Senior portrait season is upon us and many of you are looking at that DSLR that has been sitting unused in the closet or that fancy smartphone in your hand wondering if you can save a few bucks to shoot your own senior portraits or family portraits. You certainly can and I want to give you some tips on how to do it. This is the first of the series.

Don't get me wrong, I love the sun. We all love the sun. It brings joy and happiness to so many Rochesterians during the summer months when it shows its pretty little head. If you are reading this and you are not from Rochester, NY, then you simply may not understand... (we have lots of cloudy days here). Cloudy days are not super good for the soul, but they are fantastic for portraiture!

Why is that? Well let's chat about hard and soft light. The difference between these two is just the size of the light in relation to the subject in the photo. Hard light is when the light is small and produces shadows with well defined edges (think shadows from a light bulb or the sun). Soft light is when the light is large in comparison to the subject. It produces a much more even light that tends to accentuate details and structure a little less. Hard light can lead to amazing results, but is not forgiving. Soft light on the other hand is much more forgiving. See how this was demonstrated on my daughter's beach Barbie below with a hard light overhead (e.g. the sun at midday) and a soft light overhead (e.g. shade or overcast day). [Disclaimer: These are not fantastic images, but I hope you are able to see past that it is a cookie-cutter Barbie with highlighter on her face. ] Notice how the soft light has none of those unflattering shadows even though the light is coming from the same direction.

Hard Light

Soft Light

Where do you Find Soft Light?

I am glad you asked... The easiest answer to that question is to go wherever the sun is not. So a great way to enhance your portraits is to get out of the sun and into the shade. If you are like me and live in Rochester, NY, the answer is to just wait 20 minutes for the next cloud to pass by before snapping your next shot.

Next Tip: What to do when there is no shade!