Prom Portraits: Lighting and Location

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Photography Tips, Portraits

Prom Portraits: Lighting and Location

You don’t have to be a professional photographer to want to take great images.  It being prom season and looking through all the images on Facebook it reminded me of one of my biggest pet peeves.  Everyone wants to take pictures in front of  water.  Stay with me – I’m not saying water is BAD – but just location shouldn’t be your first priority.    In twenty years when you look back on your images do you want to see pretty faces OR pretty water?

If you have to choose between light or location – ALWAYS choose light first. Having been in the business for eighteen years, I can pretty much tell you where the sun will be at any given time at the more popular locations in the area.  When scheduling this prom session Mom mentioned having a “pier.”  The couple had dinner reservations in Hopewell which meant we needed to plan pictures somewhere in that area – with a pier.  Problem is, “pier places” in that area have direct sun at 5:00, which was the time we needed to schedule for them to make it to dinner.   BEST case scenario we would have some cloud cover – worst case scenario it wasn’t going to happen.    Once I got to the location, it was pretty much as I assumed, wasn’t going to happen, but I knew the location well enough I knew how to work around it.


Here’s what I did, and here’s what you can do:


  1.  Try to put the sun behind your subject.  Figure out where the sun is coming from, put your back to it THEN find a pretty location.    Note:  Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t – especially if shooting on automatic and the sun is still high the sky, but it’s worth a try.  This location that wasn’t really feasible, but I did get a few including this one.



2.   If that just won’t work, and the BEST option, is to look for something to block or filter the sun off your subject.  In this case just down from the pier was a row of trees I could filter the light through so I could still get water in the background ( yay, pretty location), but no harsh sun on their faces.  I actually didn’t even release the image to the right to the family because, well YUCK!  Harsh sunlight, squinty eyes, blown out dress (cringe.)



3.  And lastly, if all else fails, shoot wide without your subjects looking directly at you.  In this image even if I wouldn’t have found the tree to block some of the light, I could have still taken it because it’s so far away you couldn’t see their faces and if they were squinting.  The light is a little splotchy on them, but I was okay with that because the image took in the entire scene (and even included the pier Mom wanted!).



Happy picture taking!  If there is a question you have or a problem you consistently find yourself struggling with leave me a comment, I’m happy to help!

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