Shooting outdoors can be absolutely magical– if you know how to work with the light, that is.
Most photographers have their preferred type of light to shoot in, and some will even postpone sessions if that light isn’t readily available. The deeper I get into my career, the more I understand this sentiment. After all, light is arguably the most important factor that goes into creating a beautiful image, and it’s become my top priority when choosing a location for my sessions.
I personally love the soft glow of the dipping sun just a few hours before sunset, and would take a gorgeously sunny evening over an overcast one nine times out of ten.
On these sunny evenings, I often play it safe and look for open shade– areas that aren’t directly in the sun but that have access to open sky to keep skin tones natural and glowing. This may look like placing my subjects just at the edge of a backlit row of trees, facing towards an open sky or field, or along the side of a building. I try to avoid facing my subjects towards a dense row of trees or tucking them deeply in a forest, because the colour cast from the trees, whether it’s green in summer or yellow in fall, makes it difficult to achieve natural looking skin tones.
That said, some rules are made to be broken, and on this particular evening, I had no choice but to break my own rules. And I’m in love with the result.
I always show up for a session an hour or so early so that I can calmly stroll, get in the zone and find the perfect spots based on the particular lighting scenario. On this evening, the sky was dark and looming and I felt there was little chance that the clouds would part for us. And so, I found 4-5 beautiful spots to take my clients to.
Mama showed up first, after having her hair and makeup done by my incredibly talented friend, Robyn. (Mamas, if you want to add this to a session, I highly recommend it! Not only does it help you feel beautiful, it also takes so much pressure off!). We walked over to our first spot, I pulled out my camera and bam, the sun came shining out. Normally I’m thrilled when this happens during a session, but in this particular spot, with the sun shining directly into mama’s face, I was less enthusiastic. But, if shooting film has taught me anything, it’s that harsh light can be beautiful, and so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. The first image I shared above, and this one below, were the first two shots I took. Come on! How much more glowing could this glowing mama be!?
We then continued to shoot a few but the sun kept growing more and more powerful, and so I took yet another risk and asked mama to venture into the wooded area for me. While there was a bit of colour cast from the trees onto her face, I felt it was minimal, and worth the beautiful outcome.
By this point, dad had arrived, and the sun tucked itself just slightly behind the clouds for a few more minutes. We had to work quickly, but I was able to get a few gorgeous portraits of them together while the light was soft and diffused. Because we were only a few hours before sunset, the sun was low and gentle enough to soften the image without being to harsh and contrasty.
Each time the sun would come out blazing, I would find a new spot to tuck mom and dad into. I enjoy thinking on my feet while shooting, and this session was a good practice in rolling with the punches– each new lighting scenario just slightly different than the last.
In these last few images, I loved how the sun illuminated mom and dad without being too overpowering, and loved how a timeless black and white edit helps capture the emotion. Anticipation, excitement and so much joy.
Thanks for checking out this magical, sun-lit maternity session with me!
If you want to learn more about how to shoot in different lighting scenarios, my ebook, Capturing Candid Images of your Little Ones, may be the perfect fit for you! I talk about everything from shooting indoors and outdoors, to capturing genuine emotion and the true essence of your child’s personality. I share all of my shooting knowledge for beginners, along with personal stories and images of my own children that have been cherished for the past 3+ years. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to take better photos of their children, and you can find it here.