How To Maximize Seasonal Lighting

It’s that time of year!

When the sun goes down earlier and the darkness is among us. If you’re like me and love natural light, you might feel a little

defeated. But there are many ways you can work with seasonal lighting and still bring magic to your images.   

To mimic natural light this time of year, I almost always use ambient lights AND studio lights. When I’m doing this, the lights are acting as a support to the natural light available. They do an amazing job at filling in shadows and popping a bit of light into the scene. Another little trick I use is bouncing the lights off the white ceiling or into V-Flats. This fills in light around the room in a natural, soft way. I have found the quality and consistency of profoto lights is the only way to go. 

Here are four simple tips to help you work with seasonal lighting.

1. Up your Iso

This time of year I up my ISO from 100-250 to anywhere between 320-640. Anything above 640 brings on the noise and doesn’t match the quality I want to deliver to my clients. A higher ISOnumber increases the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor allowing it to read lower light better. 

2. Take note of how the light has changed

The direction of light changes this time of year in the Minneapolis, MN area. The days are shorter and sometimes it can be pretty dark outside by 3:30pm. This is an important thing to keep in mind when scheduling clients. This time of year, I don’t even shoot after 3pm unless it’s a completely studio lit session. A good way to know where and when the best light can be found is by training your eyes to see light. Consciously watch the light around you and take note of what you like, what you don’t like, and when the light is just right. You might love grey over cast days when the light is flat and soft, or you may really love those rare winter sunsets when there are lots of shadows to play with. A great app for knowing exactly where the light will hit is The Photographer’s Ephemeris

3. Use Modifiers

Light is everywhere, but to be able to control light is everything in photography. As a professional photographer, I have to feel confident in my ability to deliver amazing photos under ANY lighting condition. The great news is that there are thousands of ways to produce the light you desire and a whole tool box of options available to you. Examples being studio lights, off camera flashes, V-cards, reflectors, bounce cards, soft boxes, beauty dishes…the list goes on! Here is a great beginners guide article about light modifiers. 

My go to modifiers are:

Profoto B1X 500 AirTTL Light (I use a slightly older version, but this is the most similar option Profoto currently has. Their brand will last you FOREVER!)

Five foot octagonal soft box  (The ultimate diffusion – there’s lots of brands to choose from!)

Twenty Inch Beauty Dish with a sock diffusion

V-card Flat (for some extra reflection)

4. If at first you don’t succeed, try again!

The best things in life sometimes don’t come easy. But I promise with practice, a watchful eye, and patience with yourself you will achieve all your beautiful light goals. If you’re nervous about working in the darker months, schedule some test shoots and practice with friends or family to make sure you’re ready for paying clients. And, until you feel confident and ready to book, check out local sunset times and make sure you schedule shoots when there will still be plenty of natural light.

If clients want to schedule late in the day during the winter – say, 4:00pm or later – I always make sure to let them know that there will not be natural light at their shoot, but that I can use my equipment to create beautiful light regardless. Most everyone is fine with that, but it’s good to remember to be upfront with clients. Chances are, the issue of natural light won’t even cross their mind!

And there you have it – four easy ways to brush up on your seasonal lighting techniques and secure those fall and winter sessions. This time of year is always SO busy for photographers, so it’s important that you give clients the beautiful photos they want for the holidays, no matter what time of day they book.

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