silver Soft Box, AC Plug, Spiral Fluorescent 5500K Bulb and Light Stand

octa II

Flashpoint Octa II Softbox

Normally $59.95, On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $39.95!

24″ softbox used for continuous lighting and comes with 70W Fluorescent Lamp


beauty dish gridFlashpoint Beauty Dish

Normally $34.95, On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $29.95!

20 degree Grid for 16″ Beauty Dish – an essential accessory for any lighting system and setup.


10x10' background stand

Flashpoint 10×10′ Background Support

Normally $89.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $69.95!

Heavy Duty Steel Support Set comes with 2 upright stands, cross bar, and carrying bag.

 Mini SoftBox 12x8" (30x20cm) Diffuser, Large, for Shoe Mount FlashesFlashpoint Mini Softbox

Normally $15.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $9.95!

Mini 12×8″ softbox diffuser for Shoe Mount Flash. Great for softbox-style lighting on-the-go.


36" PZ Octabox White interiorFlashpoint 36″ Octabox

Normally $149.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $129.95! (current special ends on 11/20, but they’re extending it for us!)

36″ Octabox with white interior. Comes with carrying case, baffle, and front diffuser.


two light softbox kit

Flashpoint Two-Light Kit

Normally $109.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $99.95!

Two-light softbox kit with two softboxes, two 70W fluorescent bulbs, two stand, and carrying case.



320 monolight kit 150 watt second

Flashpoint 320 Monolight Kit – 150 W Second

Normally $179.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $169.95!

Comes with 8″ reflector, flashtube and protector, modeling lamp, power cord, sync cord, 24×24″ softbox, mounting ring, and stand.

620M Monolight Kit, One 300 Watt Second

Flashpoint 620M Monolight Kit – 300W Second

Normally $219.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $189.95!

Comes with 1x 300W second monolight with 9.5′ stand and 40″ white umbrella, flashtube and protector, bulb,  and reflector.

Flashpoint 320M Monolight Kit

Flashpoint 320M Monolight Kit – 150W Second

Normally $179.95,  On sale for Belovely You with code BYNOVEMBER for $174.95!

Comes with 8″ reflector, flashtube and protector, modeling lamp, power cord and sync cord, 24×36″ softbox, mounting ring, and 9.5′ stand.

Don’t wait too long – sale ends 12/1 at 11:59pm!

Check them all out here!

And don’t forget to use the code BYNOVEMBER!



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Using Reflectors in Low Light

I just love how dark and contrasty this image turned out.

Today’s feature is from Chelsee Teleha.

Chelsee says:

“This was my first ever styled session, featuring my good friend and coworker Paige! I took lots of time planning the poses I wanted to use, and Paige took direction really well as I posed her.

My wonderful friend and makeup artist provided incredible makeup, and the flower crown was custom made and the necklace was specially chosen. For the location I contacted my old middle school teacher to ask if we could use his yard because it is just lovely.

I am so happy with how it turned out! I’ve always wanted to do a styled session and I’m so glad I got to do it. They’re a lot of work, but the end result is so satisfying!”

Chelsee’s Photography Tip:

Lots of different aspects went into this session. I shot about 45 minutes before sunset, and it was relatively overcast. For some of the images I used a reflector to bounce some extra light back into her face. In the shade, I held the reflector sort of flat like a pancake to illuminate her face.

And when the sun was behind her, we held the reflector more straight on in order to bounce some extra light back into her face. I also needed to bump up my ISO up into the thousands, since I was shooting in pretty low light conditions most of the time.

I like to shoot wide open (for a nice bokeh affect) and at fast shutter speeds (to avoid motion blur since it was low light and I was using the camera hand-held) so my ISO had to be raised to compensate.

Obviously not all settings and lighting tips will translate into every session, but generally I find that shooting with a fast shutter speed and wide open aperture creates gorgeous images with a dark, contrasted background. When I raise my ISO pretty high, I find that the noise reduction function in ACR helps a ton to reduce noise artifacts.

I shot this in the shade and used a reflector held underneath her to bounce extra light into her face.
I love the natural feel of this pose! Plus the direct light was perfect, it was just the right amount of overcast.
I love backlighting! The background looks bright and vivid, and I used a reflector to bounce light back onto her.
I love haze and sun flare. The lighting was tough, so I had to use manual focus.
I had to get a closeup of the amazing makeup by my makeup artist. The sun was to Paige's left, so I held a reflector to her right to reduce the shadow on her face.

chelsee used a Canon 6D with a Canon 85mm 1.8 lens and a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens to capture these images.

Chelsee Teleha is a Northeast Ohio Senior portraits photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

Looking at specializing in senior portraits? Seniors are great fun, and a lot of photographers are picking up on this.

If you’re looking to get into senior photography though, make sure you have all your bases covered with things like model releases and contracts.



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Using Light and Shadows


Today’s feature is from .

Melissa says:

“This is baby Killian at one week new. I first met this family when big brother came for his newborn session less than 2 years ago. I always love when clients come back with more kiddos!”

Melissa’s Photography Tip:

I feel lighting is a main factor (if not THE main factor) in creating an interesting image. When lighting this session (and all my newborns), I like to use my soft box (though window light will work too) to feather the light at either a 45 or 90 degree angle, which gives a nice soft shadow when done correctly. This will cause the light to feather the front portion of the baby and not directly towards backdrop.

Alternatively, avoid aiming the light down on the baby or right in front of the baby, as it will give you harsh shadows.

And one last note – shadows are good! I think a lot of new photographers are scared of shadows but shadows are what really add dimension to an image. If there’s too little or no shadow, it’s flat lighting, which is very boring! I could do the cutest pose possible and have the most beautiful baby but if I have flat lighting, the image is just average to me.

Adding some depth with shadows opens up that dimension and that creativity. (Also, shooting from the shadow side is a favorite of mine – try it out!)


Melissa used a Canon 5D MKII with a Canon 35mm 1.4 lens, a Canon 50mm 1.4 lens, and a Canon 100mm 2.8 macro lens to capture these images.

Melissa Jaimes is a Colorado Springs, Colorado Maternity and Newborn photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

Need more help with lighting? Melissa is right, in that you can use window light to achieve the same affect here. But being able to use a soft box or other off-camera light really adds a lot to the photographer’s repertoire.

If you’re not too keen yet on off-camera lighting, that’s ok – there’s tons of guides and information out there from those that have mastered it.



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Tips on Film Photography


Today’s feature is from Barb Shoop.

Barb says:

“This submission is just a few frames of my six-year-old twins. I try to photograph them at least once a month. I can usually only shoot about one roll of film before they’re completely out of control and I can’t get a single frame in focus. They are very close and I often photograph them hugging and kissing each other.”

Barb’s Photography Tip:

This was shot on Fuji 400H film. The secret to shooting this film (and with Kodak Portra films as well) is to overexpose it, because the Fuji 400H has a soft, pastel look when overexposed in soft light like this session. How much depends on the film stock and the lighting conditions, but generally, one to three stops will produce well-exposed images.

This shoot was shot in late evening just before the sun went down so I rated my film at 200 (overexposed by one stop), took a meter reading in the shadows with a hand-held light meter, and set the aperture and shutter speed on my Contax.

The Contax can be quite difficult to focus at f/2, but when you get it right, the look is soft and dreamy with the subject in sharp focus.


Barb used a Contax 645 with a Zeiss 80mm f/2 lens to capture these images.

Barb Shoop is a Central Pennsylvania Wedding and Family Portrait photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.


*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Challenge Yourself


Today’s feature is from .

Brad says:

“This series is from my shoot with Megan, one of my 2015 Senior Models. The majority of her shoot took place at her house here in Hendersonville, TN. We chose this location to make it more personable, and I knew I couldn’t pass up this beautiful view of the lake.

Hours of shooting were between 5PM-Sunset. Natural light and OCF were used throughout the shoot.”

Brad’s Photography Tip:

I mainly specialize in shooting all natural light using a reflector. However, I’ve been pushing myself lately to incorporate more OCF during my sessions to capture a different look.

My tip is don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone – this is how we ultimately grow in what we do. It may take some time to perfect whatever you’re doing, but in the end it will be totally worth it. We never stop learning or growing.

Challenge yourself.


Brad used a Canon 5D MKII with a Canon 70-200 2.8 lens and a Canon 24-70 2.8 lens to capture these images.

Brad Lovell is a Nashville, TN Portrait photographer. He also works with Seniors Ignite and teaches at the Seniors Ignite event in February.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.

Still need some help working with off-camera flash? Senior portraits are a great avenue to be innovative and creative, but if you’re not using all of the potential tools at your disposal you could be missing out on some serious potential.

Using off-camera flash is a great way to open up new possibilities for your seniors, though it doesn’t necessarily come intuitively. Thankfully, there are a lot of solid guides available out there to get you started.



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Editorial Athletic Senior Portraits


Today’s feature is from .

John says:

“Kylee is a senior from Beauregard High School in Alabama and she comes to us from about an hour away. She is an amazing track and field athlete and we love and attract a lot of senior athletes.

I love showing both sides of our incredible senior athletes – both their strong, athletic side and images of them looking and feeling their best with hair and makeup done.”

John’s Photography Tip:

For Kylee’s sports shot I wanted to convey the power and beauty of a track and field athlete with an editorial style look. The sky and clouds were perfect that day for the background (which was great), but to really pull off this look you have to utilize an off-camera light.

The sun was setting off to camera left and gave me some great rim light. A beauty dish is just out of the frame, camera right, to serve as my source of light. And closing down my aperture allowed me to bring that background in and convey the look I was going for.

For post-production, I performed some slight desaturation and shadow control in Lightroom to help finish pulling the look together.


John used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 85mm 1.2 lens, a Canon 50mm 1.2 lens, and for the athletic shots the Canon 17-40 f/4 lens.

John Pyle is a Columbus, GA and surrounding areas Senior Portraits photographer. He also works with Seniors Ignite and is one of the lead photographers at the Seniors Ignite event in February.

Click here to see more tips on bringing out your Client’s Personality and Lighting.

Need to up your senior portraits game (sports pun intended)? The masterminds behind Seniors Ignite put together an amazing event every year in February – centered around everything related to the senior portrait business.

There’s awesome workshops for marketing, business, and of course – creative shooting. And you get to learn from some of the top leaders in the industry. Check out details for the 2015 event here!



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

Stylized Shoots in Natural Lighting


Today’s feature is from .

Katie says:

“This was a stylized child session, shot in Denver, Colorado. This shoot features Tutu Du Monde Dresses, and was planned in advance for Sophie.”

Katie’s Photography Tip:

Since stylized photography is heavily based on planning, I try to control as many elements as I can so that I am entirely prepared for every session far in advance.

Here are a few elements I take into consideration.

First, what is the mood and essence of my session? What message, feeling, or theme do I want to convey?

For this shoot, I aimed to create a whimsical and ethereal mood. I chose my location because of the lush forest-like greenery and planned all the elements of the wardrobe accordingly.

Each dress and hairpiece was preselected before the shoot. I also purchased flowers to add a touch of summer sweetness.

Even with all the planning I try to do, however, there are aspects I can’t control, such as natural light and how a child will feel on the day of her session.

For lighting, I shoot with 100% natural light. Light changes significantly depending on the time of day that you shoot, the season, and your location. I like to shoot in the later part of the day, preferably an hour before sunset (also know as the golden hour).

In case the sun is too direct or it’s hazy I have an assistant hold either a diffuser or reflector, which makes a drastic difference when shooting in less than ideal lighting conditions.

For this session, I was lucky because Sophie was amazing to work with. Friendly, beautiful and charismatic, Sophie was a dream. However, I am not always so lucky, because some children (especially ones under 4) have a very difficult time focusing on the shoot.

If you are working with a child who does not want to cooperate, I suggest using parent-approved motivators. However, if all else fails, just have fun with your client/model and capture his/her natural expressions and poses.

I like to plan every element in my shoots; nonetheless, some of my sweetest photos are natural moments that happen organically during the session.


Katie used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 85mm 1.2L lens to capture these images.

Katie Andelman is a Denver, Colorado Children, Family, Maternity, and Senior Portraits photographer.

Click here to read more tips on Lighting.

Need a great way to show off your rockin’ stylized session? Stylized sessions are super fun, super cool, and usually everyone loves seeing them (and your clients love showing them off to people too).

The StickyAlbums app makes showing off your stylized sessions easy for both you and your clients (you can do it right from your smart phone!), and allows your clients to do your advertising for you. Check out StickyAlbums here!



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.


Five Great Tips for Better Portraits Outside

When it comes to photography, it is great to know tips for better portraits – especially outside. When taking photos outdoors, there are many logistics to work out. And sometimes, you need to wait hours for the perfect shot!

I’ve been a professional photographer for over 15 years. In that time I have been lucky enough to work with and for some amazing people.

I’ve photographed celebrities, professional musicians, athletes, and of course, “regular” people, most of whom were still far from regular.

It’s an amazing gift to be welcomed into someone’s life to collaborate on a photo, and I feel that creating a portrait should be considered an honor.


We often take it for granted with cell phone selfies and Instagram but sitting for a portrait is a time-honored event that was once reserved for the wealthy and powerful.

But now, thanks to technology, we all get the opportunity to “take” a portrait. And we say “take” because it was believed that when you do a photo of someone you are actually “taking” a bit of his or her soul.

Best Tips for Better Portraits Taken Outside

Don’t get me wrong; I certainly think you can take a fun fast image of someone that does not require the consideration of how that image will be used for eternity going forward.

Regardless of what you or the subject intends to use the image for, I think there are some key things you can do to make sure your images look their best.

In this article I talk about five very important tips to keep in mind, specifically when taking daylight shots.

1) Find Open Shade:

I’m writing this on July 20th, at 33 thousand feet somewhere between LA and NYC. If you live in the Americas then it’s summer (sorry Australia) and with summer comes the ability to be outside and enjoy those long days.

When shooting outside during the summer you should really try to avoid two things: 1) shooting at night and using flash, and 2) direct harsh sunlight. Alternatively, the best kind of light you can get is what we call open shade.

Example of image taken in indirect sunlight.

Open shade means when it’s light out but the sun is not getting direct contact with the subject. It can be from the shade of a building or an overhang from a tree or even a garage.

This is also the type of light you get when it’s overcast. The great thing about this light is that it causes no harsh shadows or strong contrast.

Image taken on cloudy day out of direct sunlight.

You will get smooth, even skin tones and your subject’s eyes will look nice and clean. The subject will not have to squint or have to wear sunglasses either.

If you don’t believe me try a test: place your subject in the sunlight and take a shot then put them in the shade and do another shot. Blow up the image and compare the light on their faces!

2) Find the focal point.

Okay, now you have the best light to photograph your subject in – What’s next, you ask? Well lucky for you, I have the answer.

The next thing to consider is what the focal point will be. In other words, what is the main thing in this composition that you want the viewer to see?

Consider that you will not be travelling with the image to explain what you thought was so important. Will the viewer know what was important to you?

The viewer will know if you have considered your focal point. Focal point is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the point at which the focus of our attention will go.

If you photograph a person I suspect it should be their eye or eyes. If you photograph a car racing by I suspect it should be the car and not the background, audience or a helicopter in the sky.

Using the eyes as a focal point.

So take the time to think about what is the most important thing in the composition. If you are not there to defend it will the image do a good job of talking for you and what you wanted to convey?

Think of the most famous paintings and what it is that we all still talk about. Those talking points are the focal point.

3) Consider the Background

Okay, this is a pet peeve of mine.

I see people who seem to be in such a rush to take a shot that they don’t bother slowing down to compose the image. To see what is going on behind whatever it is that made them barely stop to take the shot in the first place.

If you were compelled to take a shot in the first place then take the time to make sure it looks well-composed. This goes double for portraits.

When you compose your image, scan the background and make sure there are no poles that appear to be growing out of the top of the subject’s head or some strange element stabbing them in the side.

When you have people and backgrounds and are not using depth of field (aka DOF or Bokeh – which is when you use a wider aperture to throw the background out of focus) then the background and the subject can appear to be on the same plane.

Example of image with blurred background.

Example of image with subject depicted on different plane than background.

When this happens, whatever is going on in the background can appear to be growing out of the subject.

When the background is out of focus or blurry then our eye tends to go to what is in focus and what we can identify with. Try to use DOF to really draw attention to your subject.

Great example of bokeh/blurred background, bringing the focus to the subject.

4) Get your subject to make eye contact.

Now, people might tell you that you don’t need to have the subject make eye contact for a good portrait and theoretically, that’s true.

Creating a portrait is really just a photo of a person were they are clearly the main point of the composition or at least the reason why the photo was taken in the first place.

At least that’s how I think about it. However, we as humans identify with other humans by looking them in the eye. Like when we speak with someone, we look someone in the eye.

In fact, if someone does not look you in the eye you tend to think they might be a bit shady or untrustworthy.

When the subject makes eye contact with the camera it makes it more likely that ideas of trust and humanity will be transferred to the viewer of the image.

Example of subject making eye contact with the camera.

I have always found that my most successful images of people are the ones where the subject is looking dead on into the lens. Try it!

5) Focus, Focus, Focus

I can’t say this enough: if you bother taking the time to create a photo of someone, then take the time to make sure it’s in focus.

If you are going through the exercise of communicating with someone that you want to take their photo or if someone asks you to take their photo then show them the respect they deserve by making sure they are in focus.

My suggestion is to focus on the eyes or the eye closest to the camera.

So there you have it – 5 simple tips to help you get better portraits in daylight. Though truthfully, you can use most of these tips and concepts for any and all types of shots.

Good luck out there, and shoot, shoot, shoot!



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.

When Time of Day and Mother Nature Cooperate


Today’s feature is from Errin Hiltbrand.

Errin says:

“Bill is a pilot and he and Emily fly together. And to be honest, when they first contacted me with the idea I wasn’t sure they were real – It seemed like such an ideal shoot!

But slowly they started sending me photos of the plane and the outfits they wanted to wear via email and we began planning details for the session.

For me, the biggest and most important ingredient for this session is the love these two share. They are very happy and very comfortable with each other and it made things go very smoothly.

The next biggest factor was, of course, the weather. In order to really do this session justice and make good use of the colors and awesome plane, we needed sunshine.

And we lucked out! The only thing that I really wanted to do was ride on the top of the plane while it was moving – but (thankfully) not everything goes as planned in a session.

It sure was fun to come up with ideas and put together this shoot!”

Errin’s Photography Tip:

As I already mentioned, the weather and time of day (and associated lighting) were key elements to this shoot.

We were dependent on Mother Nature for providing us with the soft glowing sunlight at sunset – what’s typically referred to as the Golden Hour.

Turning the airplane around was also must to get the right kind of affects with sunlight we were hoping for.

So when planning an outdoor session, always make sure you’re aware of what time of day you’re planning it for if you want the best, softest, warmest sunlight.




Errin used a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens and a Canon 85mm 1.2L lens to capture these images.

Errin Hiltbrand is a Madison, Wisconsin Couples and Family photographer.

Click here to see more tips on Lighting.



*Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and don’t affect you as the buyer but do help support us and keep this site free for everyone.