Photography Tip: Finding the Light


I’ve got an extra special guest here today, one of my favorite ladies in Blogland.  She an incredible photographer, amazing mom and sweet sweet friend.

Angie Arthur of The Arthur Clan and co-founder of I Heart Faces.   Angie is a huge inspiration to me and she’s here today to share some photography tips we can all use.

When your finished reading here, pop over to her blog to learn even more!……without further ado……amid loud cheers from all her fans….heeeers Angie!


Utilizing Open Shade Effective in Your Photography

When I first became interested in improving my photography, one of the best tips someone passed on to me was to begin utilizing open shade.

Of course at that moment I was really thinking “What exactly is open shade and why would that be better than beautiful sunlight?”


Contrary to my beginner thoughts of “It’s sunny outside…this is awesome!!”, bright sun is not always the most ideal situation to take beautiful portraits in.  And, on the other end of the spectrum, shading under a tree is not always a prime spot to shoot in either due to the spotty lighting you will be working with.  While we can’t always avoid these circumstances (for instance, at my children’s soccer games I almost always have to deal with bright sun) I do try to find open shade whenever it is possible to control my shooting situation at all.


So, what is open shade anyway?  Basically any spot you can find that has a nice even distribution of light for you to shoot in is open shade.  Around my home depending on what time of the day it is, my best open shade is found in front of my garage door, along one side of our home and on our front porch that is covered.

For this tutorial, I will be using my neighbors garage area…mainly because it is much, much prettier than mine.  😉

Finding the light in photography
You can see in the photo, that in front of this garage there is definitely an area that has bright sunlight and then an area that has open shade.


I grabbed my daughter, Weslea (who was outside playing on a very windy day in her junky play clothes) and asked her to model for me for a few moments.


Bright Sunlight

We began in Area A which was filled with bright sunlight.


Finding the light in photography
In the next two images you can easily see the technical issues that usually occur when you try to shoot in bright sunlight.


  • Squinting:  This is the #1 reason why I recommend that beginner photographers not shoot in bright sunlight.  You most likely are going to end up with squinting subject who has watery eyes and does not enjoy the session much at all.
Finding the light in photography
  • Raccoon Eyes & Shadows:  In the next photo you can see how Weslea ended up with “raccoon eyes” (very dark, unattractive spots under her eyes) and shadowing.  You can even see eyelash shadows on her face!
Finding the light in photography

Open Shade

While neither of these photos are “horrible”, they definitely are not the most attractive portrait I could have taken at that moment.  I was able to remedy the situation by…


1) Having my daughter take two steps into the open shade (Area B)


Finding the light in photography
2) And then asking her turn back towards the light (that she had just been standing in)

Finding the light in photography

From those two simple instructions that I gave her I was able to capture a photo that was much more visually pleasing and that had beautiful, even lighting across her face.  Best of all, she was able to have a natural (non-squinting!) expression in the image as well.  A win for both of us!


Finding the light in photography


Try it out for yourself today.  I guarantee that open shade will become your best friend as you continue to grow in your photography journey!


To learn even more about utilizing open shade effectively, be sure to visit this follow-up post on my blog: Finding The Light


Angie Arthur Photography
Angie Arthur blogs at The Arthur Clan and is the owner of Angie Arthur Photography.  She is also the co-founder of I Heart Faces, a popular photography sharing community which features weekly photo challenges where all levels of photographers are welcome to join in the fun!
Angie on Twitter
Angie on Facebook

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Cheryl Sousan

A self-proclaimed neat freak, Cheryl chronicles her journey through homemaking on her blog,, where she shares recipes, tutorials, crafting and her ever-growing love for photography. This St. Louis mom juggles her passion for life, her daughters and her tiger-loving husband, all while her obsession with tidiness cleans up the trail blazed behind her. Google+


  1. Fantastic tip! I’ll definately try this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is a great post. Open shade is also one of the reasons I love shooting on a semi-cloudy day! It’s *everywhere* on days like that.

  3. Pingback: Photography Tutorial | Finding the Light in Open Shade | The Arthur Clan

  4. Thank you so much! That’s great information to know! It does make all the difference in the world! 🙂

  5. Super tip. Its does make a huge difference. Keep em coming! I can use all the help I can get!

  6. Fabulous tip! Will be utilizing it…:)

  7. It’s amazing the difference that a couple of steps makes. I will be using this information & checking out her blog!

  8. So, so smart! Thank you, Angie! And that picture of your daughter is gorgeous! Her eyes just sparkle!

  9. Thanks for the great tip! I’m going to try this in my photo shoot I’m doing of my kids this weekend!

  10. Thnak you for the great tips. I’m a new REAL camera owner and I’m learing alot. I will definatly be visiting her site.

  11. Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  12. Wow… thanks for the tip about open shade! I’ll be utilizing this one for sure!

  13. Thank you so much for inviting me to guest post Cheryl. This was super fun to put together and I’m glad that everyone is finding it helpful! 🙂

  14. Three cheers for open shade – we don’t have much shade around my neighborhood, but I cheer when I find it!

  15. Great photography tips!!

  16. Wow, great tip! Will definitely try this out. I love taking pictures of the kids. Thank you so much.

  17. Such a great post! Loved reading it

  18. Great tip! I’m going to be in search of that open shade for sure!

  19. Having them turn their back to the sun! Ah ha! Now I get it. Thanks so much for this post. I just ran into this problem on Easter and was looking for a solution since I will be in charge of getting some outside photos for my niece’s first communion. Hopefully, now, I won’t disappoint.

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  21. Thank you so much for putting this out for us all to learn. I will for sure give it a try.

  22. Great tip and example. I’ve shot wedding group portraits just like that, putting the subjects in the shade of a courtyard, with the foreground bright cement area providing beautiful, soft light.

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  26. Aack, I know this post is about 18 months old but got a link from someone while struggling with open shade.

    In the pictures, I’m not quite understanding. It looks like, from the photo, that the sun is actually camera RIGHT because the shadow looks like it’s formed from the sun shining over the roof of the garage. But when you posted the gorgeous picture of your daughter, along with the diagram, you said she was standing in the shade and facing the sun, which you said was coming from camera LEFT.

    if the sun were at camera left, the shadow would’ve been falling on the opposite side of the house, not in front of the garage.

    I’m just trying to understand because – clearly – i dont’ get open shade! LOL I’m hoping you can clear up my confusion. Thanks so much!!!

    • – it says facing the LIGHT – it doesn’t say facing the sun. So if you look , if she faces to the left that’s where the light is and to her right is where the shade is. If she is standing IN the open shade but facing the sun, then you wont get the light reflecting back on her because , in this case, the garage is blocking the light/sun – so you want her to face where you can see the light (not face the sun )

      Hope this helps

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