Please can you tell me how to understand light?

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Q. Please can you tell me how to understand light enough to make it do what I want with my camera innards?
I am driving myself crazy seeing all these beautifully lit shots and just not being able to translate them into the images I know they could be. I want to catch all that gorgeous light and give it to people and rock their world! I love my camera, love taking pictures and capturing little moments of people’s lives but I have hit a brick wall and I am just NOT the type of person who can sit and read manuals. I just read your blog about lack of confidence, knowledge of how a camera works and how women learn so differently from men, and I had to check behind me to make sure you weren’t reading my mind! – Kirstie Van Gulck, York, UK

A. Hi Kirstie, This website is written for YOU! And I am sure many people reading this question will think, “that’s just me!” (All those people out there who feel like this, please comment on this blog as it will give people so much confidence to know so many of us feel the same).

My blogs are written deliberately for people like ourselves – who hate manuals, and hate trying to decipher loads of jargon. I try to write everything with simple instructions and tips, and make it user friendly!

The first thing you need to do is stop thinking you need to know everything, and take it one simple step at a time. Just get a coffee right now, sit down with your camera in front of you and set up your camera in this simple way – I promise it will totally change your life with the way you shoot and make it really easy: Set up your camera the easy way…

Just as you don’t need to understand all your “camera innards” nor do you need to understand everything about light. You just need to know how to look for it – and how to spot it when it’s there! Then once you’ve found it, if you have set your camera up as above, you just make sure the red square is over the light you want, and it will expose that part of the picture correctly.

The best way to find the right light is to ask the subject to stand one way – and then look at the light on their face. Then go to the other side of them, and ask them to turn round to you – and then look at the light now – you will see straight away which side looks better. And the subject doesn’t think any less of you – they enjoy being part of the process, because the more they work with you – the better they are going to look!

Read my book (99 Portrait Photo Ideas), which shows you how to find the most flattering light and just get out there and enjoy it! I am not trying to flog you a book! I wrote this book specifically to answer all the questions I am constantly asked. It will genuinely help you.

When I took the image on the header of this blog, I didn’t try to understand the light. I just saw it and thought – wow that’s fantastic, and because my camera is set up easily, I could just take the shots and this is what they looked like! I just asked the girl to stand in the bright orange evening sunlight, and then exposed her face, simply by putting the red square over it, holding the shutter half down, and recomposing the shot (because it’s already set up so that the exposure will be correct behind the red square).

To see how easy it is to take photos with the minimum of equipment and without fiddling with dials, watch the video on:Wedding Shoot in Key West Cemetery

Let me know how you get on!

Annabel x