How Can Light Change the Atmosphere of Your Photos?

The other day I was editing photos from a client´s photoshoot. She chose two quite similar photos to edit (half body, same outfit and similar pose), but each photo was shot under different light condition.

I was amazed how big difference light can make and I´d like to share it here with you with some additonal notes.

What was the light condition?

We vere shooting in the morning at the beach near beautiful lake in Pilsen. The photo on the left was taken first when sun rays didn´t reach the beach yet. Model was standing in shade and the white sand below served as very very gentle reflector.

The second photo was shot about half hour later. Sun was already shining on the beach. I told model to turn her body and face towards the sun to alluminate it. Sun was the only ligh source. I didn´t use any reflector or anything else.

What are the differences of these light scenes?

The main difference between these two photos is in their contrast.

Light on the first photo is very soft, you almost can´t see difference between lights and shadows. In studio you could achieve similar effect with softboxes.

On the other hand light on the second photo (black and white) is hard and create significant difference between lights and shadows. The transition between them is very sharp.

When to use each lighting?

There is no rule or receipt which would tell you when you should shoot in shade or on sunlight. It depends more on your intention and personal taste. I used to like shooting in shade or while cloudy days for very a long time because I really liked soft looking images. Recently I´ve started experimenting with harder light because it creates more dramatic effect.

Basically if I want to create something soft or fragile I go for soft light. I use it also in cases when dark shadows are not prefferable. It´s also easier to shoot in soft light because you don´t need to worry so much about shadows and highlight positions.

If I want drama I go for harder light. While working with this kind of light you always need to be aware of position of lights and shadows because some ugly shadows over e.g. model´s face can be created very easily and such things are quite time consuming to retouch. Also pay attention to under- and overexposed areas, especially if you´re using cheaper camera. They don´t have big enough dynamic range.


Best advice I can give you? Don´t worry to experiment and see what suits you best. Everyone is different and has different taste so everyone needs to find its way.

Would you be interested in more articles focusing on lights in photos? Let me know in comments!

Have a lovely week!


One more photo from the photoshoot