Photography Tips

The 5 Best Tips for How to Get Good Lighting During Photography Sessions

January 20, 2021

Most photographers have a signature “thing” they’re known for… amazing scenic shots, epic family portraits, beautiful contrast, breathtaking black-and-white images. My “thing” that I’ve always prioritized is finding good lighting during my photography sessions. Good lighting can be a true game-changer for any session so I want to talk all about photography lighting tips you […]

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Most photographers have a signature “thing” they’re known for… amazing scenic shots, epic family portraits, beautiful contrast, breathtaking black-and-white images. My “thing” that I’ve always prioritized is finding good lighting during my photography sessions. Good lighting can be a true game-changer for any session so I want to talk all about photography lighting tips you can incorporate in your sessions.

Honestly, there’s just something about great lighting that can transform an image. It can illuminate the subjects in almost an ethereal way and bring out someone’s natural beauty, personality, and features. Good lighting has the opportunity to take an image from so-so to wow-worthy because it doesn’t just make the people in the picture stand out better, but it also highlights and softens the surroundings in the image in the most beautiful way.

Behind making sure my clients have a fun time and get memorable shots from our sessions, lighting is always my top priority. But I’ve had to discover for myself a few tricks and methods for getting the best lighting over the years, and I’m ready to spill them with you today!

Here’s how to get good lighting during each and every photography session.

01. Shoot right before sunset.

In photography, we call dusk the “golden hour.” It’s when the light is a bit softer and warmer than it is in the middle of the day, and it is my absolute favorite time of day to shoot. When the sun is directly overhead, it can cast harsh shadows and create too bright of light for our images, blowing out the subjects and surroundings. But at sunset, everything is a bit more glowy and golden, creating the perfect lighting for standout photos.

02. Opt for natural light.

Indoor photography CAN be done well, but the best photography lighting tips for natural-looking images will always be natural sunlight vs. artificial lighting (lamps, overhead lights, fluorescent lighting, etc.). If you’re shooting inside, open up blinds and curtains to allow as much sunlight into the room as possible. Try to avoid using flash on your camera or other artificial lights, as they diminish the beauty of natural lighting.

03. Reschedule shoots if it’s a cloudy day.

Now, this can be a little tricky because slightly overcast weather is actually great lighting for photography. (Think: A light cloud cover that the sun still slightly pokes through.) But if it’s a stormy or heavily clouded day, you’ll likely want to reschedule your session altogether. Why? Because super gray days don’t allow for the same warmth and light in images that sunshiney or mildly overcast days do. I’ve actually had to move shoots multiple times over the years, all in the name of great lighting! Trust me, it’s worth it to reschedule and get gorgeously lit images, and your clients will be happier in the long run, too. 

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04. Don’t photograph your subjects’ faces directly in the sunshine.

One great thing about shooting at sunset or in overcast weather is that the light doesn’t cast as harsh of shadows as it does in the middle of the day because it’s not directly overhead. Even so, be sure you position your clients strategically so that their faces aren’t directly in the sunlight. No matter how gorgeous someone is—we all have lines and blemishes and pores that the direct sunlight can underscore and make way more obvious. Instead, try to get the sunlight behind your subjects or off to the side, so that their faces aren’t blown out by the brightness.

05. Play with lighting!

One of my favorite things about lighting in photography is getting to play with the way I use it. I love to let the sunshine poke through trees or mountaintops behind my clients, or glimmer off of some water nearby. Don’t be afraid to move your clients around and follow the light. Some of the best photos I’ve ever taken started as an experiment and just asking myself if a certain angle or lighting set-up could work, and then going for it! Luckily, you’re not sending your clients every single image from your sessions, so if something doesn’t work out, they’ll never know. And if it does? Good for you! That’s a beautiful expression of YOUR creativity, so don’t be afraid to play around!

Related Post: Mistakes Every Beginner Photography Makes

Okay, friend! You now know my top five top photography lighting tips for your sessions. Good lighting is absolutely vital (in my opinion) to the most fabulous images that you’ll be proud of and your clients will adore. I have no doubt that with these simple tips, you’ll be shooting gorgeous, glowing images with stunning lighting at every single session. Keep following that light!

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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