The importance of lighting

Without light, there can be no photographs.  The most important part of photography is light.  And with the right light, you can make magic… even with an iPhone.

Whatever scenario you find yourself in, always look for the best quality light (using whatever you have).  When shooting glamour photography, that is usually a nice, soft light that doesn’t give harsh shadows and naturally smooths the model’s complexion.

At a recent shoot, with an amazing model, Michelle Rivera, we found a little inlet cave along the beach in San Diego.  We were shooting au natural light, with no reflectors, modifiers, studio strobes, etc.

Model: Michelle Nikole Rivera

The first shots came out well because I made sure to put Michelle in the shade (it was pretty close to mid-day). But then I looked around and realized the sun was bouncing off the rock wall on my [photographer’s] right. I turned Michelle counter-clockwise so she was lit by the sunlight bouncing off the wall. So, I turned Michelle to face the right wall. You can see the impact of just that small change. (Note: the photo on the left was cropped in and levels were slightly adjusted to match the example photo on the right. The photo on the right is straight from the camera with presets that were applied to the photo on the left as well)  Her skin is smoother and more flattering (although it is hard to make such a beautiful model more beautiful).  But probably the biggest improvement is the way the light hits her eyes.  We also get some big, beautiful catchlights.  Catchlights are what give a photo that sparkle of life.

By following the light, I turned a “nice” photo into a great one.  Those small adjustments are what take photographers to the next level.

Below is the final photo with maybe two minutes of editing: skin smoothed a little, eyes enhanced with a crisper catchlight, hair contrast increased, added “wetness” to lips, and a shadow created to add left-to-right “moving into the cave” depth.


I am Reuben. I take pretty pictures of pretty people for Glamtography. Please do not ask me to shoot nude or implied--I always wear clothes when I shoot ;)

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