Take Better Pix—Lighting Makes the Diff

Want your photo to be a sure shot? Lighting is the key. Use natural light when you can; those pictures tend to look more realistic, and they’re usually the ones that become favorites. All you need to know is when to use (and when not to use) your camera’s flash.

The Magic Hours

Ever notice that when you hire a professional photographer for an outdoor session, they try to schedule it in the early morning or just before sunset? That’s because the light is softer then; you’re not going to get harsh shadows across faces, and nobody’s going to be squinting into the sun.

You can’t always plan your spontaneous shots for the right time of day, but you can do some tricks to make them come out more natural-looking. No matter what time of day it is, try to get the light in front or to the side of your subject. That way you won’t end up with shadows across the facial features you’re trying to capture.

Indoors, Turn It Off

Why does your camera have a flash? So you can have good lighting indoors, right? Well, kind of wrong! Lots of times, even when you’re indoors, you’ve got plenty of light and shouldn’t use the flash. You might end up washing out your subject or causing red eye.

Even in low evening light,  you can take a great pic without a flash. You’ll probably need your tripod so your camera stays steady, but it’s a great way to capture rich colors and lots of detail.

Outside, Turn It… On?

Yep, you can use your flash outdoors. If you’ve got stark shadows, or if your subject is completely in the shade with bright sunlight in the background, you can fill some of that darkness with a flash to brighten faces. You’ll balance the light behind the subject by adding light in front.

Your flash can also come in handy in full sunlight, when there’s a shadow on one side of your subject’s face. Use a flash, reduce that shadow, and bring out some detail.

Hint: using your flash in the sunlight will not work in auto mode. Be sure you switch to manual if you want that flash to fire.

Use these tips with the rules you already know: get to the shade if the light’s too bright, and if you’re indoors, don’t let crazy bright light come in through a window and underexpose your shot. And it never hurts to crack open your camera’s manual for a little extra know-how. Learn what you can, and have fun taking some great pix.