So often, engagement sessions start with the same comment: “I/We thought this would make a great background.”
And so often, they are right. It would make a tremendous background, and everyone wants and deserves a gorgeous backdrop for their portraits.
There is one thing that trumps location, however: The light.
When I am planning your session, I actually look for the right light first, and will often make a final decision for location based on light. This is why, for example, a lakeside session will be held early or later in the day to compensate for the light. That lake too often becomes like a mirror, bouncing that light in every which direction (fresh snow does the exact same thing. Both are incredibly beautiful, but problematic when it comes to lighting).
Why is this a problem? It comes down to exposure. It is hard to expose for your face AND the background in poor lighting situations. Either you are fine but the background is overexposed or the background is awesome but you have wonky, funky shadows on your face. Your photographer wants nothing more than to make you happy while still making the decisions your are paying them good dollars to make. Contrary to popular opinion, not everything can be fixed in Photoshop.
This doesn’t mean that your dream background can never be–we just need to be a little more selective of WHEN and HOW to use it. How do I do that?
1. Golden Hour Sessions. You know the Pixar Lamp? Think of the sun kind of like that. If you were to tilt it up or down, you alter its directness. Even when it is not direct, it is still casting light. That is how the sun is the couple hours before sunset: It is no longer overhead, but it is still throwing light. That light is softer and more flattering, which allows for both you and the background to be equally exposed. Visit this post to learn a little bit more about this thing we call “Golden Hour!”
2. Expect creative posing. I do my dangest as your photographer to make your vision a reality (that’s my job). Often if the light is too harsh, we can make most scenarios work with just a few simple pivots of the face and tilts of the chin. This might mean that a few of those pinteresting and perfect social media posts might not happen the exact way you want, but that leads into the third point…
3. Trust your photographer’s judgment. Your photographer is doing their best to accommodate your wishes while still delivering a product that fits their artistic vision. You are paying them because they are the expert, so let them do their thang for you. This might mean some settings may not be ideal, but I bet they will find even better ones to produce images that you will love more than you could ever imagine.
Think, scheme, plan, and dream…but be open to all the possibilities that could be with the right light and location with your love.