Photography Essentials in 10 Minutes- Lighting

I am really excited to share photography tips once a week here on Sweet C’s Designs. I recently started learning more about photography (I took some photography classes in college and haven’t picked it back up until recently)- and when I find a good tip… well I just can’t keep it to myself.

I am excited to start off my newest series, Photography Essentials in 10 Minutes. I am a busy mom, and sitting at the computer in photography eclasses, or reading countless books just don’t fit into my schedule. I’m going to be breaking down important concepts of photography in short, easy to learn mini-lessons that are easy to follow along.

Best of all, these tips are useful to photographers with point-and-shoot, iPhone, or DSLR cameras alike. I’ve included tidbits for everyone! So grab your camera, and let’s get started!

Today’s post is all about arguably the most important part of photography: lighting. You can buy all the gear in the world- if your light stinks, so will your pictures. So if your photos are too bright, too dark, or plain flat- try one of the tips below to find the best light!

One of the most common questions I have heard is how to combat too bright pictures.

The truth is, full sun is just not ideal for pictures.

For any camera: I’d recommend moving to the shade or waiting until the sun isn’t so harsh. If you can’t, stage your subject back to the sun, and use a light reflector or external flash on a DSLR to bounce light onto their face. This will reduce shadows and if you’re taking pictures of a person, they won’t be stuck squinting!

If you don’t use the reflector or flash, you’ll find your subjects face/front to be dark and the background perfectly lit- it is pretty crucial to be sure they are getting light from you when turned away from the sun.

On a smartphone: you need to wait for the phone’s camera to adjust properly. Wait a good few seconds to be sure it is focused. You can also download great apps for your iPhone like Instagram or Hipstamatic which let you filter your photos in several settings- or my favorite photo app- Pro HDR which combines two image layers to make an HD quality pic.

Some point and shoot cameras offer a sun setting (which lowers the camera’s ISO). If yours has one, use it! It will look like an icon of the sun. Also, sometimes using the landscape setting will eat up light- that can be used by finding the mountain icon on most cameras.

If you are using a DSLR: you can set your ISO to the lowest number possible. (This means the film speed is slower, and will eat up a good deal of light).

If you are on a DSLR: you can also increase your f-stop, which lowers your aperture. This will also eat up a good deal of light, because it means the hole letting light in is much smaller. (Why do bigger numbers= a decrease? Photographers use confusing terms!)

Did you know: professional landscape photographers often only shoot at dawn or sunset?


The next biggest problem most hobby photographers face is dreaded indoor light. I will tell you, I HATE taking pictures inside, because it often gives your photos a harsh yellow tint. Luckily, there are a few ways you can combat this.

On any camera: Move your subject as close as possible to an open window with lots of light coming in. Face them towards the window, and stand in between the subject and the window (your back to the window). This will give your subject fabulous indirect light, similar to shade. If the window light is too bright, you can filter it through a white sheet- just hang it over the window with thumbtacks, and shoot away!

On any camera: you can also use a light reflector to reduce any shadows or increase the amount of light hitting your subject.

On a point and shoot: Make sure your flash is off. Flash is evil and unless you are capturing a priceless moment of your kids/pet/etc. that you cannot recreate, you shouldn’t EVER use it.

On a DLSR: Increase your ISO. This speeds up the camera’s “film”, and will brighten your shots- it will also allow you to get a non-blurry image. HOWEVER- don’t increase your ISO above 800. This will add a lot of digital “noise”- making your photos grainy. Generally, you want to shoot with the lowest ISO possible- but sometimes you’ll need to bump it up to get a good shot of the craft you finished at 9pm and NEED to get up tomorrow morning (who ever does that? Certainly not me… haha.)

On a DSLR: you can also lower your f-stop as low as possible, making the lens hole larger, which brings in more light. Often I shoot at a 1.8-2.2 on my 50mm to give bright, blurry background pictures. If you aren’t comfortable with manual shooting, use Aperture Priority mode. It is really easy and will give you a lot of control over your lighting.

The best photos you will get will be in the shade, at sunrise or sunset- anytime you have a warm, indirect light.

Hope you loved this post- and please stay tuned for my brand new Photography by You series where I will be helping other bloggers with their photography problems in mini-sessions!

8 thoughts on “Photography Essentials in 10 Minutes- Lighting”

  1. You explained this so simply and well! It’s really simple concepts confused by all of the inverse settings/numbers ie, small number = large aperture, high number means more light with I SO, high number means less light with shutter speed. You had better explanation than many professionals can give.

  2. Thanks so much for this post Courtney!
    I just purchased a Canon Rebel T3 DSLR to improve my photography skills for my blog and this was SO helpful!

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