Thorson Photo School: Basic Light

This week we’re starting to talk about light, there is so much on this topic we could cover but to start with I’ll just give you a couple of basic tips and an exercise to practice.

Canberra Wedding Photographer

1. Try not to back light (have the light directly behind the subject) with your phone. Now I know some of you may have grand visions of having an image like the one above of Tanya & Tim (which I took on my camera) with the beautiful golden light steaming into frame, you’re going to have a tough time making that happen. What will usually happen is your photo will end up looking overexposed and you will lose most of the detail. There are ways around the ugliness, but they do involve some editing tricks which we will need to work up to. For now let’s go with light that will guarantee you good photos or less crap photos.

2. Shade is always a winner. Remember last lesson I mentioned photographing in shade, keep that up and your photos will look good.

3. Rembrant lighting, which is the snooty way of saying ‘light that comes from the side of the face’ is a fun place to start. For today’s exercise I’m going to suggest trying this kind of lighting.

Exercise: First find a nice location for your photo, once again I’m using Walt as my model (shocking hey?). Find a spot close to a window, but not too close. We want the light to be soft, if it’s a sunny day it might be a good idea to defuse the light with a sheer curtain or photograph later in the day when the light isn’t as harsh. Also make sure the window isn’t in the photo, we want the light coming from the side of your subjects face (this will also work for still life too). Also make sure you use what we learned last time and have a good background, it’s combining these lessons which will really make your images improve.

Once you’ve set up your location go ahead and take a whole lot of pictures. But don’t forget to make sure your exposure is correct by touching the subjects face where the light is hitting, this is especially important when you’re dealing with light that isn’t even.


Choose your favourite. Side note: You may think I’m cheating with this image because there is a window behind Walt, this doesn’t matter because the couch is blocking him and he’s being lit by the window to the right.


Choose a filter, any filter of your choice or maybe you don’t want a filter at all. (B&W always looks good with this kind of lighting, it’s kind of spooky)


Next I did some serious cropping because I was more focused on Walt’s expression than my composition…whoops!


Next a little more editing which I will get more into on another day.


Final image.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

I love this kind of lighting because it adds real depth and drama to your photos and it’s simple, you’ll notice the header image is more photos I’ve taken on my phone using this kind of light (sorry for the selfie). I can’t wait to see your photos! #thorsonphotoschool