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We help people take great photos and build profitable businesses that change lives. We’re high school sweethearts, former elementary school teachers and professional photographers. We're experts at making the complex feel simple and believe education is serious business, but learning should be fun.

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searcH

How to Find The Right Light

Photographers ask us constantly what our secret is for getting such clean, consistent, beautiful portraits every time we shoot.

If we had to answer in one word it would be this: light.

When we were getting started though, we’d make a big mistake. We’d arrive to the portrait location with our clients and when choosing the first spot to start the session, we’d choose a pretty background instead of choosing the prettiest light.

Now, instead of “location, location, location!” we’re all about “light, light, light!: It’s like John Lennon should’ve sang, “All you need is LIGHT!” We’d rather photograph a client in a dump with great light than in an epic location with bad light. That’s how we create consistent imagery that clients trust and value. And that’s why it’s so important to know how to find the right light.

On a portrait session, there are a million things to think about. Camera settings, posing, interacting with the clients, keeping track of time… it can get overwhelming fast.

That’s why it’s easier for us to think about choosing each spot based on the light. And we think of our light in terms of priorities. If we know what we’re looking for every time we go out to shoot, it allows us to feel comfortable and confident that we can deliver the same consistent product over and over again.

So, with that, here’s our formula for how to find the right light every where we shoot. It’s as easy as 1-2-3…

1. Soft, Even Light from Head-to-Toe

We like our subject’s entire body to be evenly exposed. No harsh light. No hot spots. No split lighting. We want one consistent exposure from head to toe (if you’re shooting from head to toe!).

2. Soft, Even Light in the Background 

We want the background to enhance the shot. Not distract from it. So we need the light in the background to match the light on our subject. Often, this limits the amount of spots we can shoot during a session, but in our opinion, it’s better to rock lots of poses with varying composition in the same great light than to move from good light to bad light simply for the sake of variety in background.

When we first started, one of our biggest fears about this was that our clients would believe that we didn’t know what we were doing! Especially since most clients believe it’s the background that makes the image. So, the temptation for us, and maybe you, was just to find a spot and start shooting right away, and then keep moving from spot to spot. Now, we simply “educate” our clients by sharing our excitement with them when we find great light. When we get excited, they get excited, and it enhances their experience and their final photos.

Plus, once you get them in great light and get your exposure nailed, you’ve knocked out two of the hardest parts, so you can really focus on posing, composition and sharp focus. Get those elements right and you’ve got yourself a great shot.

3. Backlighting & Great Location (Our two favorite “bonus” items!)

If we can keep them with even light from head to toe, matching light in the background AND backlight them (where the back of their heads are rim lit) that’s our absolutely favorite combination of light! If we can find our two lighting priorities AND THEN a pretty background, then we’re in photographer heaven! But the most important thing to remember is a “pretty background” is only pretty if the light is right!

how to find the right light

Want more resources like this?

Part 1: How to Find the Right Light
Part 2: Backlighting Basics
Part 3: Open Shade
Part 4: Window Lighting Essentials
Part 5: Natural Reflectors
Part 6: Artificial Reflectors
Part 7: White Balance

Or check out some of our favorite resources available to you in the store!

Alisa

Hey, We're Amy & Jordan!

We’re professional photographers who help people take better photos! Join us for a free online training and we’ll show you some of our favorite photography secrets that anyone can use!

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  1. Micah Morton says:

    Love this ! Great couple .. Great advice

  2. Kate H says:

    Looking forward to stalking…errr I mean following your blog 🙂

  3. Kelsey Shirley says:

    This entire series is incredible! I feel so inspired and can’t wait to go out and practice! 🙂 Thanks!

  4. DeeDee says:

    This entire series is awesome!Thank you for sharing such wonderful advice. God Bless You

  5. Kelsey Kemmerer says:

    First time wedding photographer here. My sister asked me to shoot her wedding, it’s in 2 weeks. I’m honored, but freaking out!
    The wedding is at 11am, I checked out the venue today, there is no shade. There’s a pavilion, 2 feet of shade around the church on all sides, and a little shade from some trees. That’s all I have to work with, and only one hour to shoot family, wedding party, and the couple pictures.
    So how do I shoot pictures in full sun? The sun is directly above us at this point in the day.

    • Amy & Jordan says:

      Hi Kelsey! That’s definitely a tough situation! We’d recommend doing your best to find shade, but if that’s not possible, make sure your subjects can see their shadows in front of them. The sun isn’t ever usually 100% over head. There’s always a LITTLE angle to it. Try that! Hope it helps!

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hey, we're amy & jordan!

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"I always look forward to your emails! I get excited every time I get an email notification that says 'Amy & Jordan!' Even though we've never formally met, you guys have pretty much become the photography mentor I've never had!" 

- priscilla T. 

"I LOVEEE the Monday Minute and I look forward to it every week!"

- brianna c.

"The Monday Minute has seriously changed the way I look at my business! In the last year, my business has completely changed and evolved and I know that it's greatly due to my time 'spent' with the two of you!" 

- nicole B.

"Best year of my life! (Photography-wise!)" 

- naomi D. 

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Delivered straight to your inbox every Monday!

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