Photography is painting with light, not by using a little magical can of light and a paintbrush but light is the instrument creating the photograph. It is such an important part of photography that I had to address it somehow and at the same time I wasn’t sure just what to say about it.
Diffused light is wonderful for taking pictures. A cloudy day is perfect, the clouds provide a diffuser for the sun but if you can’t wait for the perfect cloudy day there are other things that can be done to get nice lighting on your subjects. If taking the picture outdoors doing in open shade of a building with the family facing towards the edge of the shade is one of my favorite places. Indoors near a north facing window is a good option.
Times the sun is high in the middle of the sky, typically from 10 to 2 and direct light are things you want to avoid. If a shadow leaves a line that you could trace it’s not a good time or location for pictures.
The best way to learn about lighting is to practice. Not just practicing with the camera but take along a pen and paper too. Make a sketch of where you were standing, where the sun or other light source was and anything else contributing like a building casting a large shadow. Then compare the pictures you took and make notes of what worked and what didn’t.
A good resource for those using SLR or DSLR cameras is Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition).
If you have any comments about tips or tricks you have learned about lighting please share. If you have a question, please ask and I will do my best to answer it.