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Light, Composition & Location

Lesson 4 from: FAST CLASS: Get Started with Lifestyle Family Photography

Elena S Blair

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Lesson Info

4. Light, Composition & Location

Lesson Info

Light, Composition & Location

So we're gonna start with light. This is one of my favorite quotes about light and says, "Embrace light, admire it, love it, but above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth and you will know the key to photography." Georgie Eastman. It couldn't be more true. Anyone that's in here, that's kind of traveling along this journey, y'all know that as soon as you start understanding light, it's like a light bulb goes off and all of a sudden your work changes. So this is one of the most important things I think. Learn light. You have to be obsessed with it, okay. I see light like in my kitchen and I'm like, "Ooh, that's really amazing." Or outside, or even... I love moody light, you'll see me use my light really moody, it's probably cause I live in Seattle and I have no choice, but even like deep shadows, all of that stuff, light is something that you should start paying attention to all the time, not just when you're using a camera. Every second. Look at how light is illuminating huma...

n subjects and think about it, think about what that's doing for your emotional connection just with that person. So, first kind of light that I wanna talk about is flat light. And so every location that I go to, I know all my locations, I'm kind of a control freak about my sessions, and I make sure that I have a spot to do portraits in flat light. Because I do think that it's special for parents to have these really just simple, beautiful portraits of their children. Flat light is so wonderful for the eyes like that, It just really makes the eyes pop if you've got it on their face and it's just beautiful for skin tones. It's really even, this is just a nice, safe use of light; important to know, but safe, it's pretty safe. Then there's directional light. Now outdoors, directional... Like if you're a lighting person, and you're shooting in studio, you can manipulate this yourself and I had a person just tell me like, "You need to learn how to use your studio light so that you can make the kind of light you want anywhere that you are." Well, I wanna go out to the beach and do this instead, And so directional light is gorgeous because it really creates, it almost makes the image feel like it's three dimensional, but when you're outdoors, you really need to be shooting at golden hour. You need to be shooting when the sun has to be low enough to get this directional light. And so that's what's happening here; it's dipping well below the horizon and I arranged them so that it would be coming at them like it sounds from sides directional, and it just kind of creates depth and interest and it's that moody feeling that I really like and there's a baby boy, so that's cute. This is one of our audience members' family. And then there's backlight. Okay, so I use backlight creatively all the time. Oh I have had internet people tell me, "how would you put this picture? You're blowing out so-and-so's face or whatever." I love it, I'm obsessed with it. I'm all about blowing people's faces out. I think that backlight is almost like a prop, it's like a creative tool. When you learn how to use backlight correctly, it really kind of creates this warmth in the image, but it's also a layer of interest. It's just like, it makes this is... I mean this family is beautiful so they would be interesting and beautiful no matter where you placed them, but this light just kind of... It's another element, it's another layer of interest, another layer of creativity. So I love to use backlight creatively, which is why I love shooting at golden hour. And you'll see that in my work. Then there's direct light, Full Sun. I'll be totally honest with you, I avoided this for a long time, like until two or three years ago, and you know why? Because I learned when I was first starting out, that you should never shoot in Full Sun, that you should never take a portrait in Full Sun. All of the lies that we learn at the beginning, you gotta unlearn all this stuff. Full Sun is incredible. It is absolutely stunning if you're using it correctly. It's kind of contrasty, it really is interesting, it's warm, and one thing about Full Sun is you really can't have them looking right at you because you'll have really deep shadows. I will do it with children sometimes because I have them look up at me, so it's kind of a little way that you can do that. So it's more for this sake, you know, a shot that's a little bit more movement oriented or that kind of thing, but Full Sun, don't be afraid of it. Once i started doing it, I got really excited, became obsessed. So Full Sun's really fun. Okay, so we're gonna talk about composition, just super simple composition, considerations that you need to think about when you're making a lifestyle photograph. So of course see the way I am blowing faces again, here is just standard center composition, I'm actually sort of obsessed with center composition, I do it a lot and I just feel like, when you have the family right in the middle and there aren't a whole lot of other distractions, it just really shows the viewer where you want them to look right there, there's nowhere else to go. You're looking in the center, you have great framing, evens on each side. And so center composition is kind of a simple composition, but it's very beautiful. And so it's one that I use a lot. Of course, there's the rule of thirds. In the rule of thirds cause is the rule that "this is how our eye naturally looks at something, it's broken up into these nine different squares." And so you're lining your family up in the rule of thirds. I like the rule of thirds, I like center composition. My one piece of advice to you between the two is don't be in the middle so if it's not quite rule of thirds or not quite centered, it's awkward to look at and you don't want your work to be too awkward to look at. I mean, I break rules, that can be awkward sometimes, but that will have, that they don't know that's what they're doing, but they'll move right along if it's not compelling, if it's not comfortable to look at. So just make sure you're either within the rule of thirds or centered. Extreme composition is something that I like to do a lot. It's kind of fun. It's where you have your subjects on an extreme part of the frame, whether that be bottom, top or the side and I think it's just kind of a fun and interesting way to portray a family and kind of adds that element of interest, but also the environment can be really a big part of it as well. And then you can fill the frame with your subjects. So this is the last composition piece that I'm gonna show you. I do this a lot too. I want the family to feel like they remember what it felt like to have that photo taken and I want the viewer to feel like they are kind of getting a glimpse into this family's dynamic and feel like they were actually there. I like it to feel like you could reach out and touch the subject. So I fill the frame a lot with my subjects. When you do this there are no distractions. This is all there is, is the family and so filling the frame is a powerful way to create connection. Okay, so we're gonna talk about location, and in lifestyle photography, location has a lot to do with the end result I think, especially in my line of work, I love to use the environment in my work. And one thing that you have to think about with location that you really need to consider is the ages of the children, and the developmental stages of the children. So I shoot primarily in three or four different types of locations. I shoot in fields, which is what this is. I shoot at the beach a lot, we live in Seattle. I will do urban locations, forest and mountain. So like I said, I'm very lucky you guys, I know that some of my California friends have to drive like two hours to the locations. I mean, all my locations are an hour or less, more like 20 minutes usually lucky, but I'm kind of a creature of habit, I shoot at the same locations over and over again as well. So, here's beach. Beach is really fun. We almost always get wet at the beach, It's not always this warm here in Seattle, but that's Full Sun we were talking about, I really love to bring the environment into my pictures though, if we're gonna be at the beach, we're gonna get in the water. And when it's colder, we maybe won't get in that deep and we won't be like having a splash fight, but I really love to use those elements. So urban is probably one that I do the least and it's because I work with a lot of small children. The last thing you want is for your mom to be stressed out about anything, much less her child getting run over by car. So, I will only do urban when parents request this, we talk a lot about the disposition of their children and whether or not they're gonna be able to behave really, to handle it. And parents, if they mention it and I sort of say that, I say, "sure we can shoot in an urban location, but we need to make sure that, you know, that Johnny is gonna wanna run around and is he gonna be cool with being able to, you know, stay close to us?" And a lot of times they're like, "Yeah, maybe we'll wait till Johnny is five." Because the other locations allow for movement, allow for the kids to run around and when you're in an urban location, you don't really have that freedom. So you have to just take the kid into consideration there. Mountains. I love the mountains, I love to go out to the mountains for family shoots. It is just a magical element to bring in and don't be afraid to drive a little bit to get out there. I just think that it's so fun to incorporate this into your family work because it just really makes it even more interesting and artistic. And the forest, Pacific Northwest. The forest and parks are really great for little kids because they have room to wander. So that's what my biggest thing for you is to think about the ages of your children when you're thinking about what location you're gonna choose, because you really want them to be comfortable and you really want mom to be able to relax.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Client FAQ Questions
Family Session Educational Experience
Family Session Prep Guide
Pricing Worksheet
Session Prep Example Email

Ratings and Reviews

Katie Rivers

This was a great class! So much great information packed into such a short amount of time. I also LOVE Elena Blair. I would love to meet her after taking this course. She is so confident and fearless in her work and that is so inspiring!

Brooke Emery

Student Work