Photography Tip #4 - Learning to See Natural Sunlight Hot Light, Shadows, Dappled Light and Spotligh Dappled

When you’re shooting in the sunshine, especially where you’re on the trees we have this thing that we called dappled light. Dappled light means that the lighting is very irregular - some areas are bright, some dark, and patchy. Dappled light looks messy and it's distracting. When we photograph families during our Seattle family photo shoots we're searching for even light. We either want our families to be standing in sun or in shade. We don't ever put them in both simultaneously because it simply doesn't look good. It's hard for the viewer to comfortably digest the photo when the light is so 'all over the place'. 

Most people choose their photoshoot based on location but in the end of the day what makes the pictures amazing is the lightning. The lightning determines the location. A photo taken with a boring background and gorgeous light will look WAY better than a gorgeous background with bad light. Most of the time we recommend that when taking pictures you generally look for the shade. It's the easiest place to start. Working in direct sunlight is much more complicated - requiring more practice. Here are some things to keep in mind while you practice and learn to 'see the light'...


  1. Some areas are dark

  2. Some areas are bright

  3. Some areas are patchy

  • When the human eye looks at the photograph it goes straight to the brightest point of the photo. Bright light is like a spotlight. Your eyes goes there - make sure the light is highlighting what you want people to look at. i.e. a person's face...not the grass behind them.

  • Look for an even light, light shady areas. Look at the floor and avoid the dapples. 

  • Be aware of the light that's beaming from the sky towards the floor. Look for the shadow on the floor and shadows in the air. You have to start seeing how light moves through the air - it's like following the line of a laser beam - a straight line from the sun, through the air to your subject.